When I finished my last project, I really wasn’t in the mood to start another one. In theory, I should have just moved on to 1962-63 Topps and Parkhurst since they’re next in line, but neither set is really all that exciting. A bigger problem is that collecting cards from ’52-62 involves a lot of waiting. The ones you need don’t show up all the time and I’ve never bought into the idea that a $20 card should now cost $75 just because some clown slapped a “PSA 7” label on it. Near mint-ish raw cards aren’t up everyday.
For most of the summer, I’ve sat back and just picked off the odd thing that was running under value, but that’s not that fun either. A little focus is necessary.
I had this notion that it could be fun to pick one set, spend a month trying to nail down five nice examples of it, then move on to a completely different set the next month. This way, I build a little mass all across the decade and I still get the sense of chasing something. The first set I decided to go after was 1959-60 Parkhurst, which has a pretty cool design and a lot of empty space in the binder.
Sounded like a great plan, but I forgot that what you can acquire depends entirely on what people are offering. So my month of chasing ’59-60 Parkhurst ended up with a nice little run of 1958-59 Topps.
1958-59 was the first year Topps used colour photography in their cards. Earlier sets had colourized black-and-white shots. I don’t know precisely what this meant to the printing process, but 1958-59 Topps is more prone to surface wear and age-browning than any of their other sets. All five of these show it to some degree, but that’s how I was able to get them at the price I did. Normally, I try to wait for ones that are a tad brighter.
#11 – Forbes Kennedy
Kennedy was a tough guy who put together a 603-game career between 1956-69, playing for Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Philly and Toronto. His last game was the brawl-filled mess between Toronto and Boston in which Pat Quinn drilled Bobby Orr. Kennedy drew 38 minutes in penalties that game, which was a single-game playoff record.
#14 – Ken Wharram RC
This was probably the steal of the bunch. The Wharram RC typically goes somewhere north of $35, which is kind of criminal when you consider how good a player Wharram was. A small, speedy guy with great scoring instincts, he was part of an overwhelming Chicago offense in the 1960s. He was a First-Team All-Star at right wing in 1963-64 and 1966-67, was top ten in points three times and was second in goals in 1963-64 with 39. He was third in goals in 1966-67 with 31. He won a Lady Byng in 1964. Despite all this, his RC falls to about 1/6 the price of Eddie Shack, who was a lot of fun, but really…
#16 – Ed Litzenberger
Eddie Litzenberger came to Chicago in 1954-55 as part of the “let’s help Chicago” airlift. A 6’3″ centre who was buried in Montreal, he shone in Chicago, winning the 1954-55 Calder. He’d have his best season in ’58-59 with 77 points, good for fifth in league scoring. He was in a car wreck after this and even though he played in the NHL through 1964 and was part of four straight Cup-winners (1961 with Chicago as captain, 1962-64 with Toronto), he became more of a support player. He played for Toronto’s AHL club the next two seasons, winning championships both times.
#37 – Earl Balfour
Balfour was a Toronto farmhand who was getting his second real shot in ’58-59. He’d played 59 games as a Leaf in 1953-54. He was primarily a checker and penalty-killer who would play three full seasons in Chicago, finishing on the Cup-winner of 1961.
The card in the header is #12 – Elmer Vasko. I’ve talked about Elmer before. Elmer was a giant defender who could rush the puck and if he’d been a little meaner would probably have been the most intimidating player of his day. As it was, he was an excellent player who played solidly behind Pierre Pilote.
These five cards pushed me to 39 of 66, moving this set from “something I have a few of” to “something I might actually be able to finish one of these days.” Nice stuff, and maybe I can find some ’59 Parkies next month. Sounds like a great plan.