Uncataloged sets unearthed in Pennsylvania

Editor’s note: This column marks the first edition of Standard Catalog Update by SCD contributor Don Fluckinger. Want to contribute pricing information, have a possible new find or a correction to make on a Standard Catalog checklist? See the box headlined “Calling All Collectors” below.

1970OldTimers20.jpgGreetings. As you probably have already noticed by now, I am not Bob Lemke. I am, however, starting to assemble information for the 2008 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. Lemke and his colleagues at SCD just completed the 2007 version, which came out this week. Moving forward, Lemke remains in touch to impart wisdom and expert research advice to future editions of the Catalog and for that we’re grateful.

Which brings us to my first installment of the Standard Catalog Update. The latest treasure to enter the hobby was a find of at least two, possibly three uncatalogued postcard sets from the late 1960s and early 1970s, featuring baseball legends from Abner Doubleday to Joe DiMaggio.

Longtime reader Jim Boushley sent us a scan of a 31/2-by-41/4 postcard he’d recently purchased. Dated 1970 and issued by Sports Cards for Collectors of Ossining, N.Y., the card features classic caricatures on the front signed “Myron S. Aronstein.”

Boushley’s No. 8 card features Tinker to Evers to Chance, the Hall-of-Fame, double-play trio that played a key defensive role in the Cubs’ 1908 World Series victory. Boushley, a Cubs collector,  picked it up because it fit in with his collection of vintage and oddball memorabilia.
The postcard back resembles the format of the better-known SCFC issue of 1970. The card, however, is indicated as “Sports Stuff No. 8.” Both the SCD Standard Catalog and Beckett Almanac agree that the 1970 SCFC “Old Timer” postcard issue featured vintage photos, and not the Aronstein caricatures on Boushley’s card. (The 1970 date for the Old Timer cards is approximate.)

Boushley’s Sports Stuff card was part of a lot of four sets sold in June in a Collectible Classics (Irwin, Pa, www.auctionscc.com) online auction to Ken Stough of Greensberg, Pa., another longtime SCD subscriber.

Stough purchased the lot and picked out a few for his collection, in which he’s trying to assemble one card of each of the about 14,000 major leaguers of the 20th century (he’s up to 11,000 different players).

One of the four sets in the Collectible Classics auction was the 1970 SCFC Old Timers set. The other three had either been partially catalogued or not at all.

1969SCFCaronstein1.jpgIn Stough’s lot was a full set of Aronstein-drawn SCFC 31/2-by-41/4 postcard set, dated 1969. It features 78 pre-1950 players that included three Babe Ruths, Ty Cobb, Larry Doby, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Jim Thorpe and Honus Wagner. More than half of the postcards feature Hall of Famers. Cards Nos. 1-36 feature blank backs, Nos. 37-78 have brief biographical and statistical data. The last four cards in the 82-card set comprise checklists.

Aronstein also did the artwork for an SCFC set dated 1968, (listed as “1968 SCFS Old Timers” in the Beckett Almanac with partial checklist).
To complicate matters, we’ve spotted cards out in the market copyrighted both 1968 and 1969 with the same artwork on the front, and same card numbers. Pending more research and collector input, these cards will likely show up in the 2008 Catalog as a single 1968-69 set.

The 1970 Sports Stuff set in Stough’s lot appears to include 10 cards, depicting pre-1920 baseball luminaries and legends, such as the No. 8 “Miracle Braves” card pictured at teh top of the page.

The find intrigues Michigan collector Mike Rich, who collects oddball baseball sets in addition to the classics. He’s already working on his 1970 SCFC Old Timer set and said he’ll probably start chasing these new ones, too.

“The (Old Timers) are very neat, with the black and white photos,” Rich said. “There’s just not a ton of them out there that I’m aware of.
They’re not something that a lot of people know about.”

Pricing data is sketchy on these cards, but 1968 and 1969 SCFC cards routinely sell for $3-$10 each at online auction sites. Fewer 1970s cards from the SCFC Sports Stuff or the Old Timers come up for sale, but Stough’s own experience has them selling for $1.50 for commons to $5 for the likes of Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner.

The final set in Stough’s find was from 1972. This smaller, non-postcard issue came from a Flint, Mich., company called Classic Cards and featured vintage photos printed sepiatone on yellow card stock to create a faded, antique look. We’ll delve into these cards in the next Standard Catalog Update and provide a checklist.

One big question remains surrounding these SCFC postcard sets: Is the artist, Myron Aronstein, the same guy or related to, Mike Aronstein, the legendary collector who issued the cult-classic unlicensed SSPC (Sports Stars Publishing Company) and TCMA (stands for either The Card Memorabilia Associates or partners Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein, take your pick) sets of the 1970s? Those “collector sets” not sold at retail but issued directly to collectors via mail-order eventually drew the company into a legal battle with Topps.

The Beckett Almanac credits the 1968 set to Mike Aronstein. If that’s correct, these cards could be connected to the renegade wing of the hobby pantheon – issued by the same people who laid the foundation for Fleer to challenge Topps’ card monopoly a few years later.

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