Happy Birthday, John Morrow and J.R. Wilburn!

April 27th, 2013  |  Published in Milestone Birthdays

John Morrow 1964 Wheaties stampTwo players in the Vintage Football Card Gallery are celebrating milestone birthdays today: John Morrow is 80, and J.R. Wilburn is 70.

John Morrow played center from 1956 to 1966 for the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. He made the Pro Bowl in 1961 and 1963, and he was the starting center on the Browns team that won the 1964 NFL Championship. According to oldestlivingprofootball.com, Morrow is the 493rd oldest living American pro football player.

For a center, Morrow appeared on a remarkable number of football cards. He is pictured here on his 1964 Wheaties stamp.

J.R. Wilburn 1968 Topps football cardJ.R. Wilburn was a receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1966 to 1970. His best season was 1967, when he caught 51 passes for 767 yards. Wilburn, who grew up in Virginia, was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Wilburn is pictured here on his 1968 Topps card, wearing a Steelers “Batman” jersey. He appeared on several other cards and stamps, as well. (For more on the “Batman” jerseys, see one of my previous articles.)

Happy birthday, Messrs. Morrow and Wilburn!

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Happy Birthday, Raymond Berry!

February 27th, 2013  |  Published in Milestone Birthdays

Raymond Berry 1960 Topps football cardRaymond Berry, the Hall of Fame receiver of the Baltimore Colts, is celebrating his 80th birthday today. Berry played for the Colts from 1955 to 1967, and he was a key player on the Colts’ NFL Championship teams of 1958 and 1959. In 1960 he averaged 108 yards receiving per game, an NFL record at the time, and still the 11th-highest all-time average for a season. When he retired from playing, he held the NFL records for both career receptions and career receiving yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

Berry went on to a long coaching career, including six seasons as the head coach of the New England Patriots. He coached the Patriots to their first Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XX, against the Chicago Bears. (The Bears won, 46-10.)

Raymond Berry 1964 Wheaties stampBerry is pictured here on his 1960 Topps football card and his 1964 Wheaties stamp. He appeared on many more cards, as well. (One of them, his 1967 Philadelphia card, actually pictures Bob Boyd.)

According to oldestlivingprofootball.com, Berry is the 494th oldest living pro football player.

Happy birthday, Mr. Berry!

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A Faked Fake Autograph

April 13th, 2010  |  Published in Autographs, Oddball

One of the perks of this business is that I often get notes from players’ relatives and friends. Occasionally I even hear from the players themselves. Yesterday I got an email from Lee Folkins, who played for the Packers, Cowboys, and Steelers from 1961 to 1965. What he told me was interesting: he said that the signature on his 1964 Wheaties Stamp is not his. Pictured here is the stamp in question.

The signatures on the Wheaties Stamps are facsimiles, printed right on the stamps, but because the handwriting is different from stamp to stamp, I presumed that they were copies of the players’ actual signatures. Apparently not all of them are. This isn’t too surprising: Topps printed the stamps for Wheaties, and Topps was known to alter players’ images, even before the 1970s airbrushing era. (For some examples, see my article on the inset photos on 1962 Topps cards.) It’s not much of a stretch to go from altering images to faking simulated autographs.

I had actually wondered how Topps got signatures for all of the players in a large set, considering that they often didn’t even seem to have good photos of all the players. For at least one set, 1970 Supers, Topps didn’t even attempt to obtain the players’ real signatures: they used the same script for the facsimile signature on every card. (See my article on the 1970 Topps Super set.) For other sets–the 1964 Wheaties Stamps, for example–I suppose that they used whatever authentic signatures they had, then employees created signatures for the rest.

I don’t know much about autographs, so I did a quick internet search to see if it’s commonly known that some of the facsimile signatures on vintage cards were faked. I didn’t find anything that explicitly said so, but I did find this paragraph on thehistorybank.com:

Finally, remember that Topps’ player facsimile autographs on cards are just that—facsimiles with no intent of looking real. Interestingly, Topps put facsimile signatures on cards for years, but don’t try to “authenticate” using those signatures. They often do not match the real thing. Note here that Marshall’s and Averill’s hand-signed signatures match the facsimile signatures fairly closely, but Narleski’s ballpoint signature bears no resemblance to the printed signature on the card.

Unfortunately, the image in the History Bank article is too small to compare the two Ray Narleski signatures, but perhaps Narleski’s ballpoint signature bears no resemblance to the printed signature because the printed signature isn’t his. An autograph collector would certainly know more about this than I do. Can anyone else provide comments or examples?

Back to Mr. Folkins. Besides his Wheaties stamp, he appeared on one card that I know of: the 1964 Philadelphia card shown here. Both his stamp and card were issued the year after he made the Pro Bowl. All of the players on the 1964 Wheaties Stamps, in fact, were 1963 Pro Bowlers. You can read more about the Wheaties Stamps and accompanying album in a previous blog article.

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O is for Oddball

November 21st, 2009  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards, Oddball

To a card collector, “oddballs” are collectible items that have some characteristics of cards–small size, two dimensions, pictures of players, team logos, and so on–but are not traditional trading cards. Some examples are coins, bottle caps, cap liners, discs, stamps, stickers, patches, pins, and playing cards. Many of them came on or in packages of food. Some were regional and featured a particular team.

I distinguish oddball items from inserts (see I is for Inserts), though some inserts also fit the description above. Why? Well, since inserts came in packs of cards, most of them are familiar to collectors, and there are enough of them to group them into a category of their own. Oddball items are the unfamiliar, the hard to categorize, the things that go under “miscellaneous.” They have brand names you might never have heard of, like Glendale and Drenks and Salada.

Any number of items can be considered oddball, and I’ll list just a few here. I don’t collect many of them–you have to draw a line somewhere–so I’ll mostly provide links to other places. The only oddballs I have in my collection are playing cards and stamps, which aren’t too far removed from trading cards.

Stamps

Raymond Berry 1964 Wheaties StampI am familiar four sets of vintage football stamps that were not inserts, and there are probably more. You can see 1964 Wheaties Stamps, 1969 Glendale Stamps, and 1972 Sunoco Stamps in the Vintage Football Card Gallery, and there is also a set of 1972 NFLPA Wonderful World Stamps, which I don’t yet have. Each of the sets had an accompanying album into which you could stick the stamps. A 1964 Wheaties stamp of Raymond Berry is pictured here.

Discs

1976 was the year of the disc. Five sets of football discs were printed that year: Coke Bears Discs, Crane (potato chip) Discs, Buckman Discs, Saga Discs, and Pepsi Discs.

1976 is newer than I typically deal with, and I have never had much interest in the discs, so I don’t know a lot about them. I assume that the same company printed all of them, since I don’t know of any others printed before or since 1976. A friend sent me a couple of Crane Discs once; they’re about the size of a beer coaster. Pictured here is one of them, Charley Taylor.

The PSA registry shows all of the players in the disc sets, and you can see lots of examples on eBay.

Playing Cards

I initially included playing cards under Oddball items, but there are enough of them that I thought they deserved their own category. See P is also for Playing Cards for a list of vintage playing cards that picture NFL and college football players.

Other Oddballs

As I said at the top, I don’t own many oddball items, and my knowledge of them is limited. Here are a few more, along with links to the set compositions and some examples. As I learn more about them, I’ll give these oddballs sections of their own. If I am missing your favorite, let me know and I’ll add it here.

Oddball Set Set Composition Examples Notes
1962-63 Salada Coins PSA Set Registry eBay Attractive plastic coins, came with Salada Tea.
1963 Nalley’s Coins (CFL) ? eBay Cool plastic coins of CFL players, distributed in Nalley’s Potato Chips.
1964 Nalley’s Coins (CFL) PSA Set Registry eBay Mo’ Nalley’s
1963 Rich Dairy Cap Liners (Bills) PSA Set Registry PSA Set Registry Creepy, floating Bills’ heads.
1965 Coke Caps ? eBay More floating heads.
1966 Coke Caps ? eBay Still more floating heads.
1969 Drenks Pins (Packers) PSA Set Registry eBay Distributed in Drenk’s Potato Chips
1972 NFLPA Iron Ons SGC Set Registry eBay Sometimes called “fabric cards.” To card collectors, everything’s a card.
1972 NFLPA Vinyl Stickers SGC Set Registry eBay I never much liked the big heads on little cartoon bodies concept. See the George Blanda sticker above.
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New in the Gallery: 1964 Wheaties Stamps

October 2nd, 2009  |  Published in Football Card Oddities, New in the Gallery

Today I added 1964 Wheaties Stamps to the Vintage Football Card Gallery. When I bought my first group of these stamps, I assumed that they would be the thickness of a card, like the 1969 Topps 4-in-1 inserts. I found, though, that they’re like postage stamps, only much bigger: 2 3/4 by 2 1/2 inches. Because they’re so big and on such thin paper, they are fragile, and bending one can leave an indentation, even if it doesn’t leave a crease.

There are 74 stamps in the set: 70 player photos and 4 team emblems. The player photos are sharp and bright. Most of the photos are waist-up or head-and-shoulders shots, and Y.A. Tittle is the only player whose face is obscured by his helmet. (Tittle must have preferred posing in his helmet. Most of his cards picture him wearing it.) My two favorite stamps, Jerry Kramer and John Henry Johnson, are shown here.

1964 Wheaties NFL Pro Bowl Football Player Stamp Album and Fact BookThe stamps go with a magazine-sized booklet called the Wheaties NFL Pro Bowl Football Player Stamp Album and Fact Book–or WNPBFPSAFB for short. You could buy the album for 50 cents via a mail-in offer from General Mills. The stamps were originally part of the album, most of them on pages just inside the back and front covers. There were 6 pages of stamps, with 12 stamps on each page. That makes 72 stamps, and there were 2 more on a small panel adhered to the inside of the front cover. In my album, the tab from the small panel is still there, and there are remnants of the stamp pages along the album’s spine.

The 6 full pages were printed on a single master sheet, as you can see on the Topps Vault web site. (Evidently Topps supplied the stamps and album for General Mills.) The master sheet is missing two stamps, Norm Snead and Jack Pardee, the two that came on the small panel stuck to the inside of the album’s front cover. This small panel seems odd, when Topps could have fit Snead and Pardee on the master sheet by displacing two of the team emblem stamps. Perhaps it was just poor planning: “Oh, crap, we forgot Snead and Pardee. Quick, make a little two-stamp panel!”

The non-stamp pages of the album include a short writeup for each player, and a place to stick his stamp. The players are grouped by conference, first the Eastern Conference players, then the Western Conference players. (The Pro Bowl back then matched the East against the West.) Within each conference, the players appear in alphabetical order–almost. I wonder how many kids noticed that Mitchell came before Michaels, and Promuto came before Pottios? Also, the album shows Jim Ringo in transition from the Packers to the Eagles: his writeup says Eagles, but he’s still on the Western Conference side of the album. (According to Packers legend, after the 1963 season, Ringo appeared with his agent in Vince Lombardi’s office, asking for a raise. Lombardi left the room, returned in five minutes, and told Ringo he’d been traded to the Eagles.)

All of the players on the stamps played in the 1963 Pro Bowl. According to pro-football-reference.com, there were 71 players in the Pro Bowl that year, so one Pro Bowler didn’t get a stamp. Who went stampless? It was Frank Gifford, but I don’t know why he was excluded.

Oddly, though there are 70 player stamps, the album has writeups for only 68 of the players. Joe Schmidt and Y.A. Tittle appear on stamps, but they were omitted from the album. It’s not like there wasn’t room: the creators of the album included several pages of Pro Bowl history, facts, and records, and they could easily have squeezed in another couple of players. Unless I am missing a page, though, there is no place for Schmidt and Tittle.

It’s also odd that there are only four team emblem stamps. The Vikings, 49ers, Cardinals, and Giants are the only teams with stamps, a pity because the team emblems are colorful and fun. There is no place in the album to stick the four team stamps, either.

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