Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We all have our mini card hang-ups


The mini card is an interesting animal. It exists as something distinct from the base set. And because it is "different," it brings out all of our idiosyncrasies as collectors (and we sure have a lot of them anyway).

Collectors choose to go in so many different ways with minis. Some refuse to acknowledge their existence. They just don't want them messing up their 2-by-3 world. Some collect only tobacco minis and I'm willing to bet that before this recent outburst of 1975 Topps-style minis began in 2011, some didn't know there was any other kind of mini besides tobacco minis.

Some collect only certain kinds of minis. That would be me. I collect tobacco minis -- Allen & Ginter only, please -- and the original 1975 Topps minis. I also collected the Topps Lineage '75 mini tribute cards until I completed that set.

But I draw the line on all other minis that are out these days. They don't interest me and it's gotten to be too much of a good thing.

Right now, I'm focusing exclusively on the '75 mini set. I've written about it so much that I'm running out of things to say when people send me cards from the set.

So I went investigating a little and I happened upon the Collectors Universe message board and a 1975 mini thread that has been going strong for almost three years. I found out a couple interesting tidbits from that thread, including this:


Holy smokes.

I was also pleased to see that someone on the forum had found 1975 Topps minis in Oregon when he was collecting in '75. As I've said before, the party line is that '75 minis were a test issue that were released in Michigan and California. But I was finding them at my corner store in Upstate New York, too. Someday, I'd love to know exactly all the places those '75 minis were issued.

But unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the thread was collecting a PSA-graded 1975 mini set. There were all kinds of references to centering and trimmed cards and 7s and 8s and 9s and 10s.

I have no interest in that kind of collecting. Sure, I have my condition hang-ups. I would like my '75 minis to have sharp corners and look as "out-of-the-pack" as possible. But I'm not looking for ideal centering or anything that was actually an anomaly in 1975. Buy a pack of 10 cards in 1975 and I assure you probably all of them had something "wrong" with them in the eyes of someone who collects graded cards.

In fact, let's look at some mini cards that Mark Hoyle generously sent me:


Some collectors would consider this off-center, top-to-bottom. I have no idea what that would correlate to as far as a grading number. All I know is that it's a sharp-cornered card that looks exactly like something I'd pull out of a pack in 1975.


This mini would be passed over in a second by those guys on the Collectors Universe thread. It's off-center, has a dented corner and some black scuffing in the right corner of the photo.

But I gladly crossed card #327 off the list because it sure as hell looks better than the one I had:


I pulled that out of a pack in 1975. And then apparently used it to swat flies.



And so it goes with the minis. One collector sees an off-center card left-to-right with gum stains and a notch on the bottom edge. I see a card that fits in my set very nicely. Cross #313 off the list.


Sure this card has one fat edge and one skinny edge.

But it's perfect.

And looks a lot newer than what it is replacing:


All I'm looking for pack freshness here. Not the virtually impossible.

One of the interesting things, though, that I've learned from those with 1975 graded collections is the differences in the cards depending on which border color is featured.

For example, the green-yellow borders, like the Garber above, and the red-yellow borders, are prone to what is called "short cuts."


The cards, like this one, are shorter than the average mini.



There you see it.

Other cards, like Claudell Washington (green-yellow), Dave Guisti (red-yellow) and Frank Tavares (red-yellow) are notorious for being "short cuts."

But I have no intention to scour the card collecting world for a perfectly formed Craig Kusick card. If Kusick came out of the pack shorter than his pack buddies on a regular basis, that's fine with me.


I mean I can't possibly look at this card and find a single flaw on it. It reminds me of being 10 and spending an entire summer with my new favorite hobby -- baseball cards.



So, yeah, there was a lot of talk on that forum about "fish eyes" and cards that curl, and how a card that looked perfectly fine to me was "a mess."

Among the nine cards above, there are cards off-center left-to-right and top-to-bottom. There are diamond cut cards (the Cliff Johnson at the top of the post has a host of cutting issues). There is a reason why I can't line them up perfectly.


But my goodness these make me happy. I think if I went any further in my demands than an unchecked checklist, collecting the '75 set would start to become a chore.

I'll give just two more examples.


This card arrived from Robert the other day. It is the mini Johnny Bench from the set. If you ask me, it is one of the top 10 coveted cards in the set. Even though I'm lacking both Hank Aaron cards still, I think this card has more impact than either Aaron.

This is the card that I thought had such super hero status in 1975 that I couldn't bear to hold it. And that was the regular-sized card. Imagine if I pulled the mini card. You might have never known Night Owl.


When I see this card I do not see that it's slightly off-center and would yield whatever sub-par PSA grade that it would receive. Come on, it's in amazing shape!

No, all I see is me, standing under a store awning on a hot summer day, looking at the Bench I pulled out of a pack, hands trembling with awe.


This is a mini George Brett, from David K.

Yup, the Brett rookie.

Don't believe me?


There is Brett standing next to his regular-sized brother (I know some graded-set collectors would have issues with that base card).

So, yes, it's true. I have the Brett mini to go with my Yount mini.

Dave mentioned that he was able to find the mini Brett for the price of a rack pack.

That's tremendous.

Although he did point out to me the possible reason why:


The mini Brett appears to be slightly trimmed. You can see it's a little shorter than the Hal Breeden mini.

I suppose it's possible that Brett is one of those short-cut cards that I mentioned earlier. But the vast majority of short cuts are the green-yellow and red-yellow cards because they were positioned along the top of the uncut sheets. Green-purple was usually in the middle rows.

So I have a decision to make. Do I accept this slightly smaller George Brett mini in my collection or do I search for another mini George Brett that is a fraction of an inch taller?

I hope you know the answer.

I have my hang-ups. But I don't have THAT many hang-ups.

#228 is off the list.

10 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I wouldn't ever turn down an upgrade of a card such as that Brett, but I would also be content with that particular card as part of a set. Now for something like 2014 Topps, I think I would be tracking down another one immediately, but anything over 30 years old you just shouldn't be too picky about because it will drive you crazy.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly. There are a few cards I want to upgrade because 7-year-old me in 1979 used to play crash up with Hot Wheels and baseball cards -- sometimes just cars, sometimes just cards, usually both together.

    But that said, if that trimmed mini were a Robin Yount, I'd have that in my collection faster than you can say, "Mini".

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    1. Ah making a house of cards out of baseball cards and them crashing some souped up Hot Wheels Muscle Car or truck into the base of the thing, (D'oh didn't make a garage, gotta add one) Tossing other cards onto the "house" to see how structurally sound it is/isn't, or shooting rubber bands or other tiny toys at the house. Trading cards tended to make better card houses (unless the cards were bent/warped) than the plastic coated playing cards.Wouldn't slip as much, but the way the make trading cards now you gotta go vintage to avoid slippery card building surfaces. Really depended on the condition of whatever cards you were using I guess.

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  3. Even with the slight size difference, I'm with you, the Brett would stay and I probably wouldn't even bother looking for another.

    Looking forward to seeing the completion of this set!

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  4. Keep the Brett, don't look back. And you can add a service station plaza along the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey as another place that minis were sold in the summer of 1975. I never saw them in Houston (I dint know they existed) but on a trip back east I came across them. The 'party line' is crap.

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  5. I don't know if they sold them up here in Boston but they are plentiful at every show. Keep the Brett

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  6. Hang-ups... schmang-ups. Some of us have them (I know I do). Others don't. It's a good thing we all have our own collecting style.

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  7. That Bench is mini in stature only. What a great card. Brett's ok too I suppose. It was very nice of those guys to send those along.

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  8. Condition? Ungraded thank you very much. The poor and collectors are not as greedy as some of the dealers of graded cards.

    I Love the 75s and 75 minis. A couple of years ago I was really into minis when A&G was the only mini game in town, but now that Topps is giving all its cards a mini-me I'm a bit tired of some of them. Back in 75 I got a bunch of the regular cards but didn't know about the minis. I don't think they were in the DC area then. The first I saw of them were at my LCS a few years later late 70s early 80s. At one point they had a full set of them for sale then. I don't recall the price, but if I had saved a few allowances I might have been able to buy them, but I didn't and I was always getting other stuff. Right now it looks like my mini 75 set is only about 18.

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  9. The Brett looks trimmed at the bottom but if it doesn't bother you then don't worry about it. The "professionals" at PSA are the ones who need to worry about that stuff. Unfortunately, for the crazy people like me who put together a complete PSA-graded 1975 mini set, we had to deal with the fact that PSA encapsulated countless trimmed minis for a number of years. The natural shorties that you mentioned (green/yelow, red/yellow) were a godsend for dishonest folks who then trimmed all the other color combos because for years PSA didn't understand the situation and they graded 'em all like they were legit and the trimmers could then make a nice profit on the highly graded, altered cards. The nice thing is that PSA *should* and usually does buy back the trimmed cards that they encapsulated. However, the prez of the company gets cranky when people such as myself try and spread the word. Too bad. So if you have unnatural short minis and they are in PSA holders, contact them.

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