Saturday, April 9, 2022

What a Mess!

For a fairly long period of time in the hobby, print freaks, miscuts and whatever else you want to call them, were generally shunned by collectors.  There were exceptions, particularly those that crept into the old guides like the 1957 Topps Gene "Bakep" or their 1958 Pancho "Herrer" error, which were really just printing hiccups. These days a small but growing cadre of collectors is actively searching out such oddities and lobbying the grading companies to recognize more and more of them.

Some of these misfit cards hail from discards of full and partial scrap press sheets.  When Topps had their main plant in Brooklyn, several dumpster divers would score such prizes and take them home for distribution to their kids, some of which were later introduced into the hobby recycling stream - shallow as it was back then - usually as singles that looked very much like they had been hacked by an eight year old (which they often were!).  Topps scrap does pop up here and there (and will be looked at down the road) but when it comes to scarp sheets, Bowman is (was?) where it's at.

The black and white inaugural Bowman Baseball issue in 1948 was, well, kinda blah and Football followed in the same manner, but it was Basketball that brought color to their sports offerings in '48.  Here's a look at a fully printed card of good ol' Speed" Spector:

Now take a look at the second card from the left in the third row to see Speed with a missing red color process. It results in a striking slate gray background:

The reverse is fine (that's a wire to hang the framed sheet) and suggests it was printed first:

That's a "neat" error and it was carried through to their 1949 Baseball set as things got fugly fast.  This 1949 Baseball 3rd series remnant was posted by Ted Zanidakis over at Net54 Baseball a few years ago.  Ted also wrote an excellent article on these in an early issue of Baseball Cards magazine.

There were other production issues too that year. The front of the '49 Murry Dickson isn't so bad despite a missing pass:

But the back-yeeeesh!

Their move to larger, illustrated cards also had some hiccups.  1951 saw this beauty roll off the presses:

I'm not positive but don't think the backs should also be printed on the fronts! Also, in case you thought all Bowman cards were printed on smaller sheets of 32 or 36, the above remnant disproves that. My thought is this particular sheet, if full, would have an array of 18 x 12 and hold 216 cards. That gives you 36 cards in six iterations on a sheet, or 72 in three.

Here's six high numbers that are a bit more clear on how the reverses were applied to the fronts, courtesy of REA (as is the above); Ramsdell seems to be from an entirely different sheet than the other five cards below:

And to be fair, these types of misprints and sheets were likely produced on purpose to get ink rolling before a full run.  The sheets could also be used on the tops and bottoms of stacked sheets on pallets to absorb the damage that shipment, warehousing and other handling would deliver. Bowman's rejects seem more prevalent due to "paper dealers" buying such things by the pound in Philadelphia from the garbage and refuse haulers in that city back in the day. I'm not sure such monetization existed in Brooklyn back then.

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