Ted Taylor's Collector's Corner
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
December 1, 2017
**With this column we end a 42-year run**
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year…and Goodbye
Ted Taylor’s Collector’s Corner
The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day
The party’s over and we end 42 years of hobby columns with this last one. Many thanks to Ted Silary and his e-zine for keeping it afloat all these years after my Philadelphia Daily News column (ran for 12 years) became a victim of one of their recurrent downsizings. (One day soon I expect them to downsize themselves into newspaper history. The paper is a mere shadow of how great it used to be. But isn’t that true of most newspapers today?)
The column has also appeared in Baseball Hobby News, Montgomery Media, Sports Collectors Digest (the longest run) and in a couple of hobby magazines. That’s a lot of writing. Some of them have also appeared in one of the eight books I have written as well and on various websites.
The easy – and primary - target for blame is Topps. About a year ago they stopped sending me sample product of their sports issues – first just sending baseball product, and not even all of that. For a while I went in to the marketplace and bought what they didn’t send me. And then this fall the review product dried up altogether. Contacts at Topps simply became unresponsive. Topps didn’t care about me or you, the reader. That’s the long and short of it.
But I also place the blame on Major League Baseball and the Baseball Players Association (really just another labor union) because they allowed Topps to, once again, become a monopoly, the only company producing viable baseball cards. In so doing they ignored the 1980 Federal Court decision to allow multiple companies to produce baseball cards. And when that happened we, as collectors, enjoyed a period prosperity ended only by the mid-90’s baseball player strike that scuttled baseball as we knew and loved it.
Various card companies (the little guys) folded when baseball showed the fans it didn’t care about them anymore. Within a few years even the big guys – including my longtime employer Fleer – went belly up. Soon we were down to Topps…again. MLB refused overtures from Scoreboard in 1995 to extend the Conlin Collection of vintage player pictures (I know because I went to New York on their behalf to pitch the idea). MLB and the MLBPA is staffed by MBA’s and lawyers that could care less about you, the hobbyist, dealer and collector.
This past year Jenkintown-based Steve Charendoff of Rittenhouse Trading Cards got an MLBPA license to produce a set of game cards called “Honus Bonus” placing a fanstasy league product in play. The lack of an MLB license meant that all the player cards came sans logo and he was not even allowed to indentify the team nickname on the cards. His player selection included some players that Topps skipped all season, but the cards were black-and-white (with color borders) and unless you were playing the game there wasn’t very much attractive about them. The hobby media pretty much ignored the product. I doubt it will return. Ditto Panini that has trotted out something it called Donruss (but not the real one) and it, too, is sans team names, team logo, etc. It’s just more expensive but a tad better looking than Charendoff’s.
I have been collecting team sets since I was a kid. There were games my friends and I would play with those cards. I still keep my cards (they go back to the turn of the last century) in pretty much team order by year. That way, at a glance, I can look at the 1933 Goudey set and see who was a Yankee, 1951 Bowman and see who was on the Phillies, 1952 Topps and see who was on the A’s – and so on. I will be ending that practice this year – much as I did in with the strike in 1994 (and didn’t reume team sets until 2000). But, unlike then, there will not be a resumption. I’ll put them away for my Grandson who, 20 or 30 years from now, might have either binders full of junk or something of value he may want to continue to collect or sell.
Quick review…2017 Heritage Minor League
Team set collectors, like me, always look forward to sets like this because they provide cards of players that we won’t be seeing on the regular Topps sets for a year-or-more (maybe never). So it was surprising that so many of the cards in this set (in their minor league uniforms) were of players we had already gotten this season (and in major league uniforms) in other sets (mostly Bowman). The team names are fun and the photography, mostly, is as good as any other Topps set.
2017 Topps Heritage Minor League Baseball brings the 1968 set burlap look to the set and if you spend $45-or-so for a box you can find one hard-signed card per box along with a memorabilia insert. Just like last year, the 2017 Heritage minor league set is only issued in the hobby.
There are 200 cards in the base set, including multi-player League Leaders, a variety of parallels and variations (all distracting from the individual cards, the reason people buy the set). Variations include short-printed Facsimile Signature versions (be still my heart). Providing more rarity are the ever-annoying 20 Base Short Prints. While redemptions are normally reserved for signed cards, the Base Card Mystery Redemptions insert features a to-be-announced 2017 draft pick in limited numbers.
Some of my favorite things . . .
Mainstream Sets – The 324-card 1951 Bowman always has been my favorite baseball card set. It has both Mantle and Mays rookies in it but, for me, the attraction was that it had most of the pennant winning 1950 Phillies. The smaller 1950 Bowman set was a close second because it came out during that exciting year. The first cards I ever bought (or were bought for me, I was little) were 1948 Bowman. The card of Phillies second baseman Emil “The Antelope” Verban was among the first I got and I was hooked. It was just a 48-card-set. How about ’49 Bowman? It was bigger (240 cards) but the ugliest set of the era.
For sheer content, the 1952 Topps was a monster. The cards were too big and lots of kids, me included, would cut them down to work with the smaller ’52 Bowman. Topps initially thought the set was a disaster and dumped skids of it (including the ’52 Mantle) in to the East River after the season.
Because Topps issues a retro set each year called Heritage – current players, oldtime design – they get kudos from me for that. They did reprint sets of 1952-54 some years ago and I always wished they had kept it going.
Oddball Sets – I would go to the Penny Arcade as a kid (Bingham’s in Ocean City, NJ; Willow Grove Park Arcade in Willow Grove, PA) and buy Exhibit cards. They cost around a penny and there was no rhyme or reason as to what did or didn’t make up a set. Still the cards had all the stars and many of them weren’t found in the current mainstream cards (like Joe DiMaggio, for example). Like the ’52 Topps, kids cut them down too. Made by the Exhibit Supply Co. of Chicago for vending machines they didn’t let little things like using player photos without permission stand in their way, hence none of them are copyrighted (also nothing on the backs, except for one year). Exhibit cards also came as pin-up girls, cowboys, movie actors, band leaders, cars, football players, pretty much any picture you could slap on a card. Today I have well over 400 of them.
The 1947 Bond (Homogenized) Bread set was a sleeper but it had my favorite player Del Ennis, also Ted Williams, Stan Musial and that new guy, Jackie Robinson, of the Dodgers in it. These cards hit about the time kids were going nutso over trading cards in general. Lots of my Dad’s poker playing decks lost a card or two if they had a nice picture on he front of them, ditto Mom’s bridge decks.
Being with Fleer…After I testified for Fleer in the 1979-80 Federal Anti-Trust suit against Topps I expected a job offer from them (they won, I helped). Instead it was Donruss that offered me a full-time job in Memphis. My family voted a unanimous “No” and that was that. A little more than ten-years-later Fleer (now owned by Paul Mullan and his company, Charthouse) called and offered me a job. I took it, became VP, though neither Paul Mullan or I knew what I would actually do there and for the next few years I did it (and I modestly say I did it well) and we kicked butt in the hobby. Then Marvel Entertainment bought Fleer (none of us saw that coming) and the downward spiral began – with Marvel feeding off of Fleer’s profit and hobby reputation. The baseball player strike in the mid-90’s didn’t kill Fleer but it dealt the company a wound from which it would never recover (eventually folding a few years later). They even sold off their venerable “Dubble Bubble” gum brand to a firm in Canada.
Honors and other things…During my hobby years I won several “most influential person” awards as well as a couple for writing the column. Mostly, though, I loved this hobby. It was my ongoing link back to my childhood and it was important to me. My wife, to this day, marvels in the joy she sees in me when I bust a pack of cards. The EPSCC hobby show, started by the late Bob Schmierer and I, back in the mid-70’s (at Spring Garden College, then Willow Grove) continues to this day. Our show was the national hobby show before there was such a thing. We set the trends, got the national press (including a story about our Willow Grove Show in The New York Times).
My favorite honor came in what I actually did as a profession, as an educator. In 1990 the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (now Jefferson University) went to the NCAA Division II World Series. We were in the final eight in the nation. On May 20, 2016, along with the other members and coaches of the team (I was athletics director), I was inducted into the Philadelphia University Athletic Hall of Fame. I always wanted to be a “Hall of Famer”.
As usual and in closing - Thanks to Ted Silary for including this column in his web-zine all these years and to all of you for regularly reading it. Good luck and God Bless.
November 5, 2017
This continues our 42nd Year of hobby columns
Ted Taylor’s Collector’s Corner
Last collector out, turn off the lights. One column to go!
The next (December) column will be it. Things change, time marches on. I started writing hobby columns back in the mid-1960’s and at the time I was also running the biggest hobby show in the nation and operating one of the first hobby shops in America (Ocean City NJ). The column went along with all that involvement and I had several good runs with it – Sports Collectors Digest (even did a stint as editor there), the Philadelphia Daily News (12 years) and this longtime connection with Ted Silary (thank you all).
But it lands in the lap of Topps. The company apparently doesn’t care what people think any more and my review copies have completely dried up. I contact them, they ignore me. While, now VP, Clay Luraschi was in charge of the hobby press, things were good. He knew the business, understood the value of connecting with hobbyists keep me current with new product. Then they kicked him up stairs. Of late I have serious doubts about those now in charge of their hobby relations. In fact for the past few months I’ve been buying product in the marketplace to review and that makes no sense at all. So if the end of this column bothers you let the “P R” folks (Susan Lulgjuraj email@example.com and Kevin Moodhe firstname.lastname@example.org) know you aren’t happy about it.
I will continue to collect baseball cards (been doing it since I was 8) – just not the new stuff. I am currently working on the ’61 Fleer set, love Exhibit cards (sports and entertainment) and the overall 50’s sets. I am disappointed in the lack of care that goes in to the Topps sets today (see review below) and how they pay little attention to who should and should actually not be on the cards. This year manager cards dried up and they have been part of card sets since 1950 Bowman. Once-upon-a-time things like that mattered. I doubt that the people making the picks really know baseball – and that was not the case in the past.
Buying Topps cards has become much like a lottery. They dangle relic cards and autographs as incentives to buy. Yet most of the supposed insert goodies you get are representative of rookies that no one has ever heard of (or likely ever will) and relics that they quickly tell you have no connection to anything, any game or any time. Short prints in most key sets pretty much insure you aren’t going to ever complete them and, so, you get to the point (as I’ve been told by collectors) where it doesn’t much matter any more.
Hobby shops, a vanishing breed, are closing or running shorter hours. New product sales are way down. A close friend still runs a successful 5-day-a-week hobby shop (but recently cut his hours) and most of his business now is on the internet (pretty much vintage cards and memorabilia). MLB made a big mistake by only licensing Topps. There is no competition, hence no need to really produce quality sets. Other card sets come out but no logos can appear so the players look like a bunch of gas station attendants with blank shirts and ball caps. The city name is the only thing the other cards carry. That happened once before – Fleer sued Topps (I testified for them in federal court) and won and for almost two decades collectors were in fat city. You could chose which set (or sets) Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, Score, Topps that you wanted. Now you pretty much have Topps. Take it or leave it. I’m leaving it.
Topps 2017 Heritage High #’s - Full of Pitchers, Not much else
A hobby box of 2017 Heritage High Numbers will set you back $75. If all you care about is the basic set (no short prints) you can buy it, hand collated, much cheaper from several hobby dealers – and that’s the route I took. If you like cards of pitchers, this is surely the set for you. Some teams have hardly a player (at any position), by the way, and others are replete with cards of pitchers. The kind of content-weak sets I reference above.
Poor choices in player selection is the standard now at Topps. Phillies fans are treated to players who haven’t suited up at Citizen’s Bank Park for months – Michael Saunders, for one. This, too, is a disappointment. Another problem, some players from the initial series (Cameron Rupp, for example) show up again in the high numbers. How about Adam Morgan? Andrew Knapp? How do they pick their players? Once the people making the player selection choices were (a.) collectors and (b.) understood the hobby. They must have all retired.
Since Topps apparently no longer sends review copies to hobby scribes (after 42 years) my choice is to buy the whole box – and not get a complete set, but some parallels and either a relic or autograph – or go for the basic set to help me complete my 2017 teams. And since Topps, with their various and sundry Bowman and other sets, seems to replicate the same players endlessly this becomes a no brainer.
The series 2 product again utilizes the 1968 Topps design but with an autograph or relic per hobby box (assuming you buy that box). Providing an update this adds 225 base cards for rookie call-ups and traded players with numbering going from #501 to #725. The 25 short prints (an ongoing annoyance to veteran collectors, and designed to force you to buy more product) impact the set in some ways. The short prints are the final 25 cards (#701-725) and packed one in every three packs). Parallels follow the primary set with Blue Bordered (50 copies - Hobby), and the somewhat tricky Bright Yellow Backs (25 copies), Gray Backs (10 copies) and Flip Stock (5 copies – Hobby.
The Heritage minor league set – which I purchased two months ago – was supposed to be out in October, now they say November. Customers? Who seems to care about the customers?
Note: See above, still waiting for the Topps Heritage and, now, Topps Baseball Update. Both are paid for and on order from hobby dealers. Hopefully we’ll tell you about them in December.
Letters, we get e-mails..
Still enjoy your column Ted…can you consider switching your emphasis away from new product reviews to card and baseball history and your views on MLB during the season? I’d love for you to keep writing about something…anything!
Thanks and God Bless,
Thanks, Ron. Thanks for caring but it ends with the December column. I have reached out to Topps, Donruss (Panini) without any response. If you want to let Topps know how you feel why not try contacting them directly?
Glad I found your column online a couple years ago.I just want to thank you for a 1986 SCD column your wrote turning me on to the current roster team concept. I have been doing that in one form or another since 1986 in baseball, football and basketball. Tapping all sources minor league, college, regional set cards has always been my go to since then for any players not in the major sets. I enjoy your posts reviewing the new products, just wish you could write more general columns about cards.
Thanks Steve. Years ago I did write more about the “general population” of collectible cards but found that the readers wanted a “head’s up” on what was new to the market. Next month, in the last column, I plan to write about my favorite sets – and why they were that. I am also wrapping up my 2017 team books – that aspect of my collecting hobby ends with this season as well.
One last plea…Can anybody help? A collector friend continues to seek the complete 1950 Bowman football reprint set and wonders why this is so hard to find. I can’t believe this is so hard to find. I called Larry Fritsch Cards and they said he hadn’t seen a set in a year our more. Can anyone help? My friend is offering $125 for the mint set. It’s a reprint set for crying out loud! Also looking out for 1951 Topps red or blue backs, Berk Ross 1951 or 1952.
As usual - Thanks to Ted Silary for including this column in his web-zine and to all of you for regularly reading it over these many years.
October 1, 2017
This continues our 42nd Year of hobby columns
Ted Taylor’s Collector’s Corner
Donruss 2017 Optics Baseball Goes with “The Mick”
Applying, once again, the chromium treatment to the main Donruss baseball line (thereby dressing it up considerably), 2017 Donruss Optic Baseball is now home to Mickey Mantle cards following several years away from the brand (I wonder if the Mantle family deal with Topps expired.) He’s on the packaging and the image jumped out at me at the local hobby shop. Hobby boxes are going for $105 (take that, Topps). You can also buy “Value Packs” (16 cards with exclusive purple parallels for $4.99 at Target). May I say, here, one card is enough, I find no use for parallels, regardless of what color they are.
Hobby boxes include two autographs per box. And as last year a variety of designs and inserts remain including the popular (from yesteryear) Rated Rookies, Diamond Kings and Masters of the Game (I found a Reggie Jackson) and, among the regular cards, were Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn and (evil old) Pete Rose.
The ongoing weakness is this product is that it still doesn’t have the team logos (no MLB license, and that’s just plain silly) and that the shops that carry it tend to ober-price it because of the chrome treatment. And, by the way, I got not a single Mantle card, an autograph or even a relic with my purchase.
Bowman Baseball Prospects Set
This set is loaded with quirky refractors, parallels and other goodies. A hobby box will set you back about $120. If that stuff doesn’t interest you and your goal is to get the key players only then go to a dealer that builds sets (keeps the goodies for his high end customers) and you get away at about $45.
As a Phillies fan I like that the set includes Rhys Hoskins (not his first card this year) and Dylan Cozens. For those that like long shots (but a #1 pick) Mickey Moniak is in the mix too. Lots of cards with a “1” on them indicating their first card ever and that’s fun. All the players are in big league uniforms but the background is blurred on most of them so you won’t notice they were shot in empty stadiums.
For reasons that totally escape me, the “set” includes four Japanese players and one Korean all in their country’s uniforms (obviously from this spring’s World Baseball Classic). Why do I want or need a card of Tetsuto Yamada, Yng Hyeon-Jong and three others is a mystery.
That’s it for the Topps products this column.
This and That…
We continue to be light on review product and that will, eventually, kill this column. I simply cannot keep buying all of the new products. My only promise to you is that we’ll finish out this year – our 42nd. Topps, which usually sends us review copies, seems to have lost our address They have been so good over the years that this truly puzzles me. Not only are they snubbing me, but they don’t seem to care about my readers.
Since Topps seems to have lost my address I have been buying things from longtime hobby dealer Larry Fritsch cards. The review of the Bowman set, above, is thanks to one of those purchases. When I bought this set the bill came to $44.90. A prior purchase had resulted in a whole $2.50 off coupon good for “any merchandise purchase over $45”. Guess what? Since I was short a dime they didn’t honor it. Really. Ironically orders both both Heritage high number and Heritage minor league (still to be received) came in well ove $120. Can’t they add in Wisconsin. Note that I am a long-time but, now, unhappy customer.
At my local Target store (for $9.99 each) I picked up three major sports card boxed sets from re-packager “The Fairfield Company” that guarantee one autograph – or more. I have friends (professionals, two of them doctors, one an accountant) who still collect autographed cards and for less than ten bucks I’ve now got a nice little goodie to drop on them at lunch one day.
Donruss has a couple of $19.99 boxed products (football and NASCAR) that promise one or more autographed cards as well as the current card offerings. Again, not a bad price to get a signed card though, odds are, it won’t be worth twenty bucks.
Rhys Hoskins cards remain hot. The Phillies rookie slugger has taken the NL by storm. His 2017 Bowman (BCP117) is in high demand now, but his true “Rookie Card” was from 2016, Bowman #BD 186 (as of last week going for $20 each). If money is an object and you would be happy with a minor league card of him it’s part of the 2017 Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs set (selling by the club for around $10). This set is a good buy. By the way, Scott Kingery’s rookie card was also a 2016 Bowman #BD 128. (Kingery is part of the Reading Phillies minor league team set this year, but not Lehigh Valley.) And I can’t help thinking that Dylan Cozens is getting the Darrin Ruf treatment. Ignore him until he’s not a factor.
Now that it looks like the Phillies will keep Kingery in the minors until, at least, late May of 2018 it is pretty certain that my wife and I will fold Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs tickets in to our 2018 plans. The consensus is that the Phillies will save a year of arbitration – the hell with the actual composition of the big team – by letting him stay at AAA early in 2018. The Phils have been so bad over the past few years and yet they will keep him on ice to save a few bucks. A real slap in the face to the ticket buying loyal fans. And don’t tell me the Phils are “fan friendly” because I’m not buying. This will mark my fourth straight season where I skipped a multi-game package.
After the last column we got a few stray older cards but I still have readers still looking for the complete 1950 Bowman reprint set (I have someone who will go $100 for it in mint shape), and single cards – or sets (anything from f/g to ex) – from the 1951 Topps red and blue backed sets and the 1951 or 1952 Berk Ross sets. Single Bowman FB cards from 1950 and 1951 are also on my reader “want lists”.
Contact me with comments –at email@example.com . Thanks for your feedback. (note new e-mail address.)
As usual - Thanks to Ted Silary for including this column in his web-zine and to all of you for regularly reading it.