Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Stitches

I am generally not a fan of modern reprint sets. The card stock is usually too glossy and much flimsier than the originals, the fonts are often mangled and they just don't look right in most cases. That is especially true today. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule and the one I like most is the 1952 Topps Baseball Reprint Set, which was issued in 1983 as a limited edition of 10,000 and sold by Topps for (I think) $35.

From the time the set was announced there was rampant speculation in the hobby press of the day (which was at least four or five deep in monthly publications at the time) and dealers took sides as to the validity of such an undertaking. Some felt it would undermine the value of the original set while others thought it would push up the price of the older cards. This question vexed the hobby for months as Topps rounded up the players or their estates and got their permission to reprint and reissue their cards. In the end they would fall five contracts shy of a full set (more below on this) and, while we were all roiling in the aisles, managed to issue a very sharp looking set.

For your thirty five bucks you got a handsome blue box:

That seal says "Contains One Complete Reprint Set" and you had to break it, of course, to get to the cardboard within. There is even a product code on one of the sides: 1-383-28-01-3.

The cardboard was standard sized and therefore not as big as the real 1952 Topps cards to avoid confusion with the originals, which were 31 years old at the time and already considered to be a classic. There are fairly thick and the gloss is what you would expect from an original '52. Here is the Earl of Snohomish in a pose I can only describe as bizarre:

The backs clearly indicated the cards were reprints:

All of the reprints are red backs, no black backs were reprinted. Speaking of backs, the box reverse had a handy checklist:

Click on it to enlarge the scan and you will see five little asterisks showing the holes in the set:

20 Billy Loes (Brooklyn Dodgers) ...back to him in a NY minute...
22 Dom DiMaggio (Boston Red Sox)
159 Saul Rogovin (Chicago White Sox)
196 Solly Hemus (St. Louis Cardinals)
289 Tommy Holmes (Boston Braves)

Loes would later refuse to sign on with the 1991 reissue of the 1953 set but four years later Topps got him back in the fold with their 1995 Archives (hey!) Brooklyn Dodgers reprint set and provided both cards within. So here is a 1995 reprint of a phantom 1983 reprint of a 1952 original:

The reverse is different than those from the "original" 52 reprints but not by much:

In true Brooklyn style, the stitches on the Loes card run vertically and not horizontally. This is true on his original as well:

Now Billy had a reputation as a bit of an oddball but I don't know if he had enough time in the bigs to think the flipped stitches were done in homage. The rest of the set features regular stitching, some pointing left, some right, just like the original set. I do not plan to do a study of all the backs by the way, so feel free...

So they don't feel left out, here are the other four missing cards:

Some uncut partial and half sheets exist. Here is a proof sheet that maintains the Topps tradition of 11 cards across:

At one time sealed sets were going for close to five hundred dollars although you can get them for less than half that now. A few more bucks will get you the missing five cards and you'll still be way ahead when compared to the mid five figure price tag of an original printing.


Steve F. said...

Several years ago, I used the Billy Loes cards from the 1995 Brooklyn set to fill in that hole, plus (IIRC) the holes in the 1953 and 1954 reprint sets that Topps later did. Then one can add some cards to the 1955 portion of the 1995 Brooklyn set from the 2005 "Dem Bums" Topps insert set--I believe there are about 10 or so cards that are either not in the 1995 set or show players in different poses, so I "back filled' that set that way.

I'm still hoping some modern-size reprints of the 1952 Dom DiMaggio et al. cards show up some day to fill in those holes in the 1952/1983 reprint set (but for now I am going to try to re-size your scans to act as placeholders).

toppcat said...

I believe there are 52 "reprints" of Joe D and Teddy Ballgame that were printed (as opposed to digitally displayed) that were done by an old hobby veteran. One or two others exist as well in this vein. Can't remember where I saw them though. They may have been a Topps promo for one of the Nationals.

Al Hallonquist said...

Speaking of the Archive sets, I have one of the Dodgers 1995 sets, and card #110 who is listed as Bob Borkowski is actually Walter Alston. I have an extra set and he's Borkowski as #110 in it. Anyone know if this truly is a rarity? And yes I am aware there are 2 different types of numbering in the set.

Unknown said...

The Earl of Snohomish was Earl Averill (HOFer with the Indians), not Earl Torgeson.

toppcat said...

Actually they were both called The Earl of Snohomish.