Minor Monkeying with the custom Gordie

A slightly jaundiced view of the same cardWhen I made this custom on Friday, I mentioned that I still thought the colours were a bit off and this was noticeable in the green of the Hartford sweater.

I found that all the Whalers images in that set were very, very yellow, so I went back to my source image again and played with the colour balance.

I think the result is a better match, though the graininess of the 1980-81 print process is a really difficult thing to emulate.

Posted in Card Design, OPC, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Gordie I never got to pull

Gordie Howe - 1979-80 OPC

I could have pulled this if I’d started just a single season earlier

I missed pulling Gordie Howe cards by a year.

Now, this also means I missed pulling Wayne Gretzky rookie cards straight out of the pack, but I rationalize this by realizing I would have surely dumped them all in trades. I lived in Calgary and nobody in his right mind would have hung onto Oilers if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.  I’d have kept one for my set, but doubles would have been gone, for sure.

As it was, 1980-81 was the season the Flames came to town and my Grade 5 class was just awash in cards. That’s when I got hooked.

Like many kids, I’d lay all my cards out on the floor and pore over them during the game, or dinner, or when I was supposed to be getting ready for bed.  I loved all the stats and info on the back and was always fascinated by players who’d been around a long, long time.

One card that I remember in particular was Hartford’s Rick Ley – mainly because of the cartoon on the back:

Rick Ley - 1980-81 OPC back

This was something.  A guy named Gordie Howe had played the year prior at age 51 (actually 52 by season’s end).  That was notable.  I think I showed my parents.

By Grade 7, I was deep into hockey history and realized just who Gordie Howe was.  Along the way, I read somewhere that as Howe announced his retirement, he said that he really felt he still had another half-season left in him but didn’t want to retire mid-season.  This made me bitter.  If only he’d played that one extra year, he’d have had a card in the ’80-81 set and I’d have had one.  I felt kind of gypped, particularly since I’d gotten to see a copy of the ’79-80 that a friend had and it instantly became one of my holy grails.

A year ago, I made a new final card for Bobby Orr – the one he’d have gotten if Topps/OPC had given him a standard card rather than a farewell special.  I’ve been mulling over trying the ’80-81 Gordie Howe ever since.

In making the Orr, I realized that matching fonts is a pain and it’s far better to cut and paste the bits I need from cards that already exist.  For this exercise, I took three 1980-81 Whalers:

Mark Howe - 1980-81 OPC

Gordie Roberts

Blaine Stoughton - 1980-81 OPC

Mark Howe and Gordie Roberts give me the two names I need and Blaine Stoughton gives me the position.  The Stoughton becomes the base and I’ll sub in the names.

The other thing that became apparent was that most of the Whaler-era photos available of Gordie Howe are actually too good to use directly.  The print quality in 1980-81 was terrible.  All the images are grainy and the contrast is wacky.  Most of the pictures I found were crisp and vibrant.  This just wouldn’t do!

Yet other thing is that most cards from that set have pictures either taken during the warmup or at faceoffs.  I needed something showing minimal action with marginal colour.

I started with this:

then took the bit that I wanted and mucked it up with my photo-editor:

I adjusted the brightness and contrast and pixellated it a little bit so that it would blend in better with the other cards in the set.  I then was able to drop my template on top of it and this is what I got.

Ready?

Here it is:

Gordie Howe - 1980-81 OPC custom

I’d have liked to pull this, I think.

The colours aren’t bang-on.  Topps/OPC managed to get the greens a lot greener, but this is also a limitation of my source image.  I think it fits overall.

The main reason I wish OPC had made a Howe card that year (other than Mark) was that they went with full stats on the back.  This is what they had to do to crush Dave Keon’s career onto the back of a card:

Dave Keon - 1980-81 OPC back

Imagine that Howe started fourteen years earlier.  It would have been microscopic.

And awesome.

Edit: after some discussion on Twitter, I made a back (based on the Keon above) that shows just how small the text would have to be to show 34 years of stats (32 seasons plus two “DID NOT PLAY” seasons in 1971-72 and 1972-73).

modified Keon with 34 years of stats

That’s pretty small.  Most kids have good eyes, right?  (I didn’t, but hey….)

 

Posted in OPC, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Maximizing Investment – three different sets from one design

Mickey Slaughter - 1966 Topps FootballIn 1966, Topps released their football set.  The design harkened back to the 1955 Bowman set and depicted a player on a TV screen (one of the big old wooden consoles that vanished after the late 70s/early 80s).  It looked good – good enough, in fact, that it was used for the 1966-67 Topps Hockey set.

Terry Sawchuk - 1966-67 Topps Hockey

Now, Topps Hockey in 1966-67 was produced under license by OPC and was primarily a Canadian product.  Was it thought that US collectors who had purchased football earlier in the year would never see the hockey set?  It’s sort of possible (caveat for later).

Much safer was the next use of the design.  We’ve seen earlier that Topps would re-use or license baseball designs for football (soccer) sets in the UK.  What they also did was license a number of football (US-style) designs to Australian candy-maker Scanlen’s Sweets. Scanlen’s would then produce Australian Football cards with some minor tweaking of the artwork. This is from the 1967 VFL set:

Three Footscray players - 1967 Scanlen's VFL

(Caveat from above)  There is technically a fourth set using this design as Topps also produced a test hockey set for release in the US.  It is a clone of the first series of the Canadian 1966-67 release although the printing of the wood grain is somewhat lighter.  The Bobby Orr RC just happens to be part of that set and retails in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars.  I don’t have one.

The design sharing did not continue to the backs.  This was 1966 Football.  Stats are thin but at least it looks like something:

Mickey Slaughter - 1966 Topps Football back

Hockey, on the other hand, had one of the worst backs of the postwar era.  At least there is actual information on it, sort of:

Terry Sawchuk - 1966-67 Topps Hockey back

Scanlen’s was in its second year in which every card made up part of a puzzle.  This might have been fun for collectors at the time but is somewhat irritating to people who have no idea who these players are:

Three Footscray players - 1967 Scanlen's VFL

The newest Scanlen’s cards I have are from 1980 (which used 1979-80 Hockey as a base).  They still use the puzzle backs.  I think the last cards with actual text came from 1965.

Posted in Australian rules football, Card Design, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Like a well-Hoyled machine

Rich Kelley - 1979-80 Topps basketballI don’t trade very often.

It’s not because I don’t like it or I’m antisocial or anything like that – it’s just that relative to the rest of the blogging world, I collect strange things.  Vintage hockey, OPC baseball, British soccer, Australian football – it’s a bit of an odd mix.

Now, it doesn’t mean that I’m not happy to get something in return that doesn’t fit that profile, but it does mean that whoever I’m trading with has to want the odd stuff .that I tend to have.  Most of my trades fall into the “here, have a pile of stuff” variety.  This is OK.  I like those.  It’s just about finding trade partners who would actually like the piles of things I have lurking haphazardly in the basement.

Fortunately, into that void stepped Mark Hoyle, who had empty spots in his collection that could precisely be filled by OPC hockey and baseball and UK soccer.  He’s a Boston fans and sadly, if there’s one area where I’m thin, it’s Boston teams because I’ve done three other Boston packages in the past couple of years.  I think I really have to go stock up on vintage Boston simply so I can trade it.

What he sent me, though, is to my eyes really exotic.  This is something that, to the best of my knowledge, was never sold up here and I’ve never had any in my possession:

Basketball.

There was also a mix of football (US style), baseball, and some hockey which are all also quite cool, but it was the basketball cards that made this package.  In basketball, just like in baseball, I cheer for an expansion team.  This means that for vintage, I’m team-agnostic and everything is good.

The card above is 1979-80 basketball.  I think this set is gorgeous and I’m going to chase it. The design is sharp and there will be enough players I’ve heard of to make it interesting. My knowledge of the sport is thin enough that other than the top half-dozen names in any given set, the whole thing will be a learning experience.  This should make it fun. Fortunately, the backs of these are pretty info-laden.

Rich Kelley - 1979-80 Topps basketball

Dreadful scan, but the point is clear.  Lots of great stuff in these.  I have a nephew who plays quite seriously.  Maybe now I’ll learn enough to keep up. :)

I also get a kick out of the 1975-76 set:

Phil Jackson - 1975-76 Topps Basketball

I assume this is the Phil Jackson I think it is…

This is a neat set (70s anything is really in my wheelhouse), but what really makes it is the design of the back:

Phil Jackson - 1975-76 Topps basketball

This might be the first set I’ll collect because I like the backs so much.  Could use a touch more text, but it’s great, all the same.

The package had a number of cards from all the standard-sized 70s sets.  It was like getting a sampler and it was perfect.  I see a few things I want to target.  These are a few other highlights:

RUdy Tomjonovich - 1975-76 Topps Basketball

Earl Monroe - 1975-76 Topps basketball

This one is 1978-79:

Don Chaney - 1978-79 Topps basketball

As I said, there was a lot of baseball, football and hockey in there, too.  This stuff, though, was what I wanted in the first post.  So now I think I will collect vintage hockey, OPC baseball, British soccer, Australian football and 1970s baseketball.  Still an odd mix, but at least it’s fun.

Thanks Mark!

Posted in basketball | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Best of the 70s #11 – 1976-77 OPC WHA

Anders Hedberg - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Anders Hedberg scored 70 goals in 1976-77.

It has been a long time since I’ve done one of these and I think a big reason for it is that I have this set in the wrong place.  Part of each write-up involves justifying (at least to myself) why I rank this higher than the set immediately prior, and I just can’t figure it out here.  When I did my initial ranking, my tie-breaker basically came to “if I could only buy one, which would it be?”  This ranked a little bit ahead of 1976-77 OPC NHL in my mind, so ahead it went.  I’d probably go the other way now.

That said, this isn’t a bad set.  It’s the most professional-looking of all the WHA sets and it has a pretty solid crop of players in it.  It’s just a little boring, that’s all.

Context

The WHA was down two teams to an even dozen, but having shed two troubled franchises in mid-season the year before, things were supposed to be more stable.  They weren’t.  The Toronto Toros moved to Birmingham, Alabama to become the Bulls.  They would survive there until the end of the WHA in 1979.  The Cleveland Crusaders moved to Minnesota to become the second iteration of the Fighting Saints, but just like the previous version, they’d go bust before the season ended.  Merger talks with the NHL were already being held.

The Jets, Aeros and Nordiques were the class of the league.  The Nordiques would top the Jets 4-3 in the Avco Cup final.  Real Cloutier would have the season of his career, scoring 141 points on 66 goals and 75 assists.  Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson would have great seasons, scoring 131 and 124 points despite missing linemate Bobby Hull for more than half the year.  Gordie Howe, age 48, would slip to just 68 points in 62 games.

Avco Cup Winner - 1976-77 OPC WHA

On the whole, the Jets were the best team the WHA ever produced and would have done significant damage in the NHL.

The 1976-77 OPC WHA set had 132 cards, same as the year prior.  It was the last “big” set prior to going back to just 66 cards for 1977-78 (and none at all for 1978-79).  There were leader subsets, playoff subsets and all-star cards (“Canadian” vs. “American” rather than First/Second Team), leaving enough for about 10 cards per team.

wrapper - 1976-77 OPC WHA

If you had ten cents, you could get a pack of cards. The camera was probably a bad idea.

Design/Photography/Feel

Of all the WHA sets, I’ve always felt that this one was the best-designed and produced. A lot of the other sets feel kind of hacked together.  This one has a little class.  The design is nice with a yellow border that becomes a flag at one end and a stick blade at the other, leaving enough room for the team logo in the corner.  The flag at the base has both the player and team name and the stick blade has the position.  Everything is nice and legible and nothing is cramped.  It works.

Rick Dudley - 1976-77 OPC WHA

There’s going to be a team in Tampa? Really?

The photography is nothing notable.  There are a handful of game shots, though none would really be called “action”.  There is still a reliance on posed shots, though at least many are on-ice and not simply in front of a concrete-block wall somewhere in the arena.

Ulf Nilsson - 1976-77 OPC WHA Ulf Nilsson - 1976-77 OPC WHA back

The backs are typical WHA bland. OPC did try to break it up by using ovals to organize the text, but these backs scream out for either complete stats or a cartoon.  The limited stats and lack of cartoon do leave space for a good write-up, which always helps for WHA players nobody knows.

Significant Cards

While the NHL set was weak for rookies, the WHA set is abysmal this year.  There isn’t a single rookie of note this season.  (There is Pekka Rautakallio, who I quite liked, but if that’s the best there is, it’s a bad crop.)  There are a number of final cards, the most notable of which is Norm Ullman wearing the red socks of the Edmonton Oilers.  Glen Sather and Ted Green also have their last cards in this set.

Norm Ullman - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Norm played for the Edmonton Oil Kings over 20 years earlier. The Oilers were a homecoming for him.

Glen Sather - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Everyone remembers Slats as coach of the Oilers. Who knew he played there?

Ted Green looks decidedly unfamiliar here.

It’s also the last time the Calgary Cowboys, Minnesota Fighting Saints, Phoenix Roadrunners and San Diego Mariners appear as teams.  The Fighting Saints only last 42 games while the rest would vanish before the ’77-78 season began.

The ancient superstars – Howe, Hull, Mahovlich, Keon et al – are always present and noteworthy.

Gordie Howe - 1976-77 OPC WHA Gordie Howe AS - 1976-77 OPC WHA
Bobby Hull - 1976-77 OPC WHA Bobby Hull AS - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Sadly, the WHA sets never suffered from an overabundance of available images. Note that “Canadian” vs. “American” All-Stars were dependent on team location, not citizenship.

Come for the cards but stay for the

Cowboys.

OK – I’m biased.  I lived in Calgary at that time and I remember people having this odd hat-shaped logo thing stuck in their windows.  But still – look at that uniform.  The crest is a hat.  It’s just so much more fun than the Mariners.  Besides, I don’t have any Roadrunners scanned.

Rick Jodzio - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Rick Jodzio Just looks like a Cowboy, doesn’t he?

Rick Jodzio is best known for knocking out Nordiques star Marc Tardif during the 1976 playoffs.  The resulting brawl is one of the few pieces of evidence the Cowboys ever existed.

Don McLeod - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Goalie Don McLoad was known as “Smoky.” Love the hair and sideburns.

 

Coolest card

This is the only WHA set with leaders cards, and the only set period that ever tabulates “Important Points Leaders.”  I have no idea how “important points” were determined, but Marc Tardif had the most of them.

Important point leaders - 1976-77 OPC WHA

Important Point Leaders - 1976-77 OPC WHA back

He led by no small margin, too.

Conclusion

This is a good set.  It’s not a great set, but it’s the best-made of all the WHA sets and it does have Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe and a bunch of teams that would never be seen again.  It also tracks important point leaders.  That should mean something.

 

Posted in OPC, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Sometimes a large head is just a large head

Fleming Mackell - 1952-53 Parkhurst

Many a post has been devoted to the joy of badly-airbrushed cards.  Somewhat fewer have been devoted to the not-uncommon hockey practice of cutting the head off one picture in order to mount it on another.  This was really common in Topps/OPC around 1968-70 and led to much hilarity.

Parkhurst wasn’t completely immune to this temptation, but it was a lot more rare.  The only case I could think of offhand was from their 1963-64 set (I note that the lead image on that post is dead, but it doesn’t matter as the two cards are side-by-side later on).

My mind was thus somewhat blown when Dave at Wax Stain Rookie found that Cal Gardner’s head was resting comfortably on Milt Schmidt’s body all the way back in 1953.  I’d seen that card many times online and remember thinking, “Wow, Gardner was a Bruin captain?  Never knew that.”  (I never claimed to be overly bright. I do, however, recognize the head as coming from Gardner’s 1952-53 card, so that’s a start.)

What made this discovery particularly cool was that I’d never seen anyone ambitious enough to try a head swap on an action photo.  I would never have even thought to look for it.  Pulling it off as well as they did took some doing.

Anyhow, Dave’s discovery must have been in my mind when I got my hands on Fleming Mackell here.  There’s nothing obviously wrong until one looks at the back:

Fleming Mackell - 1952-53 Parkhurst back

The card claims Mackell shoots right.  The picture is clearly of a person who shoots left.  Note, too, the positioning of the head.  It’s pretty low on the shoulders and there’s a rather noticeable lack of neck.  This is Mackell’s first Bruin card.  Was it another swap?

Finding the answer wasn’t as easy as I hoped.  I have half a dozen other Bruins from this set that have similar images, but none lined up directly with the body on the Mackell card.  I went looking for Bruins promotional stills and Bee Hive/Quaker Oats photos – often the source of Parkhurst images.

Nada. (Though I did find the source image for Mackell’s ’54-55 Topps card, which was cool.)

Eventually, though, I did happen to notice this:

Now tha’s a big head

Mackell is a left-hand shot. He just played his off wing.  The picture is most likely of him after all and – if one chooses to go looking, it does appear that he possesses a non-inconsequential head.  It’s not Domi-eqsue, and perhaps it’s just square-jawed, but it is kind of notable.

Posted in Parkhurst, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , | 2 Comments

600 cards (1971 OPC baseball) – and Ernie Banks

Checklist #6 - 1971 OPC baseball1971 O-Pee-Chee baseball is evil.

I know that many collectors out there will tell me of the perils of the 1972 Topps high series or 1952 Topps with its Mickey Mantle cards that cost more than a new family sedan. I understand all of this. It’s just that 1971 OPC, in all its black-bordered, off-centered, fuzzy-edged glory, is a particularly tormenting thing to finish.

When looking on eBay, one thing that always appears in vintage auctions is that “OPC was only produced in about 5% of the volume of Topps!!! These cards are rare!!!” For the most part, nobody cares. Rare does not equal desirable in and of itself and as an OPC collector, the cards can generally be found if one knows where to look – particularly if you are in Canada to begin with.

OPC is also nice in that for the most part, there are no miserable high series cards to deal with as I can only assume OPC shifted out of baseball and into hockey mode in October/November. Canadian kids either never saw the high series or OPC imported Topps to repackage and distribute.  Whatever the reason, 1972 OPC is only 525 cards.  1970 had just 546. 1969? Just 216 cards.  From 1972-76, they had all the cards, but 1973 was released as one big set.  There is no high series and thus no scarcity.

1971 is different.  It was released in series just as the US set was.  Every series is replicated and – just as eBay always claimed – the high series were in real short supply.  As a result, they can be pricey.  For reasons unknown to me, the 1971 OPC Ron Swoboda runs anywhere between $65 and $90 if you see it at all.  I think it’s Expo collectors driving this.

Checklist #6 - 1971 OPC back

Yellow? Yellow. Yep, that’s OPC.

At any rate, after many years of working on it, I have finally reached the milestone of 600 distinct cards with the arrival of this – the sixth-series checklist.  It’s not all that exciting in that it looks much like all the other checklists in the set, but it’s unmarked and in good shape.  High number 1971s are different from the earlier series in the set because OPC stopped altering the backs and adding the French text.  They look like the Topps cards other than the colour.  That shift isn’t as apparent on a checklist.

And for putting up with my complaining, I’ll also post card #598 which also arrived relatively recently – Ernie Banks.  He has so many great images out there and was really photogenic, so I have no idea what happened here.  Still, it’s a Banks and I’m glad to have found it.

Ernie Banks - 1971 OPC

Ernie appears somewhat blue due to the holder the card was in when I scanned it.  Same with the reverse:

Ernie Banks - 1971 OPC baseball back

MOAR YELLOW!

 

 

Posted in OPC, Vintage Baseball | Tagged , , | 2 Comments