Friday, July 2, 2010

"Road show" turns up 1950s record set

Last Sunday I was part of the appraisers' panel for a "road show" type of event in conjunction with the Iola Historical Society's summer fund raising day.

Iola, being the home of what was once the world's premier publishing company for collectors and hobbyists, has many resident experts in virtually every collectible area. The historical society offers an appraisal service where for $3 the general public can have experts give a verbal evaluation of their attic treasures.

I've been involved with this for the past three years; working, naturally, at the sports cards and memorabilia table. The event never draws a really big crowd, and at least at the sports table, we've never seen anything really valuable, but it is a fun way to spend an afternoon and to catch up with former colleagues (I share the sports table each year with SCD editor T.S. O'Connell) and to meet some interesting people.

I had a nice conversation, for instance, with an elderly gent who brought by a small picture frame with a pair of ticket stubs from the 1938 University of Wisconsin football season. The tickets were from games with Marquette (back whe n that Milwaukee school had a football program) and Pittsburgh. The tickets have a great art deco look and the price of 25 cents for a seat at a Badger game was a real blast from the past.

The old guy was in high school when he attended those games and has been to at least one Wisconsin game every year since. He had no interest in selling the tickets but was interested in their value, and even more interested in talking about 70 years of college football. My ballpark guesstimate was $50 apiece.

Our first appraisal for the day is presented here. A middle-aged fellow brought in a quartet of baseball instructional records.The value of such records within the cards/memorabilia hobby is usually in the quality and condition of the picture sleeves, rather than in the records themselves.

Over the years when working for the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and elsewhere in the hobby, I'd seen several issues of instructional records from the 1950s through the 1970s. This particular grouping was not one with which I was familiar.

The records are 6" diameter, pressed in red plastic with rather plain paper labels. The small central spindle hole identifies them as 33-1/3 or 78 rpm. Presumably the content of the record consists of the player providing playing tips for his position.

The front of the picture sleeves displays great top-to-cap artwork of the players in action poses against a bright pastel colored background. Black-and-white backs are truly ugly, with crude drawings. Columbia records is identified in a couple of places on the sleeves and records as the maker.

When I viewed the player selection, I thought these might have been a Wheaties premium, because the four players represented were all included in several early 1950s Wheaties promotional items. The records' owner said he did not remember where he had gotten the records, and that they may have been some sort of cereal mail-in premium.

Since neither T.S., nor I . . . or even the event's record expert . . . had seen these before, we weren't able to provide any definitive answers, but I promised the owner I'd do some poking around the internet and get back to him. On the basis of what similar records sell for, I told him I thought the set of four -- Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Ralph Kiner and Phil Rizzuto -- in the rather nice condition in which they were preserved, should be worth about $200.

The records were numbered PV-800 through PV-803, so I postulated that four pieces might comprise the complete issue, though if they were a Wheaties promotion, it is possible other regulars from the Wheaties line-up such as Stan Musial, George Kell or even Ted Williams or Jackie Robinson, might have been issued.
It turned out that finding information on the records was easy once I got to a computer. The records were actually included in a new products article in the June 2, 1952, issue of Time magazine. I was correct in that Berra, Feller, Kiner and Rizzuto represent the complete set, but there was no mention of any connection with Wheaties or any other sponsor. The article mentioned that the "unbreakable" records retailed for 34 cents apiece.

A little bit of digging on eBay turned up current or recent sales of each of the records, except for Berra. In a condition in which the picture sleeves were generally in about VG condition, as opposed to the EX or so condition of the set that I had viewed, the records had sold for $20-40 apiece.

Given that Berra would be the highest priced among the group, I'm confident my $200 appraisal for the set of four in that condition was fairly accurate. If there had been a Wheaties connection and identification on the records, I think he value would be 25% higher.

I shared my findings with the records' owner, and now I've shared them with you.


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