Ted Taylor's Collector's Corner

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    Ted Taylor has been a life-long baseball fan and collector of baseball cards and sports memorabilia. He began writing a hobby column back in the early 1970s and has been writing it someplace ever since. He was first president of The Eastern Pennsylvania Sports Collectors Club and co-promoter of the Philadelphia Baseball Card & Sports Memorabilia Shows. He served as VP of the Fleer Corporation (1991-97) and was co-founder and the first President of The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society (1996-99). Ted can be heard playing big band and swing music from 8 a.m. to noon every Tuesday on WRDV-FM (89.3), and you can email him at ted@tedtaylor.com.

Ted Taylor's previous three books . . .
  "The Ultimate Philadelphia Athletics Reference Book (1901-54)" available from www.amazon.com
  "The Duke of Milwaukee - The Life and Times of Al Simmons" available from www.EduPublisher.com or by mail from TTA Authentic LLC, PO Box 273, Abington PA 19001 ($15 ppd.).

  "The Glenside Kid” – a story about growing up in the mid-20th century - available from www.eduPublisher.com or by mail from TTA Authentic LLC, P. O. Box 273, Abington PA 19001 ($24 ppd).

Click here for information on Ted's latest book . . .
“20th Century PHILLIES by the numbers”
Or . . . You can’t tell the players without a scorecard

April 1 2017

This continues our 42nd Year of hobby columns

Ted Taylor’s Collector’s Corner

2017 Topps Opening Day Set is “basic” at best

 This is one of those sets that I wonder about every year. Most of it is little more than re-runs of the basic series one (okay there are a few changes, not many). I see it as an impulse buy counter product design to draw new collectors. Topps calls it “A start-of-the-season staple.” They claim that 2017 Topps Opening Day Baseball maintains a spot for collectors excited for the new year and looking for something simple. The entry-level product includes one insert in every pack.

 The design is the same as series one but with an added Opening Day logo, the 200-card set is assembled with a mix of current stars and some key rookies. There are a handful of parallels and some short print variations. The advertising suggests we may find relics or autographs in our box (going in the $30 range) but I found none in mine.

 My own opinion is that they over-did the “variety” aspect by producing cards of ballpark snacks called “incredible eats” (who cares, really?), long opening day shots from 2016 (telescopic photos of teams lined up for opening day, guys running out on the field, etc.). Years ago Fleer produced an NFL football set that, contractually, couldn’t highlight individual players (conflict with Topps) and so the set was dubbed (by Fleer VP John Roarty) “Asses and elbows” because that’s what you got. A lot of the cards in this set qualify for that. Who are those people?

 I found cards of team mascots (mine failed to include the Phillie Phanatic, the best mascot in baseball) and they are fun, but also cards that were puzzling. A monkey, a dog, a “Ray” and so forth. There are supposedly stickers in the product – maybe so, not in my box though.

 Had they replaced the “variety” with manager cards they’d have something. After all people buy baseball cards for pictures of baseball people – not photos of monkeys and snacks.

 The product includes seven-cards-per-pack, 36 packs in a box.

Donruss 2017 Baseball Has both “Ups” and “Downs”

 In 1980, after I had testified in the successful Fleer Anti-Trust suit (against Topps) I was offered a baseball card job – not by Fleer, but by Donruss. I flew to Memphis, was interviewed by Paul Mullan (later to own Fleer) and others and was offered the job of baseball marketing manager.

 It was an exciting time but my family wanted no parts of moving to Memphis (it turned out to be a good decision) and I passed on the job. Later I became an exec at Fleer for eight years, but always had a soft spot for Donruss.

 Now Fleer exists only as a seldom-used Upper Deck trademark but Donruss is back in the baseball card business.

 Licensed only by the Player’s Association (MLBPA) the 2017 Donruss (Panini) baseball card set is still short of a real collector set. Why?  Because Major League Baseball (MLB) continues to withhold a license from this card producer and as a result forces them to produce an inferior product. Who does MLB think they are kidding?

 The cards are attractive, yet annoying. Teams are indentified only by city name (as if we don’t know that the club in Cincinnati is the Reds). They force Donruss to airbrush off anything that identifies the player pictured with an actual team. In many ways it reminds me of the sandlot teams of my boyhood. In those days a lot of teams showed up with bland (as in no name) uniforms and caps without any initial. Reminded me a little of the guys at the local gas station that used to wear ball caps without an initial on them too. The player assortment is pretty much the usual suspects and they sprinkle in some of the usual old-timers as well.

 I went to Target and bought two 56-card ($19.99) boxes and two 30-card value packs. I figured that would give me a good mixture – and it did, except for the “doubles” (that’s what called duplicate cards when I was a kid).

 As they’ve done before 2017 Donruss Baseball again utilizes previous designs, most notably from 1983. Every hobby box promises three autographs or memorabilia cards. (The big box store 56 card pack promises just one.)

 The Diamond Kings line headlines the base set (but I only got three, all guys with blank hats) while the Rated Rookies subset occupies fifteen spots in the checklist – and I pulled not a single one. Collectors may find numerous parallels – and I did. They also offer several autograph options (I got not a one) and relics (I did get two of those). Various “Buybacks” include original 1983 Donruss cards.

So close, yet still so, so far away.

 Another look at 2017 Heritage – Since you could get to about half of the Heritage set by purchasing a hobby box I did what I usually do in such instances and bought a complete hand collated 400-card set from Larry Fritch cards in Wisconsin. That was certainly cheaper than buying two or three hobby boxes and “hoping” you’d get the right assortment.

 As I said before, it is a nice set and they deal in a team “header” card which is helpful to those of us that collect team sets. Managers, as I said earlier, would be better and cards of players released at the end of last season (Peter Bourjos comes to mind) are a disappointment.

Getting Personal…

 I’m guessing that soon we’ll be treated to World Baseball Classic cards to which I wonder “why”. They are national teams assembled for a short tourney and will never play again as a unit, why would I want cards of these players?

 My latest vintage card project centers on the 1960-62 Fleer old-timers sets. I won a bunch of them in an auction recently (over 100) and now am fixated on completing both sets. This is especially motivating for me since I spent seven years of my career with Fleer as an exec. Anyone with those cards looking to get rid of them you have found a willing recipient.

 The Exhibit card quest continues as I work to build not only the baseball portion of the Penny Arcade issues but also cowboys, actors, band leaders and football players. Again, anyone that would like to help me would be appreciated. Been getting lots of help from Steve McKenzie at Horsham’s Knuckleball Sports on this project.

 Still seeking a 1950 Bowman Football reprint set (Card Collectors Company). Anyone who has one be advised I have a willing buyer ($100) for the set. Also looking for Berk Ross (singles or set) and 1951 Topps red or blue backs (singles or set). Buyers for all of them.

 Remembering…Dallas Green left us in late March, RIP big guy. I was lucky enough to have met him and spent time with him several times during my career in the media. He was one of those guys that sucked the air out of a room. He delivered the first World Series title to Philly and, with it, brought to us a lot of baseball excitement.

 My pal Vince Yezzi passed this past month as well. For almost five years Vince’s show (Noon-3pm) followed mine on WRDV FM and he was a real pro. We did a 4-hour tribute show for him on March 21 and the station logged an incredible audience on our four network FM stations and all-time high numbers with our internet audience. RIP my good friend. Both Dallas and Vince were 82-years-of-age.

 The future of this column (42 years worth) still rests with the folks at Topps – and other manufacturers/distributors elsewhere in the hobby. In the past the manufacturers kept me supplied with the latest cards (baseball and others) but of late not so much. Two of the three reviews in this column came via my own purchases – and since I make no money from doing that you have to believe I cannot continue travelling that path. I know we’ve got a good readership following here and hope the card companies realize it too.

 Contact me with comments at ted@tedtaylor.com Thanks for your feedback.

 As usual - Thanks to Ted Silary for including this column in his web-zine and to all of you for regularly reading it.