Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday Edition

1953 Topps Set Build Progress

I picked up both of the above cards, Jim Gilliam and Johnny Podres, in the last month.  I've been slowly piecing the 1953 set together for about a decade now, with it being a real point of emphasis the last two or three years.  I figured that these two would both be in the final three cards I picked up (along with Willie Mays).  I was pleasantly surprised when I landed both of these recently for well under what I expected it would cost.  They've got some good wear and tear to them, which fine, they came in at about 25% of what I thought I may be on the hook for.  I'll trade condition issues for price issues any day.

I've also picked up these seven cards in the last month.  The result being I am now two cards away from completing the 1953 Topps set.  I still need to add #244 Willie Mays and #273 Harvey Haddix.  I knew the Willie would likely be the last card I needed, but I'd be lying if I said ever really gave the Haddix a second thought.  Lately that card has been demanding north of $50.  When I started building this set, $5 was my target price for high number commons.  Then I reluctantly moved it up to $10, and for the last year or so I've been trying to keep it under $20, which has really sucked a lot of the joy out of it.  I'm not sure what the deal is with the Haddix, but I'm going to patiently wait it out.  It's going to be awhile before I cough up the ransom the Willie is demanding too.  I went from hoping to getting one for under $100 ten years ago, to just hoping it drops down to below $500 again when this market inevitably crashes back to earth.  Thank god I picked up a chewed up copy of the Mantle when I did about nine years ago or I'd never complete this thing.

The 1953 set isn't very big at just 274 cards.  It's numbered to #280, but six cards were never printed.  Which left me with a delimma.  Do I leave blank spaces in the sleeves, just fill in the cards and skip the missing numbers, or come up with something else?  I came up with something else.

For decades people have speculated who the missing cards were.  Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Richie Ashburn, and Nellie Fox have long been popular theories.  About eight years ago the mystery was solved by Bob Lemke and Keith Olbermann by going through old internal Topps memos and vault.  The truth turned out to be far less exciting.  Art had actually been commissioned for five of the players and they were able to locate that as well.  "Bobw" took that info and made up some mock ups on his blog, and also came up with his own art for the Hoot Evers, by using the art from the '52 Hoot Evers Bowman, and photoshopping in a Redsox "B" in place of the Detroit "B" on the original Bowman.  He really did great work and hopefully doesn't mind me printing these off.  I only added "never printed" banners to them before printing them up.  The result is below:

I didn't notice until after printing them, but a few of the numbers were actually wrong.  I went ahead and fixed them with a sharpie, as I'm not much of a custom card creator and just getting these six out the way they are very much pushed my patience to the limit.  I also forgot to add a "never printed" banner to the Billy Cox card front, so that got sharpie treatment as well.  In the end, they're good enough though and had the desired effect in the 3-ring binder where I sleeve the set.

A final point to make with these 53's, is that people are putting WAY too much emphasis on the alleged SP/DP distribution within the high numbers.  The simple version is this, there are no double or short prints in the traditional sense.  While the final print run of 80 cards in the high series wasn't printed evenly, it wasn't 2 to 1 either.  It was likely more of a 2 to 3 ratio further watered down by a few of the SP's being used to fill in for the six cards that were pulled from production and never produced.  Which is all to say, people are grossly over paying/charging for percieved SP's that really aren't all that short-printed.  Harvey Haddix I'm looking at you.

This information is all thanks to George Vrecheck.  Vrecheck did an incredible amount of research for an article in Sports Cards Collector's Digest back in 2015, going so far as to study miscut cards to determine the actual layouts of all the uncut sheets, something that had previously been unknown.  If you're a vintage set builder, it's 19 pages of pure card nerd and math nerd bliss.  

As it stands for me, I'll keep Haddix and Mays saved in my eBay searches and hope for a miracle, but for now, I'm more or less done with this set.  Rather than tackling a new vintage set, I think I may try to build the first series, or 100 cards or so, in every set from 1955-69.  This is a much more economical option than trying to actually build all of those sets, and I like the idea of having a run of sets where at least the ten or so pages in the binders are filled out.  We'll see.


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  3. You're two cards away from completing 1953? That's really impressive. Good luck with Mays and Haddix.