Thursday, April 29, 2010

Local boy makes good! Custom card for an Iola kid

Iola, the central Wisconsin village that I have called home for the past 35+ years, is a town of about 1,100 souls. Most of them (at least it seemed that way) turned out Wednesday evening for a send-off for a local lad who's on his way to the NFL.

Austen Lane was born in Chicago, but moved to Iola as a two-year-old when his parents divorced and his mother moved back to her home town. The biggest kid in his class throughout his school days, he was a football, basketball and track star for Iola-Scandinavia High School, a school of about 200 students.

On Saturday, April 23, he became a fifth round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who traded up a few slots to get him as part of the team's revamping of its defensive line, which was frankly pitiful last season in pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

In the days leading up to the draft, every local business that had an outdoor sign had a "Good Luck" message posted for Lane. The signs changed to "Congratulations!" messages when his name was called at draft headquarters. While the Jaguars will never supplant the Packers as Iola's favorite NFL team, Jacksonville just acquired a whole lot of Wisconsin fans. I'd love to have the first shipment of replica jerseys with his name on the back; they will sell like hotcakes.
It's not just that Iola has its second NFL player (Dave Kreig was born here, though his family moved away when he was barely out of diapers), but rather than Austen Lane is universally liked and admired in town. He worked hard at his studies and athletics. His only offer of a full-ride came from Division I-AA Murray State in Kentucky. He made the most of that opportunity, but might not have been drafted if he hadn't made the most of a last-minute invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, where he returned a recovered fumble for a touchdown on national TV.
The kids in town worship him and to date he has proven himself to be an exceptional role model. His family hosted the send-off at the fitness center and he signed countless autographs for the youngsters. If Lane makes the team, I wouldn't be surprised if somebody chartered a bus to one of Jaguars games.
Naturally, when it became apparent that he was going to be drafted, I had to create a custom card. Until just before the draft, finding a good picture was difficult, but then they started popping up all over the internet. Actually, I found two that I really liked. I couldn't chose between them, so I made cards with both. I had the fronts all done, but had to wait for the draft to be able to finish the back.
With the number of "real" card companies dwindling, and the number of football card sets, as well, it might be that Austen Lane never gets an NFL card -- defensive linemen don't often make the checklist cut these days -- but at least he'll have these.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Newest custom card: 1970-style Carlton Fisk

I found a couple of great early images of Carlton Fisk and thought I'd take a shot at creating what his cards might have looked like if Topps had included him in its 1970 or 1971 sets, rather than waiting for 1972 to give him a rookie card.

I know Topps "All-Star Rookie" designations reflected selection of that honor for the previous year, but I chose to make it a "pre-season" designation.

There's a 1971-style card in the works, as well, with a colorful "action" pose.

Monday, April 26, 2010

NFL draft over, time for new cards

Now that the NLF draft is over, I'm able to complete a few football card custom creations that have been hanging fire.

I wanted to be able to include the information on my card backs of which team had tkane the player, and in which round.

Here's the first . . . Tim Tebow. I was glad to see him taken in the first round. I hope his pro career continues the success he enjoyed in college.

I was fortunate enough to see Tebow play in the first college football game I ever attended. (At least the first one I remember, but that's a story for another time.) My daughter and I attended the 2007 game at Oxford between Ole Miss and then-National Champion Florida.

The Rebels made it an unexpectedly close game and sometime during the third quarter, when Mississippi was driving towards what would have been a go-ahead score, I realized I could die a happy man. I mean I really COULD die. It was only about year after my heart attack and I was screaming the Rebel yell like a University Gray at Gettyburg. That road trip with my kid was something special, and watching Tebow that day, I knew he was something special.

Anyway, here's my 1955 Topps All-American style tribute card. You can see more of my custom cards at . I'll be posting two other new football cards in the next few days, along with a couple of new baseball creations.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Call for Call-Bulletin Giants transfer data

Can we help out a helpful collector? Larry Serota is a frequent contributor of new finds and information for the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. He is requesting our help in finding information for which he has been searching for some 15 years.
In his collection Larry has an 8-1/2" x 12" (the picture here is cut off some at the top and bottom) color transfer of Willie Mays.
The transfer reportedly came as an insert with the San Francisco Call-Bulletin newspaper, but the possible date of its issue is ambiguous. Larry believes it originated either from a 1958 issue, when the Giants came to the Coast, or from 1962, when they won the National League pennant.
It is also believed that there were other players issued. If you can help with information (preferably with a scan) on other players in this series, we could probably nail down an issue date. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Standard Catalog Update : 1950 Num Num Indians

An interesting advertising adjunct to the 1949-1950 Num Num Cleveland Indians premiums has been brought to our attention by Cleveland-area collector Bob Seedhousde.
About 17" x 11" with a vertical fold at center, this glossy poster appears to be a point-of-purchase promotion for the Indians pictures that were packed in boxes of Num Num potato chips.
In 30 years of cataloging, I can't recall ever seeing or hearing about such an ad piece, so it is definitely rare, even though it might not be of exorbitant value due to the relative lack of interest in the first Num Num premiums.
We date the premiums as 1949-1950 in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, but Iwonder if that's strictly accurate. The checklist for the Num Num set has been around forever, and seems to indicate a multi-year run for the pictures.
For those unfamiliar with the issue, the early Num Num premiums are nothing more than examples of the 6-1/2" x 9" black-and-white team-issued picture pack photos that have been rubber-stamped on back with an advertising message from the chip company and an offer for mail order pictures.
Since the Indians picture pack photos for both 1950 and 1951 were re-issues of the 1949 "action" pictures, or new player pix in the same posed-action format, it is possible these overprinted pictures were issued 1949-1951. In 1952 Num Num created a smaller card format for its premiums, though the photos continued to be a version of those issued in the team photo pack.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Animal House icon on a football card

In the half-dozen years that I have been working on creating 1955 All-American style football cards as an exercise in creativity and computer-graphics problem solving, I have created more than 120 cards "that never were" of college footballs players -- some of whom also never were.

One of my favorites is this card based on the Animal House movie character "Bluto," famously played by John Belushi in the 1978 National Lampoon movie.

You may be surprised to see Bluto in a football uniform, as there is absolutely no mention in the movie of the character ever taking the field for the Faber Mongols. I'll admit it: I have never taken such liberties in creating one of my cards as I did with this one.

Animal House has, since its initial release, appealed to the puerile(Keith Olbermann taught me that word)
portion of my psyche. I still watch it about once a year when I can find the uncut version on DirecTV .

Some years back, while paging through a copy of Playboy, I encountered an article about Belushi. The portrait in the accompanying photo clicked with me, and I decided a Bluto football card was next up on my to-do list.

I found an appropriate uniformed body picture on which to graft Belushi's/Blutarsky's head, and I was ready to roll. In the spirit of the movie, I sat down in front of a rerun with a bottle of black Jack and took notes. In some scene or other I saw a felt pennant on a Delta house wall that indicate the Faber nickname was the Mongols. In a stroke of very good fortune, a Google search of Faber turned up the Mongol team logo that appears on the front of my card.

Virtually everything that appears on the biography on back, however, is of my own creation, although -- while I can't verify this with a citation at this late date -- I seem to recall that I found on some website or other the fact that Blutarky's middle name was Adam.

The process of fictionalizing a fictional character in furtherance of creating one of my custom football card creations was especially satisfying. I believe true fans of Animal House will appreciate the effort.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Standard Catalog Update : 1957 Topps paper proofs

After having been involved in cataloging baseball cards for nearly 30 years, I'm surprised that this got by me.

Recently on the post-war section of the Net54 forums, Connecticut collector Mark Rios posted a picture of a 1957 Topps paper proof card. While blank-back paper proofs are not unheard of from the 1960s and 1970s, I'd never before seen a fully printed (front and back) paper proof for any Topps issue, much less one of my favorite sets of all time, the 1957.

Mark not only posted the front and back pictures, but also a copy of an ad from one-time Topps art director Woody Gelman's son Richard that had appeared in the September, 1979, issue of The Trader Speaks, offering 32 of the paper proofs for $6 each.

According to the ad, all of the proofs, which were described as VG condition, were from the high-number series of '57 Topps, #353-407. The Gelman ad didn't offer the real prizes among the 1957 Topps high-numbers, #400 Dodgers' Sluggers and #407 Yankees' Power Hitters, so it is unclear whether those were actually produced in the paper proof version.

As far as I know, no uncut sheet of 1957 Topps high-numbers exists to confirm which 132 cards appeared in what combination of single- and double-prints or even multiple-prints. There are 55 different cards in the high-numbers checklist.

We likewise do not know which cards from that series survived in the paper proof version. It was almost certainly some multiple of the 11-card rows in which Topps cards were formatted on sheets at that time. It may have been 33 cards, or 55 cards, or 66 (1/2 a sheet) or even 132 cards.

What seems likely, considering I have never seen a single 1957 paper proof offered at any show, in any ad or auction, or on the internet, is that each of proofs Gelman advertised, and any others that may have existed, are unique. It's interesting to note that the same $6 Gelman was asking for the paper proof 1957s was the same price at which he was offering nearly two dozen 1970 Topps Cloth Sticker singles. Today a common from that test issue is cataloged at $1,750, so that should provide a good gauge for the value of the 1957 paper proofs.

Given the unique nature of the 1957 high-number paper proofs, I'm not sure whether or not they will cataloged in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, but I was sure they were worth mentioning in this space.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Standard Catalog Update : 1960 Carling Beer Indians

We're closing in on completing the checklists for the 1950s-1960s Carling Beer Cleveland Indians premium pictures.

These 8-1/2" x 12", black-and-white, blank-back pictures appear to have been point-of-purchase giveaways between 1955-1961, with 10 or 11 pictures each year.

Regular catalog/blog contributor Larry Serota has greatly expanded the known 1960 checklist.
In the 2010 Standard Catalog we listed only three pictures: Joe Gordon, Bubba Phillips and Tito Francona.

Larry has added the following: John Temple, Gary Bell, John Romano, Vic Power, Jim Perry and Woodie Held.

The 1960 Carlings carry a number in the bottom-right corner that consists of the prefix DBL347 and a letter from A-H, and K-L. Carling apparently didn't use the I or J letters in most years.

Larry's additi0ns leave us only one player short of a complete checklist, whomever appears as picture DBL347B.

The catalog values most of the Carling premium pictures at $60 in NM for commons, and $90-125 for most stars and Hall of Famers.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Forrest Gump football card

As I've mentioned here in the past, my series of 1955 All-American style custom football card creations has not all been serious attempts to honor the greats and even not-so-greats who have actually played college football.

A half-dozen or so of the nearly 120 cards I've created in the past six years or so pay tribute to college football players whose gridiron exploits were entirely in the realm of fiction or entertainment.

Certainly the most popular of these pop culture figures is Forrest Gump. It was some time after I had begun my 1955-style cards that I realized, as I watched a re-run of the movie, that there was a college football element to the story of that fictional savant simpleton. 'Bama, no less! In deference to the legions of Tide fans, I'll refrain from further comment on where Gump fits into the continuum of Alabama alumns.
Once I knew I wanted to create a Forrest Gump football card, I set about assembling the pieces I'd need . . . basically a picture and biographical details.
I was unprepared for how difficult it became to find a suitable photo. A Google search of Tom Hanks and Forrest Gump failed to turn up any in-uniform pictures that would be suitable for reproduction. I spent some time scouring eBay and a few other sites for movie press kits or stills, but those I did find did not include a football picture.
In desperation, one night I set my digital camera on a tripod in front of the TV and began playing back a recorded copy of the movie. When I got to suitable spots in the movie, I hit the pause button and moved back and forth through the scenes, frame-by-frame, until I found what I was looking for. I shot the photo off my screen in extremely high-res and was very happy with the quality once it was reduced to ink-on-paper on the front of my card.
In reading the back of my card you may notice some variance with the details as presented in the movie. That's because I decided to go to the source, and work from the original 1986 novel by Winston Groom.
Because the book is written entirely in first-person dialect, it is not an easy read, but it was worth the effort and as the base document for my card back, I believe it was the right way to go.