You learn something every week. This week I learned from a post in the Collectors Universe forums that the player pictured on Bob Odell’s 1955 Topps All-American card is not Bob Odell. The impostor is Howard Odell, Bob’s older brother, who played at the University of Pittsburgh. For details–and to see many more cards that picture the wrong player–see the Mistaken Identities page of the Vintage Football Card Gallery.
As I wrote in a previous article, I am converting some of my more popular blog articles into standard web pages and moving them to the Vintage Football Card Gallery. I am finding that blog articles work best for news, and standard pages work better for information that is not time-sensitive.
This weekend I converted my Fathers and Sons and Teammate Brothers blog articles into gallery pages. In the process, I added a few fathers, sons, and brothers who are new to the Gallery since I wrote the original articles. The new pages are in the Fun Pages section of the Gallery home page. While you’re over there, check out the other pages to see if you’ve missed any new ones.
What is your favorite father/son or brother/brother football card pair? Here’s mine: George Sauer Sr. on his 1955 Topps All-American card, and George Sauer Jr. on his 1969 Glendale Stamp. There’s quite a resemblance, don’t you think?
June 17th, 2012 | Published in Fathers and Sons
As I have mentioned in other articles, I have been gradually adding fun facts for the cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. In May I identified the players whose brothers also played pro football (see my blog article Teammate Brothers), and this month I marked the players whose fathers or sons also played professionally. I used the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s list as a reference.
Many of the players on the Hall of Fame’s list never appeared on cards, and some of them appeared on newer cards that I don’t yet have in the Gallery. I did find five pairs of fathers and sons who both appear in the Gallery, though. In honor of Father’s Day, here they are:
Tony Adamle played six seasons for the Cleveland Browns in the AAFC and NFL; his son Mike played six seasons for the Chiefs, Jets, and Bears. Tony is pictured here on his 1951 Bowman card, and Mike on his 1975 Topps card.
Ted Fritsch Sr., a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, played from 1942 to 1950 for the Packers. Ted Fritsch Jr. played from 1972 to 1979 for the Falcons and Redskins. Ted Sr. appears here on his 1950 Bowman card; Ted Jr. is shown on his 1974 Topps card.
Dub Jones played for the Miami Seahawks, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Cleveland Browns in the AAFC, and he remained with the Browns when they joined the NFL in 1950. He is shown here on his 1953 Bowman card. Bert Jones, Dub’s son, was a quarterback for ten seasons with the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams. His 1976 Topps card is shown here.
George Sauer Sr. played from 1933 to 1935 for the Green Bay Packers; he is shown here on his 1955 Topps All-American card. George Jr. played from 1966 to 1970 for the New York Jets; he is shown on a 1969 Glendale stamp.
Finally, George Wilson Sr. played for the Chicago Bears for ten seasons, and he was head coach of the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins for thirteen. Wilson never appeared on a card of his own, but there is a small image of him on the 1964 Philadelphia Lions’ Play card shown here. Wilson’s son, George Jr., played for his father for one season at Miami. His 1967 Topps card is shown here.
May 17th, 2012 | Published in Milestone Birthdays
Clarence “Ace” Parker, the oldest living pro football player, is 100 years old today. Parker played from 1937 to 1941 for the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers, served three years in World War II, then returned to play one season for the NFL’s Boston Yanks and one season for the AAFC’s New York Yankees. At various times in his career he was a tailback, defensive back, kicker, punter, and kick returner. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
For a list of the 500 oldest living pro football players, see oldestlivingprofootball.com.
It’s not unusual to encounter football cards of players who have the same name. Among others, I have cards of two J.D. Smiths, two Gene Washingtons, two Bob Boyds, and three Bob Browns. I also have cards of two Bobby Dodds, but it was only yesterday that I learned that they were father and son. Bobby Dodd Sr. appeared on a 1955 Topps All-American card, and Bobby Dodd Jr. appeared in the 1961 Nu-Card set. I believe these were their only cards.
Dodd Sr. was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player at Tennesse and a coach at Georgia Tech. Dodd Jr. was a quarterback and defensive back at Florida. From what I can tell, they met on the field three times, when Georgia Tech played Florida in 1960, 1961, and 1962. Florida won the 1960 game on a last-minute two-point conversion, and Georgia Tech shut out the Gators in 1961 and 1962.
While doing some web searches the other day, I ran across a long page of photos of Bo McMillin. McMillin was an All-American quarterback at Centre College in 1919 and 1921, and he played a few games in the NFL with the Milwaukee Badgers and Cleveland Indians. After his playing days, he had a long coaching career, including four seasons as an NFL head coach. There is a short biography of McMillin on the Centre College web site.
Reading the commentary in the long page of photos, I learned that McMillin’s name is misspelled on both his 1955 Topps All-American card and his 1926 Spalding Champions card. It is spelled correctly in my Beckett price guides, but the cards are not noted as errors, so the errors were news to me. I also learned from the photo page that the image on McMillin’s 1926 Spalding card is not McMillin, but another player. If you put the card next to one of his other photos, it is clear that the Spalding card pictures someone else. Does anyone recognize the impostor?
Having learned about the mistakes, I fixed the spelling of McMillin’s name on my two web sites, noted the errors on his individual cards, and added his 1926 Spalding card to my page of football cards that picture the wrong player. Whew!
August 21st, 2011 | Published in New in the Gallery
While surfing the web this week, I found a picture of a partial sheet of 1955 Topps All-American football cards. The partial sheet contains 50 cards, half of the 100 cards in the complete set. Today I created a virtual version of it and added it to the Vintage Football Card Gallery. For now it’s on my “In Progress” page, but I will probably promote it to its own page when I get time.
Ralph Kercheval, who had been the oldest living pro football player, passed away on October 6. He was 98 years and 10 months old. I wrote a short article about Kercheval and his football cards last year.
With Kercheval’s passing, Ace Parker, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, became the oldest living pro football player. According to his Wikipedia page, Parker is 98 years and 5 months old. To my knowledge, the 1955 Topps All-American card pictured here is Parker’s only vintage card, though he appeared in a few modern tribute sets, as well. You can find many of his tribute cards on eBay.
Parker also played two seasons for baseball’s Philadelphia Athletics, but I don’t know if he is also the oldest living major league baseball player. I did a quick net search for Ace Parker baseball cards, but I didn’t turn any up.
The Oldest Living Pro Football Players web site has a long, long list of the current oldest living pro players. Glancing through the first couple dozen players on the list, I see that only a few them appeared on football cards. Most of the oldest players played in the 1930s and 1940s, and only a few sets of football cards were printed during those decades.
There are two cards on eBay this week that I seldom see for sale: a 1955 Topps All-American Whizzer White card with Gaynell Tinsley’s bio, and a Gaynell Tinsley card with Whizzer White’s bio. Both were graded 8, or NM/MT, by PSA. It apparently didn’t take Topps long to correct their error in 1955, because these two cards are much scarcer than the corrected versions. The back of each error card is shown here.
Years ago, when I first read about these errors, I assumed that the backs of the cards were swapped in their entirety. Wrong-back cards are fairly common; you can see a few of them on my 1960 Fleer virtual uncut sheet page. It was only recently that I learned that only the bio sections of the White and Tinsley cards are swapped. This is why the descriptions in the price guides say Gaynell Tinsley (Whizzer White bio) and Whizzer White (Gaynell Tinsley bio). Duh.
I have always thought that the corrected Whizzer White card was undervalued, considering that it is his rookie card, and that he served as a U.S. Supreme Court justice for 31 years after his football career. White’s card sells for only about double the price of a common in the 1955 All-American set, and the price guides put it at two or three times the price of a common. His error card sells for much more, but that is because of its scarcity, not his fame.
For more on the 1955 Topps All-American set, see A is for All-Americans.
July 4th, 2010 | Published in Silly Stuff
Happy Independence Day! It took me awhile, but I found just the right three cards for the occasion. First we have Red Grange on his 1955 Topps All-American card. Then there’s Daryl White on a 1973 Nebraska Playing Card. (Note that its card #4.) And, finally, Forrest Blue on his 1975 Wonder Bread card. Between the three, we even have a star and a few stripes!
In case you aren’t familiar with the three sets, you can read about them in earlier blog articles:
- A is for All Americans
- New in the Gallery: 1973 Nebraska Playing Cards
- New in the Galley: 1975 Wonder Bread Cards
Enjoy your picnics and fireworks!
There is a great thread going in the Collectors Universe forums about favorite “combo” cards. I had not heard the term before, but it appears that combo cards are simply cards that feature more than one player. (Team cards don’t count, because they’re, you know, team cards.) Some of the cards posted in the CU thread have been autographed by all of the players–very cool.
Most of the cards posted in the CU thread are baseball cards, which isn’t surprising, since the card companies printed far more baseball cards than cards from other sports. What does strike me, though, is how few combo vintage football cards there are. The 1968 KDKA Steelers set is composed entirely of combo cards, but that is a minor regional set. Beyond that, I can think of only a few combos: the 1955 Topps All-American Four Horsemen card, the 1966 Philadelphia Morrall/Scholtz and Gabriel/Bass cards, League Leader and All-Pro cards in some of the 1970s Topps sets, and 1969 Topps 4-in-1 cards, which were actually meant to be separated into four stamps. Of these, only the Four Horsemen, Morrall/Scholtz, and Gabriel/Bass–a grand total of three cards–picture multiple players in the same image.
Vintage baseball cards, on the other hand, feature plenty of multi-player images. Some of the baseball cards posted in the CU thread are batting duos and trios from the same team: Aaron and Matthews; Brock and Flood; Schmidt, Rose, and Bowa. Where are all the football cards like this? Where are Unitas and Berry, Hornung and Taylor, Morris and Csonka, the Million Dollar Backfield, the Fearsome Foursome, and the Purple People Eaters? The football card folks had no imagination.
Some combo baseball cards even picture players from different teams in the same image. There’s Aaron and Mays; Banks and Aaron; Brett and Carew; Killebrew, Mays, and Mantle; on and on. I imagine that some of the multi-player baseball images were pieced together from multiple photos, but how many football cards picture players from different teams standing next to one another? Zero that I can think of. There have been Pro Bowls every year since 1951, but where are the cards of dream backfields, the league’s meanest linebackers, or even dueling punters? Someone must have taken photos–why didn’t the photos make it onto cards?
Oh well, I guess I have a little baseball card envy today. If you can think of more combo football cards, let me know.
American football began in the colleges, and the first football cards were of college players. The very first football card, the 1888 Goodwin Champions tobacco card shown here, pictures Henry Beecher, captain of the Yale football team. The scan of the Beecher card is from a recent Huggins & Scott auction; a big thanks to them for letting me use it.
There are fifty cards in the 1888 Goodwin Champions set, ranging from jockeys to oarsmen to chess players, and Beecher is the only football player. The 1888 N162 Goodwin Champions page on obaks.com shows the composition of the full set. According to Wikipedia, the 1888 Champions set was “the first Goodwin set to use colored chromolithography.” As I understand it, this allowed mass production of the colored cards. It also made Henry Beecher appear to be wearing lipstick.
Six years after Beecher’s card, the first football-only set of trading cards was introduced, and it also featured Yale players. The 35-card 1894 Mayo Cut Plugs set contains players from the Big Three football schools of the time: Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. One of the cards, Brinck Thorne, is pictured here. See M is for Mayo Cut Plug for details on the Mayos.
Yale also produced the first professional football player, Pudge Heffelfinger, who was paid $500 for playing a game in 1892. (According to the Inflation Calculator, that’s $11787 in 2009 dollars.) And Yale produced two of the first three Heisman trophy winners, Larry Kelley in 1936 and Clint Frank in 1937. Heffelfinger and Kelley both appear on 1955 Topps All-American cards, pictured here.
After 1937, Yale began losing more games than it won, and only a handful of Yale alumni from after that season have appeared on football cards. There are (five Yale alumni in the 1955 Topps All-American set, but none of them played there after 1937.) One notable alumnus was Brian Dowling, who was the inspiration for B.D. in Doonesbury. You can read about Dowling in an earlier blog article.
For much more on Yale football, see the Harvard-Yale Football Gallery.
December 24th, 2009 | Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards
As I wrote on my pre-rookie cards page, “rookie card” is an unfortunate term. Years ago, most players’ “rookie” cards were not printed in their rookie years, but sometime later, after they were established as pros. Many players, even Hall of Famers, didn’t appear on cards until well into their careers. Some didn’t appear on cards until long after their playing days were over. Dick Lane, for example, had 14 interceptions–still a league record–as a rookie for the Rams in 1952, but he didn’t appear on a card until 1957. Don Hutson played for the Packers from 1935 to 1945, but no one printed football cards from 1936 to 1947, so Hutson’s rookie card is a 1955 Topps All-American.
So “first card” would be a more accurate term than “rookie card.” Even that isn’t quite right, though, since players sometimes appeared on cards in minor sets before their rookie cards were issued. To be a rookie card, it is understood that a card has to have been printed by a major card company, such as Topps or Bowman. And it has to be a regular issue card, not an insert. So “first regular issue card printed by a major card company” is more precise, though it would make for a long abbreviation. And there’s even some contention about that: PSA’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Rookie Players registry set accepts either 1950 Topps Felt Backs or 1951 Bowmans for the rookie cards of Lou Creekmur and Ernie Stautner. Why? Perhaps because the 1950 Topps Felt Backs are small and ugly. So the registry’s definition of rookie card is “first regular issue card printed by a major card company, unless it’s small and ugly, in which case you can substitute a different one.”
There are other slight hitches. One is that sometimes cards picture the wrong player. Packer fullback Jim Taylor’s rookie card, a 1959 Topps, actually pictures Jim Taylor of the Cardinals. So does his 1960 Topps card. The 1959 Topps card is generally known as Taylor’s rookie card, but his picture doesn’t actually appear on a card until 1961. Some collectors consider his 1961 Topps and 1961 Fleer cards to be his real rookie cards, and Taylor himself reportedly won’t sign his 1959 Topps card.
Also, how about the 1964 Philadelphia Packers’ Play of the Year and Colts’ Play of the Year cards, which have small images of Vince Lombardi and Don Shula? Are they Lombardi and Shula’s rookie cards? I would say so, but my Beckett doesn’t have them marked as such. It does have them priced like rookie cards, though.
And why aren’t cards in the 1961 Nu-Card set considered rookie cards? Roman Gabriel, John Hadl, and Ernie Davis all appear in that set, but their Topps cards from later years are considered their rookie cards. The Nu-Card set pictures college players, but so do the 1951 Topps Magic and 1955 Topps All-American sets, and cards in those sets can be rookie cards. Is the 1961 Nu-Card set not considered a major issue? To my knowledge, the cards were distributed nationally, and there are plenty of them around, so they seem to me to be a major issue.
Whether or not a card is a rookie card has a large influence on its price, of course. Rookie cards, especially of Hall of Famers, are popular with collectors, so there is a high demand for them. Why are rookie cards more popular than other cards? Well, honestly, I think that someone with an early influence on the hobby–perhaps someone compiling a price guide–said “rookie cards should be worth more,” collectors said “okay,” and so it was. Intuitively this makes some sense, since older cards are generally scarcer than newer ones, and a player’s first card would tend to be his scarcest. This certainly isn’t true in all cases, though, so declaring rookie cards more valuable than others is largely artificial.
Perhaps rookie cards were declared valuable to help fuel the modern card market. Modern card collectors like to buy new players’ rookie cards, speculating that the players will become stars and their cards will become valuable. Collectors in the vintage card market do some of this, too: since rookie cards of Hall of Fame players are valuable, collectors speculate by buying cards of senior candidates for the Hall of Fame. The Bob Hayes rookie card pictured here is an example of a card whose price jumped recently, when Hayes was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Some players have more than one rookie card; this happened when more than one company printed cards of the same league in the same year. Sammy Baugh has a 1948 Bowman rookie card, for instance, and also a 1948 Leaf rookie card. Jim Otto has both 1961 Topps and 1961 Fleer rookie cards. For most years before 1970, though–the years I think of as vintage–only one company per year printed cards for a given league, if anyone printed football cards at all.
It seems to me that the concept of a rookie card serves as a convenient way to identify a player’s most desirable card. Which card is a player’s rookie card can sometimes be ambiguous, but identifying a player’s rookie card is much less contentious than, say, trying to decide on his most attractive card, or his scarcest. Picking a most desirable card for each player helps collectors narrow their collecting focus: they can collect rookie cards of Hall of Famers, Heisman winners, players from their favorite team, etc.
I have 80-90% of the rookie cards marked in the Vintage Football Card Gallery, including those of players who appear on only a card or two. You can use the Advanced Search page to look for rookie cards in combination with other criteria.
Here’s an easy one.
Question #5: What do the three players pictured on these football cards have in common?
Scroll down slowly; the answer is after the sponsored links. For more information on a card, click on it or hold your cursor over it.
Answer: Each of them once held the NFL record for longest field goal. For a nice article on the record, see The Longest Field Goal in NFL History: Evolution of the Record.
|Pete Henry||Canton Bulldogs||45||1922|
|Glenn Presnell||Detroit Lions||54||1934|
|Bert Rechichar||Baltimore Colts||56||1953|
|Tom Dempsey||New Orleans Saints||63||1970|
|Jason Elam||Denver Broncos||63 (tie)||1998|
Errors on vintage football cards are common, presumably because the card companies intended the cards for kids, and they did not worry much about quality control. The errors range from incorrect player positions and statistics to reversed images and cards that picture the wrong player.
The most common error on vintage cards is probably misspelling of the player’s name. Pictured here is one example, Brian Piccolo’s 1969 Topps rookie card, which has his name misspelled Bryon on the front and Bryan on the back. Some players’ names were especially problematic: Sonny Jurgensen‘s name is misspelled on at least two cards, and so is Woodley Lewis‘s. Philadelphia Gum misspelled Herb Adderley’s name four years in a row, and Topps also misspelled it once. (How about Bob Hoernschemeyer, you ask? Well, guess what, Bowman got that one right every time!)
People sometimes ask me if error cards are valuable. The answer: usually not. Most errors were not corrected in production, so the error cards are no scarcer than the other cards in the set. (Price guides refer to these as uncorrected errors, abbreviated UER.) If a card company did correct an error in production, one version or the other–the error or the corrected card–can be much scarcer than the other cards in the set, and hence more valuable. Two examples come to mind: First, in the 1955 Topps All-American set, some of Byron White‘s cards were printed with Gaynell Tinsley‘s bio on the back, and some of Tinsley’s were printed with White’s. Topps corrected these errors after production began, and the incorrect versions are scarcer and more valuable than the corrected ones. Second, in the 1957 Topps set, some copies of Will Sherman‘s card have white space where “RAMS” was supposed to go. Topps also corrected this error in production, and the “No Rams” version is scarcer and more valuable than the corrected version.
In regard to pricing, then, the error and corrected versions of a card are really just considered variations of the card. When a card has two variations, some collectors will desire both, and the scarcer one is generally worth more. It’s the same with errors and corrected cards.
Occasionally people send me scans of what they think are error cards, but what they actually have are cards with printing or processing problems: off-centering, double images, print marks, etc. These production flaws are not considered errors, and in most cases they hurt the value of the card. If a production flaw is particularly bad–say the card is miscut so badly that it includes part of the next card–a collector might pay a bit for the novelty, but usually the card will be worth far less than a card without the flaw.
Also, now and then someone will list a card on eBay that has been mislabeled by a grading company, claiming that it is a valuable error. It’s not. At least one grading company makes these so-called “mechanical errors” frequently, and the errors are just a nuisance to get corrected.
As I wrote a while back, the Advanced Search page in the Vintage Football Card Gallery supports searches for error cards. I have most of the major errors identified in the Gallery, and I am gradually adding the minor ones.