’72 collector-issued set boasts ’00-09 players

thlordbw.jpgAnother set purchased by Pennsylvania collector Ken Stough – whom we introduced in the last Standard Catalog Update – will make its debut in the 2008 edition.

It’s an odd bird, a 120-card set from Classic Cards  – not the company that put out the multi-sport sets in the early 1990s, but the one that is offering a Flint, Mich., post office box on the back of its cards.

The set, which appears to be out of the “Wild West” days of unlicensed sets made by collectors, for collectors, is odd for several reasons:

  • First, very few, if any, references to the company or the set can be found.
  • Second, the set comes in four series of 30 cards, the second, third and fourth a quarter-inch shorter than the first.
  • Third, the first series’ cards are numbered, but the other three are not.

Dated 1972, the set features players from 1900-09 in sepiatone photos printed on cream colored stock which was seemingly chosen as the color to make them appear yellowed from age to enhance the vintage card stock.

The print job is cheap; centering’s not that good, and the type on the front is old-style capital letters, either done very poorly, or on vintage hot-type machines to enhance the “antiqued effect.”

Whether the effect was intentional or just an accident of low-fidelity printing, these cards make the 1972 Topps cards, by comparison, look a miracle of modern printing and don’t even think about comparing these to current cards.

The backs feature several different type styles, inconsistent from series to series. Yet for what they are, the cards give collectors a clear window into baseball’s early days. A lot of the cards feature action shots, which show early gear like shoes, caps, gloves and knickers.

A few of the players, such as Billy Purtell of the Chicago White Sox, his crosstown rival Johnny Evers, and Cleveland’s Napoleon Lajoie, show up on multiple cards in different series of the Classic Cards set.

Stough found the Classic Cards set interesting, because it helped fill in gaps in his collection.

thspencerbw.jpgA history teacher by trade, Stough approaches baseball card collecting with a different perspective than most people. He wants one card featuring every player in the major leagues during the 20th century regardless of condition or the set from which a card originates.

To accomplish this, he’s searched the corners of the baseball card hobby and dug up regional issues. Whether it was minor-league issues, team-issued sets, Cuban-league tobacco cards or just about everything else oddball and unusual in search of the more obscure players, he looked everywhere.

Some of his finds included players who only played in a game or two during their big-league careers, or in some cases, had a single major league at-bat.

Even reprints and these collector-issued  Classic Cards fit into his collection. He’s had good luck filling in gaps with cards from hobby mavericks Renata Galasso and TCMA issued cards, some as large as postcard and even a few 8-by-10 cards.

“A long time ago I had all the players who had appeared in major issues,” Stough says. “Once I got all the licensed material, the collection was well short of even half the players who played during the 20th century, so I had to expand it and it’s been a great pleasure for me.”

The Classic Cards set netted about 20 players he hadn’t already acquired, and a couple he had never heard of, including Bunny “Ducky” Pearce, “Big” Bill Powell, Billy Purtell and “Tabasco” Tom Tuckey.

Because the set had more than 100 cards and focused on a period where not many baseball cards were issued, it filled in more gaps in Stough’s collection than the usual find.

Stough put the other cards he didn’t need for sale  on eBay. So, possibly the only known set of 1972 Classic Cards is broken up, giving the hobby yet another Holy Grail to chase.

The good news for hobbyists? These cards might be rare and unusual, but they aren’t yet valuable, much like the Kahn’s Wieners and Red Man cards were once upon a time.

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