It’s always interesting when a term that one assumes to be universally understood turns out instead to be just part of the local vernacular.
Years ago, when I was at a summer job working with tourists, I gave someone from Britain the directions to find the best local grocery store and some other odds and ends. This was easy, as everything he needed was just a couple of clicks up the road. He nodded sagely, listened to a few other tips, then finally came back with the one thing that clearly bothered him: “What’s a click?” (For the record, “click” was local slang for “kilometre.”)
Yesterday, I was asked for the meaning of “diamond cut.” Again, this is something I thought was universal. It may be a lot more specific than I thought.
The current definition of Diamond Cut is now something that is desirable, being the name of a shiny die-cut Topps product that is only available on the Diamond Giveaway site. I don’t have any of those. They look nice, I guess. I haven’t bought this year’s Topps yet.
The “diamond cuts” referenced in the name of this blog refer to a particularly annoying form of miscut that was found in vintage cards, maybe OPC in particular. “Diamond Cuts and Wax Stains” was an homage to the sort of typical built-in flaws one often found in any collection of vintage wax.
Note that with wax stains, so long as they’re on the front, you’re not completely stuck. Wax stains can be corrected – the scrunchy part of a sport sock and a gentle touch will remove all traces of wax off the front of a card (for a wax stain on the back, you’re pretty much hosed). No such luck with the diamond cut.
A card with a diamond cut is not actually rectangular. It’s a parallelogram. The only way I can imagine this happening is that the printed sheets managed to rotate slightly between cuts. I imagine cards were cut first along one axis, then the other. Something happened prior to the second cut and the alignment was off.
This is not always apparent at first glance. It shows up the worst when a card is put into something that expects a good cut – a 9-pocket sheet, a penny sleeve or top-loader. Then it becomes very evident that something is awry. When you look closer at the card, the design will line up very well along one axis, but be skewed against the other.
Diamond cuts are evident to some extent in most years of OPC, but the king of the diamond cuts is 1968-69 OPC hockey. With that set, it’s never a question of whether a card is miscut, but just how badly. Cards that were along the bottom edge of the sheet got it the worst, resulting in edges that aren’t even straight, much less aligned.
This ’68-69 Tim Horton is typical. At first glance, the entire design looks like it has been rotated (perhaps a slight printing error), but the sides actually line up pretty well. The long axis is miscut.
Cropping the image into an actual rectangle also makes this show up. With the Rick Middleton card I used in the Nifty post, I didn’t realize that that card was a diamond cut until I saw it on the screen.
This problem may not have cropped up so much in Topps because they were cut in a different facility (maybe using different technology – OPC used a wire cutter for a lot of years). OPC clearly had some issues with quality control. It could be worse, though. The first Parkhurst cards were not only hand cut using a paper cutter, they collated them by dumping them into a cement mixer. Any high grade 1951 Parkhursts are clearly a happy accident.