Sunday, March 18, 2018

C.A.: 1957 Topps Clem Labine

(Good evening. How's your bracket doing? OK, now TELL IT TO SOMEONE WHO CARES. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 269th in a series):

An important anniversary in the trading card world came and went last year without a mention.

Last year was the 60th anniversary of Topps first issuing trading cards in what is now the standard 2.5-by-3.5-inch format.

Prior to 1957, Topps' main set each year was 2-5/8 by 3-3/4. And there were all kinds of other measurements from other card publishers. Bowman came to match Topps' 2-5/8-by-3-3/4 model by 1953 but prior to that, it was issuing 2-by-just-a-shade-over-3-inch jobbies. And before that, Bowman cards were 2-by-2 1/2. Play Ball made 2-1/2-by-3-1/8 cards.

But when Topps downsized its set to 2 1/2-by-3 1/2, the whole hobby fell into line.

It leads me to conclude that it's the perfect size.

How could I not think that? For 60 years, nothing has changed. The flagship set and just about every other set is issued in the same 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 format each and every year. Oh sure, there are minis and some odd-shaped cards that are often one-off tributes to some distant pre-1957 set. But the vast majority of card sets, no matter the sport, no matter the company, are issued 2.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches long.

In this age of constant tinkering -- move back the 3-point line, start a pitch clock, put runners on second base in extra innings, make 200 more rules for what determines an NFL catch -- it is astonishing that the size of your basic trading card has not changed in 60 years.

Much of that is because we've all become accustomed to thinking that's what the size of card should be. Nine-pocket pages are that size. Most top-loaders and penny sleeves are that size.

But beyond that, I think that size card fits perfectly in one's hand, no matter how large or small the collector's mitts are.

I was thinking about this very topic this afternoon.

I've been trying to get my cards in order from the massive 1990 Target Dodgers set, which totals nearly 1,100 cards. It's taken me a long time, due to the sheer size of the set, but also because I have full 15-card panels of the set and also a bunch of cards that have been de-perforated from the panels. There's been a whole bunch of cross-referencing and double-backing. The final stage was shuffling all the cards into alphabetical order.

Do you know difficult it is to shuffle these flimsy, irregulars into alphabetical order?

They are 2-by-3-inches and printed on index-card-like stock. I spent the entire exercise (while flipping between spring training baseball and the Syracuse-Michigan State game) wishing that those cards were regulation size!!!!

Topps really touched off a revolution 61 years ago.

A tinker-proof card size.

In this tinker-happy world.

It makes me look at the 1957 Topps set in a whole new light.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Moved up in the rotation

My card desk may not show it, but I have a systematic way of showing off cards I receive.

It's basically first come, first serve.

The only times I make an exception is when I get a little too excited about a card and I just have to babble about it right away.

This is one of those times. Somebody is getting moved up in the rotation.

Yesterday, I received a two-card envelope from R.C., who's sent me a few special cards over the years.

The first card is pretty fantastic. It's one of the best-looking cards from the 1976 Hostess set, a set that I am collecting.

I really like the restraint on the cutting of this card. I do a little celebration when the collector has the forethought to cut around the dotted lines. Nice work, previous collector.

One drawback to this card, though.

I own it already.

I found it at a card show a couple of years ago. It was really a triumphant find, the best surprise of that show.

So I have an extra Stars & Stripe Reggie to spare. I would like to trade it for another '76 Hostess card that I don't have, preferably something in decent shape, but it can be anybody, a scrub compared to Mr. October, just as long as I don't have it already.

So, get at me, and all that stuff.

But the Reggie card, even as great as it is, even if I didn't already have one, is definitely not why I moved this envelope up in the rotation.

The reason involves a card in not nearly as nice a shape as the Jackson Hostess card. Nobody showed any restraint with this card. But I don't care:

Yikes, it's a 1952 Bowman Roy Campanella.

Do you know how many times I look for 1950s Roy Campanella cards?

The answer is: I never do.

What's the point? I'm going to have to pay an arm and a leg. There's no way I'm going to do that. The card seller is going to have to get in line behind the mortgage lender, the college lender, the hospital biller, the auto mechanic. I'm not doing it. I'm not even looking.

But now I can not look without a thought about what I'm missing. What a glorious card.

Campy will go next to my '52 Bowman cards of Reese, Hodges, Furrillo and Branca. Shockingly I already have most of the big names from this team set.

I may need to move '52 Bowman up on my list when I hit my next card show.

Yep, I think '52 Bowman just got moved up in the rotation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

OK, now this is a blog bat around

Last week I wrote a post listing some of my various card collecting projects.

I didn't put a lot of thought into the post. I had received a package from a collector that happened to address a variety of my interests, so I thought I'd discuss how many collectors seem to collect more than one thing.

But the post seemed to speak to a few bloggers, which is why there have been posts about the variety of card interests for each collector on this blog and this one and this one and this one and this one.

OK, fine, I'm now making it a Blog Bat Around.

I think this is the first one of these I've started!

So, if you want to participate in this Blog Bat Around, all you have to do is write a post on your blog about your various card collecting projects. Once I determine that everyone who wants to participate has written their post, then I'll write a wrap-up post on my blog about everyone's various collections.

But first, I have to properly write about my various collections. I only covered half of it in that other post. You think that's all I collect???

Get a pencil and notepad so you can keep track.

Here we go:


At my collecting core, I am a set collector.

This was my mind-set almost from the first year I started collecting cards. The point to buying packs was to complete the set. "Collect Them All!" That's what it said on the wrapper. And that's what I do today, for that kid who had no money to collect them all.

I have completed dozens and dozens of sets, from 1976 SSPC to 2015 Stadium Club. Right now, I am trying to complete the 1973 Topps set. That's my main goal, because when that's done, I will have completed every Topps flagship set from 1971-91 and that's going to blow that little kid's mind.

But I'm also trying to complete 1981 Fleer, and finish off the last few cards of 1988 Fleer. Actually, I'm trying to complete 1982-87 Fleer, too. And I'd like to finish off that 2001 Upper Deck Decade '70s set someday. And 2008 Heritage someday, too. And there are the REAL Someday Projects like 1956 Topps and 1967 Topps. Also, don't forget the oddball completion tasks like 1976 Hostess and Kellogg's. And I've really got to get that 2003 Topps Fan Favorites set finished.

See? I'm a set collector.


That's a look at some recent Dodger dupes. Just a small cross-section there. There are plenty more in the box underneath and the boxes behind and in the boxes in the next room.

The Dodger collection is so expansive because that is what, I believe, is the easiest to collect and the easiest for others to send. People understand team collecting, maybe above all other kinds of collecting.

I am not restrictive in my Dodger collection at all. Most of my other collections have rules. My Dodger collection does not. I want them all. And I have a bunch. Around 20,000.

The variety is off the charts, from the Brooklyn Dodgers vintage of the 1950s to this space-age angular beauty that I recently received from Cardboard Catastrophes. Jeffrey dug it out of a dime box and it's a wild and crazy beauty.

The Dodger collection does not discriminate and does not restrict. Yeah, I have some autograph Dodgers but it's not the focus of my team collection (I don't know if there really is). Yeah, there are six Duke Snider autograph cards in my collection. But there are also two Ross Striplings. And a Cory Snyder.


I mentioned this already in "set-collecting," but when it comes to certain oddballs, I'm not limiting it to year.

I want every Hostess card from the 1970s. I want every Kellogg's card from 1970-83. I want any Drake's card. Any TCMA card. Any SSPC card.

Unlike the Dodger collection, I do discriminate a bit. Many 1980s or 1990s oddballs are acceptable but I don't see myself every trying complete sets of them. My heart lies with Kellogg's and Hostess and TCMA. I can actually see myself knocking people down to get to some Hostess uncut sheets. That's not an attractive visual image, but I'm illustrating a point.


This falls under the set collecting family. It has a finite goal. Although I could always be on the hunt for a '75 buyback Robin Yount that may never exist, in my mind I know that this pursuit will end someday, probably in disappointment.

But, right now, it's the biggest collecting hoot that I know. With one-third of the 1975 set in buyback form now in my collection, I'm interested in seeing how far I can go.


Right now, I am interested only in trying to complete the 1977 Topps football set.

I don't see myself trying to finish another set. If I do, it will be the 1979 Topps set, another set I collected as a youngster. In fact, I think I may have had more '79 football cards than from any other year.

But the '77 set with those wonderful sweeping banners is the primary goal.


This is Page 16 in my Allen & Ginter mini frankenset binder. It is one of only six completed pages in the 23-page binder.

I have a lot of work to do, which is why collecting minis and pulling minis from A&G continues to be such a joyous experience.

My interest in minis goes all the way back to buying 1975 Topps minis 43 years ago. It's a mini set I completed, and I've finished off other mini sets like the 2011 Lineage '75 tribute insert set. But as I've mentioned before, all minis aren't created equal in my collection. I don't have much interest in minis from the 1980s or Gypsy Queen minis or the flagship mini cards created by Topps between 2012-15.

As a mini-connoisseur, only I know when a mini is good and pure and worthy of collecting.


The collection that gave Night Owl Cards its name, made people take notice and actually read this thing.

These days, night cards are a bit of an afterthought, even though the Night Card Binder is still going strong. I just don't get the sense that people are as interested in them as they were when I first let people in on this great little collection.


Most of my non-baseball collections don't get much more than passing attention from me. But I do like having Buffalo Bills cards in my collection and I do want more.

One day I'll have a proper binder for such things, but right now they share a binder with my collection of ...


A sub-category of my Sabres collection are Dominik Hasek cards. I haven't made any kind of effort to specifically collect Hasek cards, but I'd like to get enough to put a few impressive pages together.


Tennis cards are treated like dirt. Almost no one makes them. No one wants to collect them. As someone who grew up in the '70s and '80s when tennis was a sport for rock stars, this makes me extraordinarily sad. People are more willing to watch golf than tennis??????? This will never make sense to me.

Tennis players always make excellent cards (just take a look at any Kournikova card). Unfortunately the cards aren't designed the greatest, which keeps me from making a real effort to collect them.

Also, there is one Simona Halep card on COMC right now. One. ONE!

That's an outrage.

11. 1991-92 NHL PRO SET CARDS

I am hopelessly attached to this ubiquitous set thanks to a connection I made to it when I was immersing myself in hockey in 1991. I expect this little confession to unleash a flood of 91-92 Pro Set cards my way. That's OK. I've got room. For now.


Here is a collecting area where I need to get some focus.

There is nothing that receives more of my recreation time than music. Not even baseball can compare.

So I should just buckle down and collect a music set -- any set -- and provide some proof that music really does reign supreme in my world.

The MusiCards sets from the early '90s would be an easy place to start as they're readily available. I actually have my eye on one particular card from that set right now.


I have a card of almost everyone I've interviewed who has a card.

But I've never sat down and figured out who I'm missing. This post is the perfect spark for me to make that list and then to dedicate a binder to those cards and then to show that binder on this blog.

So what am I waiting for? A blog post awaits!!!


Probably the most unconscious collection I have. I almost never intentionally seek out a card of a pretty girl. It just hits me in the face one day and I have to have it.

This is another collection that just sits in various boxes and binders around the house. I'm afraid if I ever put all of these cards in one place, I'd throw all of my other collections away because, my gosh, these cards are gorgeous and all the other cards are of --- what? dudes?????


I may not know what to do with random oddballs -- so many of them defy conventional page and binder set-ups.

But that's OK. They're oddballs. They're used to be stuffed wherever they'll fit. No order or reason to any of them. Which is the beauty of oddballs!!!


Someday -- hopefully sooner than later -- I will go to a card show and buy nothing except random oddballs and vintage.

I will have no list, no objectives, no need to get Dodgers or fill set holes.

It will be "see vintage, get vintage," "see oddballs, get oddballs."

That will be one hell of a show.

So, I believe -- for now -- those are all of my collections. It's possible I missed one or two, but I think any that I missed are probably actually sub-categories of something I mentioned here.

If you want to do this Blog Bat Around post of your own, feel free to leave a link in the comments on this post because I don't want to miss it when I do my review post.

Happy collecting!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

We almost-seniors need to look out for each other

I haven't reached my senior years yet, but good, gosh, sometimes -- actually every day now -- it sure feels like it.

The limbs don't work the way they once did and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is the stuff of legend, to borrow from Vida's jersey. I have a more difficult time relating to people, probably because I'm one of the few left on this earth who doesn't think rap music and tattoos are as melodic and beautiful as Mozart and roses.

I miss the 1970s and 1980s and even a bit of the early '90s. I miss regarding 20 home runs in a season as an achievement. I miss girl groups. I miss wax packs at drug stores. I miss a whole lot actually, but if I go on any longer, someone will think I really am a senior.

No, the farthest back that I go is the mid-1970s. The first player that I remember seeing on TV is either Johnny Bench or Thurman Munson. The first player I remember seeing on a baseball card is Tommy John. He goes back to the '60s, but when I saw him, it was the mid-70s, and he had just thrown out his elbow.

To me, these players from the '70s are the glory years and that's why I was so excited when I received a bunch of Senior League cards a little while ago, featuring many of those players, strapping on the stirrups one more time for a short-lived league that began in 1989 and ended in 1990.

There were a few cards missing from that group of T&M cards. Fortunately, another collector who also hails from the '70s, Julie from A Cracked Bat, is also fascinated with those players and that set, and had a few extras to spare.

Those are the last of my needs and I now own a complete set of the Senior League card set (there are other sets dedicated to the Senior League, but I don't think I'll pursue those).

Julie also sent the puzzle cards that came with the set.

That's pretty fantastic.

I'll be adding this set to one of my binders, probably the one with the Ted Williams Company cards. Isn't it funny how many sets pay tribute to my childhood heroes?

Julie also opened a bunch of 2018 Heritage and then kindly distributed the goods to team collectors.

I'm especially happy to receive the Chris Taylor card (Heritage seems to be the only set that can produce Chris Taylor Dodger cards) and the short-printed Julio Urias card.

The Dodgers feature a whopping six short-prints in the dreaded 100 final Heritage cards. Hats off to you, Topps, for treating the collector right.

Julie also pulled a snazzy purple-framed Kershaw Chromey. It's pretty.

I almost forgot to show these -- sorry, it was a senior moment -- and I'm glad I remembered because I wanted to mention the backs of the leader cards.

When I saw the 1969 leader cards for the first time as a youngster I really got a kick out of them. In the late 1970s, we were used to leaders showing 10 top players per league and that was it. Seeing the long list of 1968 leaders was bizarre. Fifty-plus players on a leader card? Somebody batting .255 on a leader card??

Also, how about this card?

Players who hit 20 home runs in the National League last year couldn't even crack the top 50!!!

Remember what I mentioned earlier in the post?

Here is the back of the 1969 Topps National League home run leaders card. Note that Topps cut it off after eight home runs to include grand slams. But if it continued I'm sure players who hit seven home runs would be in the top 50.


Compared with 20 today!

Keep in mind, Willie McCovey, Dick Allen and Ernie Banks are on the front of that card. People who we think of as legendary sluggers.

None of this registers to my almost-senior brain as being natural.

It's almost as unnatural as tattoos on a 1969-themed card.

Or as unnatural as hearing "Tootsee Roll" by the 69 boyz at the senior citizens center. (I've never come across that actual scenario, but can you imagine what oldies music will be in the future?)

But that's just me.

A guy from the '70s. Who plays music from the '80s.

Someday people will read this and have no idea what I'm talking about.

That's why people my age need to look out for each other. I appreciate Julie recognizing the greatness of the Senior League set and making sure I completed it.

Although she's probably not very happy with me now that I implied she's an almost-senior like me.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Shift change

What time of day do you write your blog posts?

For the last six or seven years, I've written the posts for Night Owl Cards in the afternoon, somewhere between 2-5 p.m., usually. I've done this for so long it's become ritual and the perfect time for me to write.

That's all going to change starting tomorrow.

My work shift is changing. The shift change will impact my life in a variety of ways, from when I see my family to when I eat. But the important part for the blog is: when will I write? Beginning on Tuesday, the time of day when I would usually write, I will be working. So now I have to find another time to write.

Man, that will be weird.

There are a few possibilities and I've already picked one, but let's go through them just for fun.

Post in the morning as I will be getting up a couple hours earlier now

There is not a chance in hell I will be doing this. If you want anything coherent coming out of this blog you don't want me to post in the morning. Nothing I enjoy doing happens in the morning. And I'm not exactly thrilled I have to be up before 11 a.m. now.

Post in the wee hours

Back when I was writing two posts a day for this blog -- before I also wrote set blogs -- I would write one of the NOC posts in the wee hours, around 3 in the morning. I can't do that now because I write my 1985 Topps blog posts between midnight and 3 a.m. (the schedule for the '85 blog may have to change, too).

Post in the late evening

This is the option I will take.

It's going to be strange writing a post that won't show up for almost a full 24 hours (I still plan to publish posts in the usual 7-8:30 p.m. range), but I'm sure I will get used to it. This isn't a "breaking news" blog anyway.

Besides, I've always felt, since I was a teenager, that 9 p.m. is my optimal time, when I am most alert and mentally at my best. So maybe you haven't seen the best of Night Owl Cards yet!

But today, you're getting a traditional post, created in the late afternoon. That means I'm kind of hungry and I feel a bit off. So how about a few cards I received from Matt at Sports Card Collectors? That's about all I can handle now.

Finally, this card is in my possession.

When this card was first created, for the 2016 Topps Update set, I was interested in it as a team fan often is when it comes to a card of a recent acquisition by their team. The insert theme is weird because it's still making me wonder when we're going to see a Viagra insert set, but I still wanted the card.

I didn't get that card, either by pulling it or in trades, and then Reddick played lousy for the Dodgers. Then Reddick said he didn't like playing for the Dodgers because the fans got on him because he played lousy. Oh, dear, imagine fans doing a thing like that. Then he had to go to the Astros and then suddenly figure out how to play again. Of course. And then the Astros played the Dodgers in the World Series and people from each fan base had to get into a Twitter snit over Reddick, which is always an attractive quality, Twitter people.

So, now, I guess I'll accept this card of the greasy-haired Reddick.

Funny how your perception of a card can change in a year-plus, huh?

I like this card a lot more. It's a Finest insert from 2016 and shiny, as is a prerequisite for Finest cards. It's time to sign Clayton Kershaw. I don't want this dragging out past May. If I have to see him in another uniform I may never watch another baseball game.

The final card I'm showing is a blue-bordered beauty of Sandy Koufax from 2016 Archives. I need to make it my mission to find as many of these blue-bordered Dodgers as I can.

So, there you are, this is my last official post written during my old blogging schedule.

My new work shift is somewhat flexible so I'll probably be doing a small amount of afternoon posting still, but for the most part everything will be writen the evening before it publishes.

It might lose a little bit of immediacy, but otherwise I don't expect anyone to notice anything different.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Awesome night card, pt. 282: the 2018 night cards

Every year at this time I take a quick glance through my Topps flagship cards and see what new night cards I can discover.

It's very easy these days to find a night card, but that also leads to a whole bunch of boring night cards. With many modern-day night cards, there's very little visual sign that the game is at night. There is usually a dark glow in the background around the player and that's all that tells you that it's a night card.

I don't like having those types of night cards in my night card binder. I'd rather my night cards be loud and proud. Show off your nightness! I want to see LIGHTS!

But in 2018, in these close-cropping times, I'll take what I can get.

My favorite night card from 2018, at the moment (I'm still waiting to get a Kershaw one), is the David Dahl flagship card. Sure, there is no overt nighttime signal, but Dahl is definitely booking through the night air. The best part of the card is the glowing scoreboard. I haven't done my Sick Scoreboard Card Series in awhile, but this would get at least three hand claps.

It's the type of night card that I would definitely want in my night card binder. And since I do have a double of this card, I can determine whether it gets a spot.

Dahl is card No. 96 in the set, which means it has the honor of replacing one of those bland night cards I was just talking about, which resided in the No. 96 slot.

Goodbye boring Edwin Encarnacion Archives night card.

Here is another quality night card from 2018 Topps. It's another "booking around the bases" card. There's no mistaking the tell-tale night glow on Nick Markakis' helmet.

Also check out the glowing light in the background. Perhaps it's a reflection? A quick search of Getty Images turns up the photo. It was taken in Milwaukee. The glow is coming from the bullpen or more probably a field-level spectator area at Miller Park.

This is card No. 206 is the set, which means it gets to push out the following night card from the binder:

I mean, come on, the guy can't even throw to first base.

Last notable 2018 flagship night card for now.

There is no visible "tell" as far as it being a night card, but that sure ain't daylight on the card. The celebration shot makes it a worthy candidate for the binder.

And there is nobody blocking its way as there was an open slot at No. 135.

My night card binder is now three cards more interesting than it was before the 2018 cards came out.

I'm hoping I can find more memorable night cards from 2018 flagship in the future. There's nothing more sad than a dud night card.

So zoom out a little on those cards, Topps! Let's see lights, let's see neon!