Friday, April 24, 2015

1961-63 Post cereal box-back card project begins

For the past few weeks I've been working on an ambitious custom card project involving the 1961-1963 Post cereal box-back cards.

By only producing cards of 200 players each year, Post was unable to include cards of more than half of the major league players each year. Naturally, some of my favorite players didn't make it onto the backs of boxes of Rice Krinkles, Alpha-Bits, Post Toasties, etc.

Like many 10-13-year-old card collectors in the early 1960s, I made a shambles of shelves in the grocery stores' cereal aisles looking for Milwaukee Braves cards and other favorites.

My very favorite cereal in those days was Oat Flakes. I didn't realize at the time that I was unusual in that regard and that the cards I cut off those boxes would someday be regarded as scarcities among the Post series.

Alas, I no longer have them. Sometime around 1971 I packaged up all of my childhood baseball cards and sent them off to Woody Gelman's Card Collectors Company. The $17 I received was soon squandered on beer and 36-cent gasoline for my 1961 Cadillac.

While looking over the catalog from my friend Steve Bloedow's CollectAuctions' April 2 offering, something clicked when I saw he was offering a nice run of Post cereal box backs, both baseball and football.

I was delighted to find that on his web site, the scans of the offered box backs were large and in high resolution. I snapped them up and soon began the process of replacing the original player images with those of guys who hadn't originally made the cut.

The 1961 season was an expansion year for the American League, with the "old" Washington Senators moving to Minnesota and a new Senators team being formed. Out West, Gene Autry brought the American League to California by creating the Los Angeles Angels.

Like most of the baseball world, Post was surprised with how fast the stodgy AL moved when it decided to expand. While they were able to include cards of the Twins-nee-Senators in their 1961 set, they were not able to have cards of the new Washington team nor the L.A. Angels.

My new box back is based on the premise that after Post issued its first 200 cards in 1961, it issued a 50-card update to add players on the new teams, update traded players' cards and include a few promising first-year players.

My six custom cards in the 1960 Post format fit that premise in various ways.

Carl Yastrzemski. He made his big-league debut in 1961, taking over in left field after Ted Williams retired. Although I don't believe Post issued any 1961 cards showing players' minor league stats, it was the best option for my card.

Jim Kaat. Although "Kitty" had been up with the Senators briefly in both 1959 and 1960, he didn't become part of the regular rotation until after the move to Minnesota. Post didn't have a Kaat card until 1963. I originally worked up a Kaat card in the original format of the '61P set, with the pitcher in a Senators' uniform and the "MINNEAPOLIS" team designation. While the photo used was pretty much on par with most of the real 1961 Post pictures, it didn't fit in well with the rest of my "high numbers," so I opted for a photo of Kaat in a Twins' uniform.

Sandy Koufax. It's not surprising that Post didn't include Koufax in the original series. Through the 1960 season he hadn't yet really made his bones in the bigs. He had yet to have a winning season with Los Angeles, and was walking nearly 100 a season. With 1961 being his breakout year, it's reasonable to assume Koufax would have been picked for an update series.

Ted Kluszewski. Klu did have a card in the original 1961 Post set, as a White Sox. The Angeles had made him the 51st player pick in the expansion draft. If Post had issued an update series, there's no doubt he would have been included in the Angels' team set.

Jackie Jensen. Again, you can't fault Post for not having a Jensen card in its inaugural set. Citing his fear of flying and desire to spend his time at home in California, Jensen had retired and sat out the 1960 season. Post did have a Jensen card in 1962.

Frank Howard. I was surprised to find that Post had never issued a card for Hondo. I can see not including him in 1961, because to that point he had up-and-down between the Dodgers and the minor leagues every season. But by 1962-63 his monster home runs in ballparks all over the country had made him a fan favorite and he could easily have been picked for the later Post sets.

In assembling my 1961-style box back I had a significant choice to make. I decided to format the back in the original manner. That is, depending on their placement on the back, each card shares 1, 2 or 3 of its black borders with other cards.

That layout made it difficult for kids 50 years ago to cut out nice-looking cards; they could either cut the cards inside of the black borders, or include the borders on a couple of cards at the expense of the others. That same dilemma will confront those who acquire my custom sheet.

In deference to player and team collectors, I've also made singles of each of my 1961 Post customs, with complete black borders on all sides.

As per my usual custom, I'll make extras of my single cards available. I'm also going to offer the complete box-back. You might be surprised to hear that you can order the box back at a price that is way less than I'd have to get for six individual cards.

For me the research, writing, picture selection and the rest of the creative process is where I derive my principal pleasure in creating custom cards. Printing and cutting is the necessary evil, since I like to have completed cards in hand, rather than just existing as .jpeg files.

Since I don't have to align card fronts and backs, or painstakingly cut sheets into singles, I'm able to offer my custom box back at a significant price break.

Check in on the blog in coming weeks for the debut of my 1962 and 1963 Post cereal-style box backs.

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