Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Six

Aquisitions, Apr. 26th, 2017

It has been awhile since I last updated readers about the progress of my collecting of the 1952 Bowman set. Many changes have occurred which delayed purchases from this iconic set. My wife and I had a new baby to take care of, and we also moved into a larger domicile because of it.

We have settled in and the baby has now become an 11 month old toddler. My man cave has also increased in size, being the basement of the new house instead of a smaller office in the old place. All the expenses that are involved in moving have now been taken care of and I had a bit of disposable income to spend on cards.

Instead of the usual places to find the cards (eBay, COMC, Kijiji), which are difficult to use when wanting to buy in groups rather than individual cards. It seems every lot of 1952 Bowman listed on eBay, for example, include more cards that I have than cards that I don’t.

Lately, I have been visiting an active forum over at Blowout Cards which resulted in a private purchase from one of the members there. He had numerous doubles of 1952 Bowman that he was looking to sell. Of them, 15 were not in my collection. I purchased the lot for $52.00. They were in the lower end of the grade scale (most in good) but that is to my liking as I am a man on a budget. The man was even nice enough to throw in a 16th card (a double of card #175 Ransom Jackson) that I can use in a future trade.

With more room on the wall to display the progress of my collection, I added a poster I created of the full set as a visual reference. It makes the wall just a bit cooler to look at.

1952 Bowman, The New Wall

 

1952 Bowman, The New Wall 2

 

The 15 cards I received are the following:

  • #15 – Sam Mele
  • #19 – Bob Cain
  • #66 – Sal Maglie
  • #85 – Marty Marion
  • #95 – Luke Easter
  • #163 – Johnny Lipton
  • #168 – Preacher Roe
  • #170 – Joe Astroth
  • #171 – Mel Queen
  • #175 – Ransom Jackson
  • #179 – Pete Suder
  • #212 – Solly Hemus
  • #214 – Ray Boone
  • #228 – Bob Chipman
  • #231 – Dee Fondy

With these 15 cards my collection has increased to 163 of 252 total cards, or 64.68%.

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Five

 

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Five

1952 Bowman #27 - Joe Garagiola

1952 Bowman #27 – Joe Garagiola

Anyone who was around baseball in the 1980’s knew of the subject of my next purchase from COMC. His work announcing / giving commentary on NBC games with Vin Scully became baseball’s main voices of the 1980s. He just died recently and I thought his card in the ’52 Bowman set would be a good choice. If you haven’t figured out who I am talking about it is Joe Garagiola. He played nine years in the bigs, but it was his broadcasting career that made Garagiola memorable.

Garagiola is card number 27 in the set, and it is placed above common status because of his work in broadcasting. I paid $10.74 for my copy, and it wasn’t in pristine shape. With the addition of Garagiola, it now brings my count up to 148 of 252 cards or 58.73%.

The Wall:

1952 Bowman, The Wall, July 21st 2016

1952 Bowman, The Wall, July 21st 2016

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Four

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Six

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Four

1952 Bowman #4 Robin Roberts

1952 Bowman #4 Robin Roberts

The next Bowman card that I ordered from COMC came in. It continues my purchases of the more sought after Hall of Fame players in the set as I wait until another bulk purchase of the commons shows up on eBay or various other auction sites.

Last time I picked up the Dodger great Pee Wee Reese, this time I moved to the pitching mound and grabbed the Phillies great Robin Roberts. It’s in better shape than the Reese card and I only paid $16.75. Numbered four in the set, it leaves only Yogi Berra and Minnie Minoso remaining to finished the first ten cards in the set.

It also moves the total cards I now have to 147 (147/252 58.33%).

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Three

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Five

 

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Three

1952 Bowman #8 - Pee Wee Reese

1952 Bowman #8 Pee Wee Reese

My latest purchases from COMC arrived which included a 1952 Bowman. Pee Wee Reese was its subject (#8 in the set).

Pee Wee Reese, a Hall of Fame player for the great Dodgers teams of the period, does not come cheap on cardboard. The ’52 Bowman set is no different (although it’s cheaper than most). I purchased my copy for $7.45 but it is not in great condition (it has a crease line across the center).

This raises my total cards to 146 (146/252, 57.93%).

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Two

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Four

The Elusive PSA 10 1951 Bowman Mantle Rookie Card

1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle RC PSA 10

1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle RC PSA 10

How times have changed over the past 20-plus years in the hobby. If you asked me back in the late ’80s what would be the most influential trend in card collecting that would affect pricing I would have probably said that Beckett Magazines created and would continue to create a central pricing structure that would attract lots of speculators, investors and collectors. This increased participation would skyrocket demands on product which in turn would increase pricing. I wasn’t half wrong, Beckett did create a marketplace that attracted huge amounts of new people into the hobby, but the card companies also reacted by producing huge amounts of cards to match or exceed the demand. Over time this suppressed pricing on all newer cards and the trend in pricing upward stayed only in the vintage area of the hobby.

The overall biggest influence on the pricing for cards wasn’t actually Beckett Magazine. The largest trend that pushed pricing upwards was the introduction of third party grading services.

The best example for this trend can be seen in one of my all-time favourite cards. A card that, once graded, quickly moved out of my budget and into the realm of the rich.

The card I’m speaking of you probably have guessed from the title of this post is the 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle RC. It has the distinction of being one of the very few seminal vintage cards that has a PSA 10 population of only one. It, over the last 22-23 years (since it has been graded), has remained unique. Other important vintage cards either have no PSA 10 examples or more than one which makes this card highly desirable to high end vintage collectors.

1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle RC PSA Pop. Report

1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle RC PSA Pop. Report

The card first came to the public’s attention in an article written by Michael Payne for Beckett Baseball Card Monthly back in 1994 (the November issue). Two University of Miami students (Dan Forman and Jerry Schwartz), who came across the card (the article didn’t give any specifics), sent it in to be graded by PSA.

The card came back a 10. They informed a Mantle collector who they had sold cards to before, by the name of Rick Skurnik, that the card would be put up for auction. Skurnik, with some financial help from his wife Gail, won the auction with a bid of $30,000.00.

Nov. 1994 Beckett Article

Nov. 1994 Beckett Article

The card periodically came up in dealings, Skurnik didn’t keep the card for too long. It was sold for just under 100k in 1998, then 325k a few years later. In 2008, Memory Lane Inc. set up a private sale of the card for 600k. The 600k sale was the last anyone has heard of the card.

The card, if sold today, would fetch around a million according to most experts in the hobby and I wouldn’t disagree.

To summarize, the card, once graded, went from 30k to 100k to 325k to 600k all within 14 years. If we consider it a million dollar card in 2016 that would be a 33 fold increase in 22 years. That is the essence of the hobby today, the search for high end copies of important cards to then be sent off to be graded and resold at a huge profit.

The Mantle card is not a unique example, it is a regular occurrence. Cards that were priced in the hundreds of dollars back in the ’80s and early ’90s are now sold in the tens, if not the hundreds, of thousands of dollars because they have had the distinction of being graded very high by one of the 3rd party grading companies. The difference between a NM or higher non graded card, to its graded counterpart can run in the range of 10 to 100 times higher in price. That is if you can even find ungraded copies of important cards in superior condition. Most high end cards with some significance have been graded creating a two-tiered system of collecting, those that are graded and high end, and those that are ungraded and are less than NM. In some cases grading has even moved into the lower conditioned cards depending on the card’s significance. Eventually there will be no more vintage cards to grade and the companies will be competing to grade the new and more recent cards only. We will see if another trend comes to the forefront at that time.

 

If I Had A Million Dollars…

I’d buy me some cards. I would have cleaned up at a recent auction hosted by Heritage Auctions. Dubbed the Platinum Night Sports Auction, it was held Feb. 20-21 in New York. If you don’t think that high grade vintage sports cards is a part of the hobby reserved for the rich, then you haven’t seen what these cards are selling for lately. The greatest example of this was the bidding on a PSA 9 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente RC:

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente PSA 9

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente PSA 9

This card shown above fetched, and I kid you not, $478.000. It make my saving up to buy a T206 Roger Bresnahan card at a low grade for $100.00 look infantile.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 8

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 8

Not to be outdone by the Puerto Rican Hall of Famer, a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card graded at PSA 8 realized a price of , and stop telling me to stop kidding around, $501,900.00.

It’s time to start buying lotto tickets if I ever wish to participate in these auctions. Perhaps I have a rich uncle somewhere who will leave me a million in his will. I can just image me sitting in a room with other astute refined men holding numbered paddles trying to keep an air of maturity and sophistication as we bid on cards which were sold to children over 60 years ago.

Two other significant cards were sold in New York those two days as well. A 1916 M101-5 Blank Back card of Babe Ruth graded at PSA 5 realized $191,200.00 and a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle RC graded at PSA 8 sold for an astounding $137,425.00:

1915 M101-5 Ruth & 1952 Topps Mantle

1915 M101-5 Ruth & 1952 Topps Mantle

Those four cards, some of the more significant cards in the hobby’s history, are ones that will never be in most card collector’s inventory (including not in mine). I will need to stick to high grade cards from the 1990s if I ever want to stay out of bankruptcy court and leave the vintage ones for those that have more money than brains.

The Hall of Fame Challenge, Post Three

Hall of Fame, The Wall, Part Three

Hall of Fame, The Wall, Part Three

The next set of Hall of Fame cards I purchased came in from COMC. I also picked up a couple of 1989 Upper Deck Factory sets which I broke open to add the Ken Griffey Jr. RC to the wall. Thirdly I found in my cards a copy of Griffey Jr.`s Donruss RC.

Here are the cards from COMC:

Latest HOF Purchases

Latest HOF Purchases

Here is a list of the new additions to the wall:

  1. 1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  2. 1989 Donruss #33 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  3. 1989 Bowman #220 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  4. 1989 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  5. 1992 Bowman #461 Mike Piazza RC
  6. 1989 O-Pee-Chee #186 Randy Johnson RC

The Griffey Jr. cards and the Mike Piazza card are the two players’ first cards. For Griffey Jr. Topps and Score waited until their Rookie/Traded sets to include the Mariner. Piazza was missed by everyone except Bowman. Fleer included him in their low print Update set at the end of the year, but all the other companies missed the boat completely.

I’m not sure how well informed my readers are about grading companies (I assume they are somewhat informed due to the fact that grading has been popular since the late ’90s). The Piazza card I bought from COMC was a graded card from BCCG (Beckett’s Collector’s Club grading service). I’m not sure why Beckett has this service as it is inferior and somewhat dubious in its grading practices. It actually is a stupid way to conduct business as many novice collectors are fooled into thinking the numerical grading (1-10) is equal to that of PSA. They see a lower price for the BCCG graded card and buy it not realizing it is not of equal quality to its PSA counterpart. If you come across any of these BCCG graded cards, ignore the grade and just consider it an ungraded card which you will need to inspect to get a proper grade for it.

I did this with the Piazza card I purchased for the wall. I bought a BCCG graded 10 Piazza Bowman RC for $21.30. It was in better condition than the equally priced ungraded versions of the card so it was an easy decision to purchase it and remove it from its case when I received it in the mail:

Mike Piazza Before and After

Mike Piazza Before and After

As you can see, the card is off center to the right and would probably be graded at most a PSA 9. If you wish to remove any cards from their graded case it’s quite simple. Here is an example:

Returning to the wall, I moved it to the hallway to give the dedication more space as new cards come in. You can see the new wall, with the latest cards added, at the top of this post.

The Hall of Fame Challenge, Post Two

The Hall of Fame Challenge, Post Four

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Two

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

With over half of the set completed it has become more difficult to find bulk lots of cards that don’t include numerous (usually over half) duplicates to my collection. Time will tell if I find any more.

Not one to do nothing I decided to begin buying more of the star cards in the mean time. These cards usually are not included in bulk lots anyway (it’s usually just commons) and these star card purchases will bide the time until another lot comes my way.

The first of these purchases became the #11 card in the set. I found the Hall of Fame Ralph Kiner at COMC for $15.00. It was in good shape and should look pleasing alongside all the other cards on the wall.

With the Kiner card it brings the count up to 145 cards. (145/252,  57.54%)

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post One

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Three

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post One

1952 Bowman, The Poster

1952 Bowman, The Poster

I began collecting the 1952 Bowman cards back in 1993 when I got sick of the over-production, outrageous prices and sea of inserts that flowed from all the major producers of baseball cards at the time. It made me look elsewhere for my collecting fun. I really like art card rather than photographs, and smaller cards rather than the standard sized cards. 1952 Bowman is both. There was a shop near my place of residence which had a good amount of the cards so I saved my money and after a few months went in with an offer for all of them. I purchased over 50 cards that day at an overall cost of $5.00 a card. Soon after the purchase my financial and marital status changed and my money was better used elsewhere.

Recently I have returned to collecting and my attention was drawn back to the 1952 Bowman set. I decided I would try to finish the set. I began in November of last year and here is my progress summed up until now.

My first task was to find a display area for the set. Many people will just put the cards in a box or binder, but I wanted to see the cards as a whole in one area so I can view them and watch the progression. I found the perfect place in my apartment hallway. I measured the space and it was perfect. The set has 252 cards and the wall measured exactly 14 top loaders across and fit 18 top loaders down. I used blue sticky putty to attach the top loaders and filled every top loader with a card if it was available. Here is what the results look like:

1952 Bowman, The Wall

1952 Bowman, The Wall

As you can see everything fits perfectly. Here are the purchases I made since I returned to collecting the set:

Purchases, Nov. 25th, 2015

Purchases, Nov. 25th, 2015

Purchases, Dec. 5th, 2015

Purchases, Dec. 5th, 2015

Purchase, Jan. 5th, 2016

Purchase, Jan. 5th, 2016

Purchases, Jan. 7th, 2016

Purchases, Jan. 7th, 2016

Completion Percentage: 57.14% (144/252)

1952 Bowman, The Wall Updated

1952 Bowman, The Wall Updated

I will keep posting as I make purchases and update the wall.

If you would like to see all the cards and what I paid for each one just go to the 1952 Bowman page here or you can see it in the menu items on the top left of evey page/post on the site. page.

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Two

A Love of the Minis

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

I started seriously collecting baseball cards back in 1992. I was 26 yrs. of age and the catalyst was the Blue Jays winning the pennant and the World Series. Not that I was a Jays fan because I wasn’t (the Mariners and Expos were my teams) it was just that baseball, my favourite sport, was at the time, a rival to hockey for the attention of the nation (Canada).

With the added interest in baseball, cards were selling everywhere. It wasn’t as difficult to trade and collect baseball cards. Gas stations carried Upper Deck, Donruss, Fleer, Topps, and Score packs, department stores and corner stores carried boxes of product. And there seemed to be a new card shop opening in the city I lived every three to six months.

Like most people new to a hobby, I collected the new and hot products. But it didn’t take long before I realized that much of what was being sold was not worth the price. When boxes were sold at a higher price than you could get for the individulal cards inside them (unless you hit a rare insert or autograph card), especially when they were produced in the millions, it was time to move on to something different. Myself I looked backwards.

1952 Bowman Baseball Card Pack

1952 Bowman Baseball Card Pack

I wanted to collect a vintage card set. I looked at all the sets from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s and found only one set that would be inexpensive enough to collect, large enough to make it a challenge, and available enough not to wait months before finding any of the cards. That set was the 1952 Bowman set. The Bowman cards became my favourite cards because of this and two other reasons.

The first was that they were art cards rather than photographs. I like the combination of art and sport. Although some photos are skillful, most are routine and boring. But art cards, they show skill with every image.

The second reason was their smaller size. After opening thousands of packs of regular sized baseball cards, a set of smaller cards was a refreshing change. The 1952 Bowman set began my love for smaller cards.

Thirty years later I am still collecting the ’52 Bowmans, but I have in the past, and still do today, collect other mini card sets. Below are some of my personal favourites.

1993 Humpty Dumpty

1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball

1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball

The 1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball set consists of 50 player cards and an unnumbered checklist card. They were only distributed in Canada. They were sold inside bags of Humpty Dumpty potato chips, one card per bag. The cards were sealed in a cellophane wrapper. The cards measure 1-7/16″ x 1-15/16″.

The fronts were full bleed images of 50 stars and semi-stars of the major leagues including Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, George Brett, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith. A mail in offer was available to attain a red plastic binder including five polypropylene twelve-pocketed sheets that hold the cards.

It was enjoyable to collect these cards except for the weight gain. The completion of this set was difficult though as you came across many duplicates before getting the complete run. I eventually stopped eating the chips and just took the cards from the bags. Once I was up to four cards on some of the players yet not receice any of a few others I stopped. I completed the set through trades online after that.

1991 & 1992 Cracker Jack Minis

1991 & 1992 Carcker Jack Mini Baseball Cards

1991 & 1992 Carcker Jack Mini Baseball Cards

These are actually two different sets. The 1991 set was produced by Topps and look like a mini version of their 40th Anniversary regular set. The 1992 set was produced by Donruss and they look similar to Donruss’ 1992 regular set.  Out of all the mini cards I have collected over the years these are the tiniest. They measure just 1 1/4″ X 1 3/4″ each.

Although the fronts look like the Topps and Donruss sets, the backs are completely different. Each of the two years came in two series of 36 cards each. That would be 72 cards each for 1991 and 1992. They came in specially marked boxes of Cracker Jack, one card per box.

1991 Topps Series II Cracker Jack Box and Surprize

1991 Topps Series II Cracker Jack Box and Surprize

The two years’ sets contain almost every Hall of Fame player from the era including Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk, Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin, Frank Thomas, Ozzie Smith, Dennis Eckersley, Craig Biggio, and Tom Glavine.

A mail-in offer for a mini card album with six top loading plastic pages for $4.95 per album was available at the time.

Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Collector Album

Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Collector Album

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cuts

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cut #136 Carlos Beltran

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cut #136 Carlos Beltran

In 2007, Upper Deck put out the last set of cards under the Fleer name. This 400 card set had a mini parallel set that I enjoy collecting. The cards are the same as the regular set except that the border has been removed. The cards measure 2 1/8″ X 3″. In a typical box you will pull between 15-20 of these cards so although not extremely limited, you will need to buy a case or two to come close to finishing the set. I prefer to look to the secondary market for the cards where I occasionally found lots of 20 or more available for a reasonable cost. This set is also available in a gold version which is super tough to collect. You might pull one card from every few boxes if you are lucky. I busted open four boxes myself and found only one of these cards.

2012 Topps 1987 Mini Cards

2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM38 Chase Utley

2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM38 Chase Utley

This set of 150 cards is fun to collect if you were a fan of the 1987 Topps set. The cards measure 2 1/8″ X 3 1/8″ and come at approximately 8 to 10 per hobby box. I pulled nine from a box I opened recently. The 150 cards are split between three series. 2012 Topps Series One has the first 50 cards. Series Two has the second 50 cards, and the Update set has the last 50 cards. You would need a case of each series to complete the set.

There are many other tiny cards out there including all the pre 1954 Bowman cards and the original Cracker Jack cards from 1914. Most of the pre WWII cards were irregularly shaped including many in tiny format. Unfortunately, nice looking cards from that era can be quite expensive. If you really want a monster challenge and money is no object, the T206 cards from 1909-11 are tiny and very fun to collect. With over 500 cards in the set, including the Honus Wagner card you better be prepared to spend millions to complete that set. Personally, I will, with the occasional exception, stick with the cards mentioned above as those are the ones I can afford.