Saturday, March 13, 2010

1960 Kaline variation . . . is it "catalogable"?

As the title of this posting indicates, I am undecided as to whether this new variation of 1960 Topps #50, Al Kaline, will be listed in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards.

Besides being somewhat jaded by all of the newly reported variations in this internet age of enhanced collector communications, I'm leery of loading down the long-established master checklists of vintage card sets with frankly insignificant variations caused by mistakes, anomalies and vagaries of the printing process.

Rob Thompson, an Illinois collector who maintains the Detroit Tigers Cards and Stuff blog at gets credit for this discovery, and is well qualified to explain it. Quoting from his blog:

There are little red marks in the upper left corner that I know from my experience in printing are a flaw from the pre-press cutting a mask for the red background. Back in the old days you would cut a window out of a vinyl mask for each image to appear on the printed piece. On anything that formed a corner, if you extended the mask too far out your X-acto blade would leave a tiny cut line like the one seen in the pic above. Now it's all done on the Mac. No cut marks. The process used to be called four-color stripping (four colors because that's how many inks are used, and stripping because in the real old days you used to strip the emulsion off the film before you burned printing plates), and yours truly was a stripper for many years.

In his e-mail to me, Rob added, "I worked in pre-press for close to 20 years, so I know this would be something that would have to be fixed (by putting a piece of red tape over the lines on the mask before burning the plates) and have new plates made to correct.

The picture that Rob posted on his blog is the one at top-left, with "cut marks" that extend horizontally and vertically to the top-left edges of the card. The picture at bottom-left is from one of the '60T Kalines I found on eBay when checking to see whether the variation is common, scarce or unique. That picture appears to show a partially corrected version, with only a remnant of the horizontal cut mark showing. This is another reason I am hesitant to list the variation. If the card came only two ways, with and without cut marks, I'd be more favorably disposed. With at least one in-between stage seen so far, I'm less sure I want to list it. Doing so would seem to require at least three listings for 1960 Topps Al Kaline #50: a) full vertical and horizontal cut marks, b) remnant horizontal cut mark, and c) no cut marks.

If you have strong feeling in any direction, post a comment or e-mail me.

My eBay search, by the way, seemed to show that offered examples of the card were about evenly divided between cut marked and no cut marks versions. Whether that ration holds up will largely determine whether one or the other of this variation achieves and market value premium.


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