Thursday, July 5, 2018

'54s from the sky

Ever since I received some mid-1950s baseball cards as a gift from my dad's co-worker when I was a young teenager, I've equated similar generous card gifts as "falling from the sky."

That's what it seemed like when those really old cards showed up in my home back then. I didn't know my dad's co-worker. He never previously expressed any interest in me or my brothers. It was completely out of the blue, cards dropping out of the clear, blue yonder.

When I first started blogging -- and began receiving card packages from strangers -- I felt that feeling all over again. Cards had fallen from the sky and into my mailbox! I didn't know these people. What was happening?

I've kind of gotten over that -- or grown accustomed is more like it -- to those packages. I've communicated with many of the people sending cards. I kind of do know them. Their names are right there on the envelopes.

But sometimes, not very often, there is an envelope with nothing on it except my address.

One of those arrived recently. No return address. No evidence of where it came from. No note inside. And out from that open envelope floated ...

Three ...

1954 Topps Dodgers ...

... from the sky.

Someone had obviously consulted my want list. Each of these were previous needs. Now, with these crossed off the list, I need just four 1954 Topps cards to complete the Dodgers set. Two are easy enough: Rube Walker and Bob Milliken. Two are not: Tom Lasorda and Jackie Robinson.

The 1954 Topps set is an interesting one for several reasons and one is how tiny it is. At 250 cards large, it seems like a breeze (the Ted Williams card begs to differ). None of the team sets are intimidating in size.

But the '54 set is also interesting because it plays with your idea of what a card with borders should look like. Unlike most sets with borders, the 1954 Topps set contains borders on only three sides -- the left and right and the bottom. There is no top border because half of the cards in the set were printed upside down.

It took me quite awhile to realize this. And there was a moment of panic one time when I thought -- "Crap! My 1954 Topps card is trimmed at the top!" I'm sure this happens to a lot of collectors.

It didn't help that in the 1990s, Topps started releasing its Archives sets and one of them was the 1954 Archives set in 1994. It's a set duplicating the 1954 set -- except in regulation size and glossy -- BUT WITH TOP BORDERS.

Like so.

The Archives also play games with your belief on how attainable cards from the 1950s are -- and especially with whether you own them already.

Part of me thought I already had a Hoak and Hughes and Herman card because -- hell, I had the Archives cards.

But, of course, they're not the real thing. I mean, the Herman card, showing a guy who was playing in the 1920s for crying out loud, is printed in gold foil (because there were parallels in this set).

See, I have one of the gold foil parallel Don Hoak cards, too.

The Archives sets from this time period have perplexed me for years. I've never been able to get the checklist straight. Topps issued an Archives edition of the 1953 Topps set in 1991. And then the '54 Topps Archives set in 1994. And then in 1995 it issued an Archives set of just Dodgers cards from 1952 through 1956, plus 1955 Bowman. How am I supposed to get this straight?

But the original 1954 trio has arrived while I have a little bit of time on my hands. So I am going to painstakingly put all the cards where they belong and then write a want list with confidence for the first time ever.

I may have no idea who sent those cards, but I'm going to have an idea of the when and who of these blasted '90s Archives sets. Finally.


  1. The 1994 version of the 1954 set, while it added borders to both the front and the back, kept (I think) the wonky mixed-orientation front/back layout where if all the fronts are right-side up, half the backs face a different direction. (As for why that's the case, the 1954 press-sheet layout to achieve the top-only bleed is wild. )

    1. One of these days I'll learn that URLs in blogspot comments don't get automatically parsed.

  2. I still sometimes have the instant reaction of thinking someone cut the top border off my '54s when I look at them before remembering...oh yeah, those didn't HAVE a top border.

  3. Three free '54s? With no return address nor anyone claiming credit? That is quite a gift.

    Set building that beauty would be a tease, those borders mess with my OCD and the Ben Wade is way too tough in "high grade" condition. Plus, as much as I like the idea of having two Ted Williams cards, the "rubber band effect" inflates the price of each.

  4. This was not from me, but that is a great surprise!

  5. Life is pretty good when 1954 Topps card arrive unexpectedly in your mailbox. Love that Billy Herman and the Dodger Blue background.