Happy Birthday, John Roach!

March 26th, 2013  |  Published in Milestone Birthdays

Former NFL quarterback John Roach is celebrating his 80th birthday today. Roach played seven seasons for the Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, and Dallas Cowboys. He was a member of NFL Championship teams with the Packers in 1961 and 1962.

Roach appeared on two football cards, both in 1961, but with different teams. His 1961 Topps card pictures him with the Cardinals, but he was traded before the 1961 season first to the Cleveland Browns, then to the Packers, and he ended up on a 1961 Lake to Lake Packers card, as well. Both of his cards are pictured below.

According to OldestLivingProFootball.com, Roach is the 496th oldest former professional American football player.

Happy birthday, Mr. Roach!
John Roach 1961 Topps rookie football cardJohn Roach 1961 Lake to Lake Packers football card

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Jim Temp, Packers Defensive End

November 27th, 2012  |  Published in Player Deaths

Jim Temp 1961 Lake to Lake Packers football cardJim Temp, a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers from 1957 to 1960, passed away on November 25. The Green Bay Press Gazette web site has a story about Temp, along with several photos. Temp was a member of the 1960 Packers team that lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL championship game. At the University of Wisconsin, Temp starred in both football and baseball. He was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.

Temp did not appear on a regular issue football card, but he did appear on the 1961 Lake to Lake Packers card shown here. His Lake to Lake card is one of the short prints in the set. The short prints are much scarcer–and thus much more valuable–than the other cards in the set.

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Norm Masters, BC Lions and Green Bay Packers Lineman

April 22nd, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Norm Masters 1961 Lake to Lake Packers football cardNorm Masters, who played for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in 1956 and for the Green Bay Packers from 1957 to 1964, passed away on April 19. Masters was a member of Green Bay’s NFL Championship teams in 1961 and 1962. A tribute on the Green Bay Press-Gazette web site includes a nice summary of his NFL career. I also found, in my internet search, a great image of Masters leading the way for Paul Hornung.

To my knowledge, Masters appeared on only one card, the 1961 Lake to Lake Packers card pictured here. This is one of the short prints in the set, and it is quite scarce. The print lines you see on this card are common in the set.

You can see the career NFL stats for Norm Masters at pro-football-reference.com.

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Ken Iman, Packers and Rams Center

November 14th, 2010  |  Published in Player Deaths

1961 Lake to Lake Packers Ken Iman football cardKen Iman, who played center for the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams from 1960 to 1974, passed away on November 13. Iman played on two of the Packers’ championship teams, in 1961 and 1962. Later, with the Rams, he started 140 straight games, and he was the team’s MVP in 1972, according to his obituary on the ESPN web site. After retiring as a player, Iman was the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line coach for eleven years, from 1976 to 1986.

I featured Iman’s football cards in an earlier blog article. His rookie card, a 1971 Topps, wasn’t issued until his twelfth season in the league. He appeared on a card much earlier in his career, a 1961 Lake to Lake Packers card, but since the Lake to Lakes are a regional set, cards from that set are not considered rookie cards. Iman’s 1961 Lake to Lake card is pictured here.

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A Very Late Rookie Card

May 5th, 2010  |  Published in Football Card Trivia

1971 Topps Ken Iman rookie football cardAs I wrote in R is for Rookie Cards, the term “rookie card” is a misnomer. Pictured here is an extreme example: Ken Iman’s rookie card, a 1971 Topps, which was printed in his twelfth year as a pro. Offhand, I can’t think of any another rookie card that was issued that far into an active player’s career. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some, though. If you can think of an example, leave a comment.

I would not have realized that Iman had been in the league a long time by 1971, except that he also appeared on a card ten years earlier, in the 1961 Lake to Lake Packers set. (See K is for KDKA–and Other Regional Sets.) I actually had to look him up to verify that it was the same Ken Iman on both cards. Collectors generally agree that a player’s rookie card has to come from a major set, so his Lake to Lake card doesn’t count as his rookie card.

Iman apparently had established himself as a solid player by the 70s, because he also appeared on 1973, 1974, and 1975 Topps cards. (It helped that Topps started producing monstrous 528-card sets in 1973.) Ironically, though he appeared on a card in 1975, he did not play that year.

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K is for KDKA Steelers–and Other Regional Sets

October 16th, 2009  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards

Regional sets feature cards of players from only one team, and they were distributed in that team’s region by a local business, usually a food company. Because they cover only a single team, regional sets often include players who never appeared on a card from a major card company. They also often include cards of stars-to-be who did not appear in a major set until years later. There is a whole page of these “pre-rookie” cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

Because they had a limited distribution, cards from regional sets are often challenging to find. The demand for them is typically also limited. I suspect that their scarcity is a turn-off to some collectors, and some collectors aren’t interested in cards of teams they don’t root for. For whatever reason, collectors’ interests seem to lie mostly with the major issues. I love the regionals, though.

1968 KDKA Steelers

The cards in regional sets are often much different from the major companies’ offerings. 1968 KDKA Steelers cards, for example, are a non-standard size, they have a “landscape” orientation, they picture multiple players, and they have a glossy finish that was unusual at the time they were printed. They also include a card of the entire Steelers coaching staff, the only such vintage card I know of.

There are only 15 KDKA cards, but altogether they picture 46 players and coaches, grouped by position. This, too, is innovative, and I wonder why the major companies never did it. I don’t know how the cards were distributed, but KDKA is a television station in Pittsburgh that is still in operation. You can see the full KDKA Steelers set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

1960 Mayrose Cardinals

1960 Mayrose Cardinals cards are also an unusual shape, with rounded corners, like playing cards. Because the round corners hold up better than square ones, the cards I see are often in great condition. There are only eleven cards in the set, unfortunately, but since the Cardinals had few stars in 1960, the set does include a couple of players who never appeared in a major issue.

The Mayrose cards were distributed around St. Louis in packages of Mayrose franks and bacon. 1960 was the year that the Cardinals moved to St. Louis from Chicago, and I’d say that this regional issue is a sign that the city was excited about the move. Mayrose brand lunchmeats are still produced by Armour-Ekrich Meats, but to my knowledge they haven’t included cards since 1960. You can see the full Mayrose Cardinals set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

1961 Lake to Lake Packers

1961 Lake to Lake Packers cards were distributed by the Lake to Lake Dairy in Wisconsin. Half of the cards in the set are plentiful, and the other half were severely short-printed and are difficult to find. I estimate that the non-short prints outnumber the short prints ten-to-one. Some of the cards appear to have been stapled to the packages of the products they were distributed with, because the short prints I see on eBay often have staple holes or a corner ripped off where the staple had been. (A non-short print with staple holes would not be worth listing.)

The Lake to Lake set includes four pre-rookie cards of Hall of Fame players: Herb Adderley, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, and Willie Wood. It also includes Bart Starr’s rarest card and Emlen Tunnell’s only card as a Packer. All of these except the Adderley are short prints. You can see the whole Lake to Lake Packers set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. The short printed cards are identified there.

1959 and 1960 Bell Brand Rams

1959 and 1960 Bell Brand Rams cards were distributed in the Los Angeles area in packages of Bell Brand potato chips and corn chips. The cards are sturdy and attractive, with a high-gloss finish unlike other issues of the time. Unfortunately, particularly in the 1959 set, a great number of the cards were cut off-center. Each card features a facsimile of the player’s autograph, but some of the autographs are tiny relative to the size of the cards. It’s strange that someone designed such nice cards, but then put bitty autographs on them and cut them off-center.

As I wrote when I added the set to the Gallery, the 1959 Bell Brand set contains a pre-rookie card of Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman. Gillman left the Rams after the 1959 season to become the first head coach of the Chargers. The set also contains a pre-rookie card of Ed Meador, whose web site I featured in an earlier post.

As I wrote in yet another post, the 1960 Bell Brand set appears to have been released in two series. Both series are scarce, and the second series is scarcer than the first. One card, Gene Selawski, was reportedly pulled from distribution when he left the team early in the season.

Between the two sets, I see 12 or 15 players that did not appear in any other set. Because of that, and because the cards are so attractive, I’d call these my favorite regional cards. You can see most of the 1959 Bell Brand set and over half of the 1960 set in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

1961 Golden Tulip Chargers

Like the Bell Brand Rams, 1961 Golden Tulip Chargers cards were distributed in bags of potato chips. Unlike the Bell Brands, they are small (about 20% shorter than a standard card), black and white, and plain. The card stock is thin, more like thick paper than cardboard, and the cards appear to have been hand cut from a bigger sheet. The backs of the cards advertise an 8-by-10 picture of the Chargers that you could obtain by turning in 5 cards of the same player. It’s hard to guess how many cards the offer took out of circulation.

Like the 1960 Mayrose Cardinals, the 1961 Golden Tulip cards celebrated the arrival of a new team in town. After spending their first year in Los Angeles, the Chargers moved to San Diego in 1961.

The best thing about the Golden Tulip set is that 6 of the 22 cards feature players that I don’t believe appeared on any other cards. You can see all of the Golden Tulip cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

1969 Tresler Comet Bengals

1969 Tresler Comet Bengals cards were given away at Tresler Comet gas stations around Cincinnati. The cards are on thin cardboard stock, and the pictures are brown and white, except for the players’ numbers and facsimile signatures being colored orange. The brown, white, and orange is not a particularly attractive effect, but it is another example of the creativity seen in regional cards.

To me the highlight of the set is Sam Wyche. I believe this is his only card as a player. You can see the whole set of Tresler Comet cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

1967 Royal Castle Dolphins

1967 Royal Castle Dolphins cards, according to the backs of the cards, were free to Royal Castle Junior Dolphin members at Royal Castle restaurants. The card backs say that two cards (actually they say “photos”) would be available each week during the season.

Apparently not many Junior Dolphins took advantage of the offer, because the cards are extremely scarce. I have only 17 of the 27 cards, and the remaining 10 are short prints. Among the short prints is a Bob Griese pre-rookie card, of which I have only seen pictures. One of the pictures is on the SGC web site.

The Royal Castle cards are big, about 25% taller and wider than a standard card. Surprisingly, though 1967 was just the Dolphins’ second year in the league, only five or so of the players in the set did not appear on cards in major issues. Most of the other players appeared in at least one of the 1964-1967 Topps AFL sets, which included a large number of players from each team.

You can see most of the 1967 Royal Castle Dolphins cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. I would like to get the rest, so if any of you Junior Dolphins have some to sell, let me know!

1961 National City Bank Browns

1961 National City Bank Browns cards were distributed on 6-card panels from which you could cut the cards by hand. There were 6 panels of cards, so there are 36 cards in the set: 35 player cards, and one unnumbered Quarterback Club card. Including the Quarterback Club card in the set seems goofy to me, but both PSA and Beckett include it, so what do I know?

Surprisingly, though 35 cards covered most of the players on the team, by my count only 5 of the players did not appear on cards in any other set. The Browns were one of the top teams in the early 1960’s, and evidently most of their players were card-worthy.

My favorite card in the set is a Len Dawson pre-rookie card. Dawson played several years for the Steelers and Browns before jumping to the AFL.

You can see the whole set of 1961 National City Bank Browns cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

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D is for Defensive Players

August 21st, 2009  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards, Player Bios

Alex Karras 1968 Topps Stand Up football cardCompared to quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and even kickers, defensive players often got short shrift when the card companies chose the players to put on their cards. The 1968 Topps Stand Up insert set is an extreme example of the bias toward offensive players: in the 22-card set there is only one defensive player, Alex Karras. Even he might not have been included if the 1968 Lions had had an offensive star. Another example, the 1970 Topps Super Glossy set, is somewhat less unbalanced: it contains 25 offensive players, 7 defensive players, and 1 kicker.

Dick Lane 1957 Topps rookie football cardNumerous Hall of Fame defensive players were in the league for years before appearing on a card. The most egregious example I can think of is Dick Lane. In 1952, his rookie year with the Rams, Lane had 14 interceptions, an NFL record that still stands–and he did it in 12 games! In 1954 he again led the league in interceptions, with 10, this time with the Cardinals. Despite his performance–and though the Cardinals were hardly flush with stars–Lane first appeared on a 1957 Topps card, and his next appearance was on a 1961 Fleer. (Lane’s biography on Wikipedia–assuming it is accurate–is fascinating. It says his mother found him in a Dumpster!)

1955 Bowman Len Ford rookie football cardAnother Hall of Fame defensive player, Len Ford, played for 11 years but appeared on only two cards: his 1955 Bowman rookie card and a 1957 Topps card. He began his career in 1948 with the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC, and he joined the Browns in 1950 when the AAFC folded and the Browns joined the NFL. No major company printed cards of AAFC players, but Bowman printed cards of NFL players every year from 1950 to 1955, and they finally included Ford in their last year.

At least four Lombardi-era Packers defensive players also made late rookie card appearances: Ray Nitschke began his career in 1958, and his rookie card is a 1963 Topps. Willie Davis also joined the team in 1958, and his rookie card is a 1964 Philadelphia. Herb Adderley joined the team in 1961, and his rookie card is also a 1964 Philadelphia–with his name misspelled, to boot. Willie Wood started in 1960, and his rookie card is a 1963 Topps.

1972 Topps Emmitt Thomas rookie football cardTwo Chiefs Hall of Fame defensive backs provide a final example: Willie Lanier joined the Chiefs in 1967, and his rookie card is a 1971 Topps. Emmitt Thomas joined in 1966, and his rookie card is a 1972 Topps.

Occasionally, when it took a while for a defensive player to appear on a card from a major company, the player would appear first on a “pre-rookie” card in a regional or oddball set. All four of the Packers mentioned above had pre-rookie cards in the 1961 Lake to Lake Packers set. Hall of Famers Bob Lilly, Jim Johnson, and Larry Wilson all had pre-rookie cards in the 1962 Post Cereal set. And as I wrote in a previous post, Rams star Ed Meador appeared on 1959 Bell Brand, 1960 Bell Brand, and 1962 Post Cereal cards before his 1963 Topps rookie card was issued. Another long-time Ram, Jack Pardee, whose rookie card is a 1964 Philadelphia, also appeared in the Bell Brand and Post Cereal sets.

1957 Topps Jack Butler rookie football cardChanging the subject a bit, it is worth noting that until 1959, football cards did not distinguish between offensive and defensive positions when there was ambiguity. For example, if a player’s card said “end,” he could have been either a receiver or a defensive end. If it said “back,” he could have been either a running back or a defensive back. Pictured here is an example: Jack Butler was a defensive back, but his 1957 Topps rookie card just says “back.” (This, by the way, is another late rookie card. Butler started his career with the Steelers in 1951.) Perhaps this was a vestige of the time when players played both offense and defense, and a back on offense would also have been a back on defense. Whatever the reason, because of the ambiguity, I probably still have some defensive players listed as offensive players in the Vintage Football Card Gallery. Occasionally a kind person sends me a correction.

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Adderley is a Tough Spell

August 3rd, 2009  |  Published in error cards

1964 Philadelphia Herb Adderley rookie football card1965 Philadelphia Herb Adderley football card1966 Philadelphia Herb Adderley football card1967 Philadelphia Herb Adderley football cardMisspelled names are common on vintage football cards, but Philadelphia Gum Co. takes the prize: they misspelled Herb Adderley‘s name on all four cards they printed of him. His name is spelled Adderly on his 1964 Philadelphia rookie card and all of his cards for the next three years.

From 1964 to 1967, Philadelphia had the rights to print cards of NFL players, and Topps had the rights to the AFL. When Topps obtained the rights to the NFL in 1968, Adderley finally got his name spelled correctly. But Topps later slipped up, too, and got it wrong on Adderley’s 1972 card.

Adderley also had a pre-rookie card, a 1961 Lake to Lake Packers card distributed regionally in Wisconsin. The locals got it right: on this card his name was spelled correctly.

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New Cards for Sale: 60s and 70s Small Sets

April 29th, 2009  |  Published in Football Card Trivia, New Cards for Sale

Yesterday I added an assortment of PSA-graded regional, insert, and oddball football cards to my sales site, including 1960 Bell Brand Rams, 1960 Mayrose Cardinals, 1961 Lake to Lake Packers, 1961 Nu-Card, 1968 Topps Stand-Up, 1970 Topps Super Glossy, and 1970 Kellogg’s 3-D. Shown here are a couple of the Mayrose Cardinals cards, Woodley Lewis and King Hill, both wearing number 17. Hill appears to have been the real number 17, since Lewis’s other cards with the Cardinals show him in number 20. Hill’s 1959 Topps card also has him in number 17.

There are eleven cards in the complete Mayrose Cardinals set. They were distributed in the St. Louis region in packages of Mayrose franks and bacon. 1960, the year the cards were issued, was the year that the Cardinals moved to St. Louis from Chicago. Mayrose brand lunchmeats are still produced by Armour-Ekrich Meats, but to my knowledge they haven’t included cards since 1960.

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New Cards for Sale: PSA-Graded Regional Issues

February 23rd, 2009  |  Published in New Cards for Sale

Today I listed a bunch of cards from scarce regional issues: 1959 Bell Brand Rams, 1960 Bell Brand Rams, 1961 Lake to Lake Packers, and 1968 KDKA Steelers. What I like most about these sets is that they include some players that don’t appear in any of the major sets. The card pictured is a good example: to my knowledge, this is the only set in which these three players appear. 1968 KDKA Steelers rookies: Mike Taylor, Ken Hebert, Ernie Ruple
There are 15 cards in the complete 1968 KDKA set, with each card picturing multiple players or coaches, most by position. The cards are a non-standard size, and PSA uses holders for them that were intended for “tallboys” such as 1965 Topps football cards. These are attractive cards, but on some of them the dark ink from the players’ jerseys has rubbed onto the back of the next card, making the jerseys look snowy.

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Those Lake to Lakes are tough!

November 30th, 2008  |  Published in Football Card Trivia

Even a PSA 5 commands a strong price when you’re buying short prints in the 1961 Lake to Lake Packers set:

PSA 5 Lake to Lake Hank Jordan fetches $196.47

Half of the cards in this 32-card set are plentiful, and the other half are short printed. The short prints are extremely tough: in my estimation they’re about 10 times as difficult to find as the others. I have the whole set displayed in the gallery, with the short prints marked.

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