Comings and Goings... Collecting News

Upcoming Events

The Phillies recently announced dates for their annual Holiday and Authentics sales.  Collectors should anticipate having the opportunity to purchase game-used gear, autographed items and publications.   The Holiday Sale will be held in the Citizens Bank Park Majestic Store from 10-6 on Saturday, December 3rd.  The Authentics Sale will be the following weekend from 10-2 on Saturday, December 10th in the Visitors Clubhouse (a cool experience in itself)... The December Philadelphia Sportscard and Memorabilia Show (aka - Philly Show) will take place from December 2-4 at the Valley Forge Convention Center. Check back for more info as autograph guests are announced... 

 

Discounts and Stuff

The Reading Fightins are cleaning house with a number of sales on 2016 collectibles usually reserved for Holiday shopping in November. Through Sunday, October 23rd, collectors can score a free 50th Anniversary bobble head featuring either Mike Schmidt or Aaron Nola with a purchase of a $15 2016 Team Card Set (Schmidt: 2016 Update Team Card Set; Nola: Phillies Futures Game Prospect Card Set)... Sports Vault is offering a few discounts on autographed memorabilia this week.  In addition to their deals of the week which lowered prices on sized over-sized Steve Carlton and Phillie Phanatic photos, they are offering 25% off all autographed memorabilia using code SAVE25 at checkout (through 10/23)...

 

Meeting A Pair of Legends

Bobby Shantz and Curt Simmons

Bobby Shantz and Curt Simmons

Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet a pair of Philadelphia pitching legends - Curt Simmons and Bobby Shantz - at Carl's Cards in Havertown.  Amazingly, though both are in advanced age and have been active participants on the autograph circuit, it was my first time meeting either Golden Age hurler.

Upon arriving at Carl's, I found the pair busy signing 8"x 10" photos.  With the signing session winding down, most collectors had already passed through the small card shop - which meant I would have a little time to personalize my visit.  I brought an old official National League baseball that my dad found at a flea market years ago and was anxious to discuss it with the men.  

The ball is neatly inscribed, "June 12, 1949 - Phillies vs. Cards.  This ball pitched by Curt Simmons and fouled by Harry Brecheen." Approaching the signer's table I started the conversation with, 'My dad found this ball at a flea market - and, it says it was pitched by you in 1949...' Mr. Simmons cut me off, "Don't believe it!"  Followed by a laugh.  Carl read him the inscription (Mr. Simmons had forgotten his glasses), and Simmons' face softened with a smile as he admitted - "Well, I guess I could've..."  The four of us continued to examine the ball for a minute or two, covering topics ranging from how it was period-appropriate and the fact that Harry Brecheen was a "heck of a good pitcher."  Finally, the old Whiz Kid took the ball in hand and signed the side panel.

I moved down the table and presented Mr. Shantz with a Second Edition 1964 Phillies Yearbook.  Originally bought on eBay with a few signatures already on it, I have diligently added to it with new ones over the past four or five years.  With Bobby Shantz in blue Sharpie on the cover, I now have 13 autographs!   

Phanatic of the Month Bobbles Are Plentiful

Photo via Philly Chit Chat

Photo via Philly Chit Chat

The third series of the over-sized, "Phanatic of the Month" bobble heads is in full swing. Maybe you're aware, maybe you're not...

This third edition has successfully evolved the series from the themes of the past few years, finding fresh poses that have kept it interesting for collectors. So far we have seen Phoebe caring for an infant Phanatic, a weight-lifting Phanatic and tomorrow (10/1/16) the latest bobble will be released with a design celebrating the Phillies 1980 World Series championship.

Although the bobbles have been well received by the hard-core collectors, their hefty $75 price tag (a $25 increase over the 2nd Series) has kept them from crossing over as a must-buy for the casual fans. On a recent visit to the Citizens Bank Park Majestic Store I saw the evidence of this failure: a large inventory of previous month's bobbles stacked against the wall.  I was surprised Merchandising Director Scott Brandreth put himself in this position again.  After all, he cited the increased production run from 100 to 1,000 each month as the key contributor to buyer apathy - the scarcity could no longer command the premium price tag...eventually leading the team to sell remaining inventory for as low as $10 apiece.  Yet, here it is - 150 bobbles each month at an even higher retail price.

I really appreciate the series, and am pulling for it to be successful.  I know it has to be profitable to continue in the coming years.  But, $75 is too much for me to handle, so I'll sit on the sidelines until they start getting serious about moving inventory...

Update: The third series has a production run of 150, not the previously stated 1,000.  Also, I received some additional information related to pricing. The $25 increase was to bring the Phillies into alignment with other team's mascot series bobble heads.  Evidently they were "grandfathered" in at $50 for Series 2.

Philly Show Banking on Wentz

Carson Wentz's starring NFL debut for the Eagles couldn't have come at a better time for Hunt's Auctions, manager of the upcoming Philadelphia Sports Card and Memorabilia Show.  The big season-opening win came just two days after Hunt's announced they would host the rookie's first public autograph signing during their three-day event later this month (September 23-25).  

"The Philly Show" is a legendary event in east coast sports collecting - attracting hundreds of vendors and buyers alike.  In the past they have hosted Hall of Famers and Philadelphia sports legends.  But, prior to the Friday's headliner announcement, the September show's signing lineup lacked a marquee name.  Wentz fits the bill...

The signing is not, however, without potential pitfalls.  Instead of a juicy time slot on Saturday when the largest crowds are present, the QB is slated to sign from 6:00 - 7:30 on what is typically a slower, less-attended Friday night.  Also, there may be some sticker shock as prices for a signature range from $79 for flats and minis to $155 for lithographs.  Of course, Hunt's is hoping the interest among fans will make these minor issues.

I won't be able to make it out to King of Prussia for the signing on Friday, but do have interest in seeing whether or not Carson Wentz's on-field success translates into Philly Show gold...

 

From Under the Stairs

You never know what you might find under the stairs...

With our daughter approaching her first birthday later this month, I took to the basement over the weekend on a search for "next stage" toys.  As our son outgrew blocks, books and various means of mobility, I faithfully stored them away in a crawlspace under the stairs.  And, there I was - six years later, wishing I had stored the items first-stages, inward...

There, amongst the toys, were two large Tupperware containers that I had put away at some point over the past decade.  They were heavy, so I slid them out of the darkness toward the naked bulb in the middle of the space.  Lifting the lid I was surprised to find a treasure trove of old Phillies programs.  Most dated from the late-1990s and early-2000s - Randy Wolf, Scott Rolen, Mike Lieberthal, Ron Gant... But there were also several from the first games I attended at Veterans Stadium in the early-1980s. 

Though I hadn't seen them for several years, they were instantly familiar - as these earliest remnants of my collection have well worn covers and dog-eared pages marking pages featuring Mike Schmidt.  I don't remember much about those games during the 1983-85 seasons, but the programs prove "I was there!" 

I'm going to keep the containers under the stairs, but this time keep them a little closer to the door for easier access...

JSA Signature Debut: Why?

"Every collector seeks an older style signature of their favorite athlete before they become a superstar.  Take advantage of our new, exclusive service before your anticipated prospect becomes a legend!" - spenceloa.com

James Spence Authentication (JSA) recently revealed their latest service: Signature Debut - aimed at certifying "rookie" season autographs.  JSA promises this is a new service - but, is it? I guess..technically, but then again, not really.

Without getting into a debate over whether or not their assessments are 100% accurate, JSA has established a reputation as the most recognized authenticator in the hobby.  In general, autographs they have authenticated are reasonably assumed to be "real."  While definitely a nice-to-have, the validated authenticity of an autograph also has a big impact on overall value (and resale value) of a piece, too. 

In recent years, collector's desires for this level of confirmation spawned JSA's, "Witnessed Protection Program (WPP)," which certifies that they have seen an item signed by the athlete.  There is clear difference in these two services - seen vs. unseen verification.  And again, the additional layer of verification can carry long-term monetary value. 

And, that brings us to Signature Debut... If their base services are already the industry gold-standard, what is the point of having one to note that a signature was signed during a player's rookie season?  To me, there is no difference in value proposition between Signature Debut as there is between the LOA and WPP services.  Additionally, the rules of what is and is not considered a rookie season are way too complex.  There is no way I will calculate the number of minutes a guy played in an NBA season to determine "rookie autograph" status. 

This may be a case of me not being close enough to the authentication trends, but as an average collector, Signature Debut seems to offer little but unnecessary complexity...

Thoughts of Fleer, Donruss...And, the rest...

My friend, Mike was recently researching wholesale prices on boxes of baseball cards for a Little League fundraiser.  His plan was to buy a few boxes at a reduced rate - then sell them at the concession stand for profit.  A trial run of one hobby box of Topps, Series I had garnered enough interest to make it worth his time. 

"Do either Fleer or Upper Deck have a web site?" he asked.  Like me, he had not actively collected current releases since the early 1990s, but he knew I had this page and could probably lead him in the right direction. 

"They're out of business.  In fact, Topps is currently the only company licensed to produce cards with logos," I told him.  He was floored.  Beyond that he was speechless to learn some unlicensed companies would persevere by releasing cards without team logos/names - "What's the point?!"  For Mike it was as if he had been transported from colonial times - only to find out horse-drawn carriages had been replaced by cars! 

So many years have passed since Donruss and Fleer have been around that it almost seems as though they never existed in the first place. I remember thinking that a Topps monopoly would limit creativity and ultimately predicted the eventual fall of the card industry, in total.  Instead, the introduction of inserts, parallels, autograph and relics to the sets over the past decade has taken card collecting to a whole new level I could have never imagined.  Even more, the development of product lines aimed at different level collectors has kept everyone interested in collecting new releases - no matter what their desired level of investment. 

I still have fond memories of the basic, overproduced card sets I grew up collecting, but it's a different world than Mike and I knew back in the '80s, for sure..

The Phillies Phestival Poll is Live!

I received my admission packages for this season's Phillies Phestival earlier this week - and that means this year's even is less than a month away! Despite the rough start for the ol' home team, it surely will be one of the highlights of my Summer.

For those of you who haven't previously attended the event, the Phillies will not disclose the list of players who will appear in any specific booth number until the day of the Phestival.  However, based on previous season polls we have proven they do tend to vary distribution of the autograph booths based on player status: fewer tickets are distributed for "star" players than non-stars.

In past years the poll has successfully predicted where the big names will be signing.  With more than 2,200 tickets logged for last season's Phestival, we tracked an estimated 15% of the entire distribution - still not close to being statistically significant, but not bad for little blog.  If nothing else, it is fun to see the numbers build as we get closer to the event date.

While you're here, help the cause!  Go to the poll and log the autograph booth numbers you pulled...

Guest Post: Where's the Cookie?

Editor's Note: Guest Post written by my brother, Jim.

When my wife’s aunt passed away six years ago, she left a box of Phillies items to our family. In the box was a paper bag of newspaper clippings dating from the 1950s-60s, including 18 of the 25 artist Jim Ponter’s drawings printed in editions of the Philadelphia Bulletin during September 1964.  Each numbered 5x7” clipping features two drawings (a headshot and an action pose) and brief biography of the specified player.  Not a Picasso, but not bad for a Phillies collector like me…

I was familiar with the set of drawings from seeing them at shows, and though some had condition issues, I decided to try and get as many signed, as possible. I began the process by sending letter through the mail – nailing down some quick successes from players who sign for free such as John Herrnstein, Jim Bunning and Bobby Wine.   Then paying for others such as Rick Wise, Frank Thomas and Johnny Briggs. Over the course of three years I was a perfect 16 for 16 in returns from living players!

Collectors may note the companion set to the newspaper player photos: unnumbered 8x10” color versions printed on heavy stock paper.  There are 28-different drawings of 27 players – a variation of Jim Bunning exists with a head shot wearing a hat.  Available only through mail-order, these drawings seem to be more readily available on the secondary market, but are also generally more expensive than the newspaper version.  A complete set can sell for a few hundred dollars – with the Bunning variant serving as the most rare and expensive single card.

After buying 13 of the color cards at a local flea market I went back to the box of clippings where I had previously seen a mail order checklist to see who I was still missing.  Once found, the checklist revealed an oddity with the set – there was no option to order a Cookie Rojas drawing.  One of my 13 was a Rojas – so, it begs the question: How did he get distributed?  I have never read about, or heard from other collectors about Cookie being rare, so my only guess is that he was included when the complete set was ordered… but have no confirmation on this theory.  

Over the past year or two I have been scouring different places for the rest of the “Ponter drawings” collection.  I was fortunate to pick up a few on eBay and I am always able to get a couple at the Philly Show. To date I have been lucky to also assemble a partial set of 21 – and am currently saving up to buy the Bunning’s and Dick Allen.  I haven’t figured out the whole “Cookie Rojas checklist omission” yet but it’s just another reminder of why collecting is so much fun…

Manny Trillo Visits Carl's Cards

The only controversy connected with former Phillies second baseman, Manny Trillo is his inclusion as one of the five traded for Von Hayes in 1982.  During his tenure in Philly, Trillo was awarded an NLCS MVP (1980), three gold gloves (1979, 1981, 1982) two Silver Slugger Awards (1980, 1981) and appeared in two All-Star Games (1981, 1982) and one World Championship (winning in 1980).  That would be enough for most careers – but, for the former-Phillie, it was just a small part of a 16-year career that spanned 1973-1989.

Mr. Trillo was back in the Delaware Valley last weekend, checking in at Carl’s Cards and Collectibles in Havertown.  It has been a few years since he was here.  In fact, it’s been so long that in the time since I last met him I have started and almost completed two full 1980 team projects – a team photo and the Reunion poster.  And from the sounds of it, I must not have been the only one looking for him.   “So many people have asked for him that we knew we needed to make it happen,” Lauren Henderson of Carl’s Cards told me. 

For those who have not had the pleasure, Trillo is a welcoming autograph guest – posing for pictures, starting conversations and shaking hands.  A small shop with an old-time feel, Carl’s Cards provides the perfect setting for such interactions.  With autograph guests wedged in opposite the main showcase and surrounded by team-specific memorabilia – signings are an intimate affair.  And, unlike the convention hall signings, customer-guest interactions are encouraged.  It was nice to stop and chat for a minute.

Not knowing when I would catch him next, I brought three different 1980 projects for Mr. Trillo to sign: the 1980 Reunion poster, and team picture and a new project started during last summer’s Alumni Weekend.  The team photo has been a labor of love, with all but one other autograph coming via TTM (including Steve Carlton).  I am now down to four living players.  I’ve made similar progress on the Reunion poster – needing a different combination of four players.  Since I have never mailed the Reunion poster, it has been much more expensive to assemble. 

R.I.P - Alex Johnson, 1964 Phillies

Alex Johnson signed photo

The passing of former Major Leaguer, Alex Johnson on February 28th is just the latest reminder that players from Baseball's "Golden Age" will not be around forever.  Johnson, who spent 13 seasons in the Majors - breaking in with the Phillies during the star-crossed 1964 season and winning the A.L. Batting Crown in 1970, is the latest player from the era to pass.

As a member of the 1964 team, Johnson was brought up to provide right-handed power to the lineup.  In 43 games during the season he batted .303 with 4 HRs and 18 RBIs while platooning in Left Field with Wes Covington.  He was traded to the Cardinals in 1965 with Art Mahaffey for Dick Groat and Bill White.  

Though talented, he never spent more than two seasons with the same team.  Stories from his past include self-induced alienation from teammates and lack of focus on the field.  Unfortunately I missed him at a local appearance for the Poppel's a few years ago - but, when I asked Mr. Poppel (Eric and Adam's dad) about how it went he only spoke of about how polite and pleasant Mr. Johnson was at the show. 

While in conflict with the tales of his playing days, the story reflected his interactions with collectors in retirement.  With a 79% success rate (including many non-responses over the past few months while he was presumably ill), Johnson was regularly listed in recent TTM success listings.  I personally had two requests fulfilled in recent years - each time my cash donation was returned.  Phillies collectors, and the hobby will miss him.

Recent TTM Successes

I've been keeping active with the TTM requests recently.  Despite the fact that February is a prime time for mailing requests to Phillies Spring Training camp I have more or less decided to forgo the opportunity this year.  It's not that I've "grown out" the experience, but am not excited about many of the potential targets.  Instead, I am keeping focus on a few different older-era, team projects.

1960 Eagles Program Cover

1960 Eagles - Championship Program Autograph

A long dormant effort that I'd like to spend more time on this year, the photo is of the 1960 Championship Game program cover.  I started the project with Chuck Bednarik a few years ago.  This most recent success came from a key member of the 1960 team, running-back Billy Ray Barnes. 

What I love most about collecting teams I missed is getting to learn more about the season and the players who were involved.  I have seen Barnes autographed photos over the years, but never knew he was the first ACC player to rush for 1,000 yards (as an All-American with Wake Forest in 1956), or that he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Eagles (1957-59).

Phillies Wall of Fame

Phillies Wall of Fame photo

I got this new favorite project out to Larry Bowa right before pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater early last month.  I recommend Bowa to anyone who is new to TTM.  He is as guaranteed as it gets - both at home and the stadium.  The photo is now out to Hall of Famer, Jim Bunning...

Phillies TTM Successes

I came across a few abandoned, team-autograph projects while recently cleaning up my Phillies Room: The 1950s-era Phillies photo and a Phillies Wall of Fame photo.  It has been a few months since I added any new signatures to either - but the passing of several former Phils late last year brought about the cruel reality that the players from the "old days" will not be around forever...

Chuck Essegian - 1950s-era Phillies

Essegian broke into the Majors with the Phillies in 1958 - collecting 114 at-bats across 39 gamesIt turned out to be his only season with the team as he was traded to the Cardinals before 1959 for Ruben Amaro, Sr.  (Note: This may actually be one of those history altering moves - if RAS isn't a Phillie, does his son become one - or, ultimately their GM?)  The highlight of Essegian's career may be his two pinch-hit home runs for the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series.

Curt Simmons - Phillies Wall of Fame

I started this project during last summer's Alumni Weekend - though, it was way too crowded to get very far.  I was lucky enough to add Charlie Manuel and Bob Boone.  Surprisingly, many of the living WoFers are also good TTM signers and I think I can significantly alter the look of this photo with some effort. 

As far as TTM signers go, Whiz Kid Curt Simmons is a Hall of Famer.  According to recorded results in Sports Collector Net's database, collectors have been successful on 99% of their requests - with an amazing 482 reported successes over the years!

Thoughts on 2015 Phillies Promotions

My sense of timing has never been better…The ink on my previous blog post was barely dry when the Phillies revealed a preliminary list of 2015 promotions last week.
 
In case you missed it, in lieu of having actual SGAs to review I used 350 succinct words to predict what might be handed out at CBP next season.  As a result, I had personal interest in seeing whether or not any of my predictions came to fruition. There were no direct hits, but with details on most promos in the ‘TBD’ category, I still hope I might claim a victory or two.  Regardless, we now have actual giveaways on the calendar, so let me opine…
 
The general reaction I’ve seen online reflects my own: Meh.    It’s not that the schedule is without bright spots – because it does have a few.  But, it’s more a reflection of the fact that the general promotion themes haven’t changed for the past few years.  Opening Day t-shirt – Check.   Father’s Day Hat – Check.  W.B. Mason Truck – Check.  And not one person is asking whether or not the Phanatic’s best friend is writing another book.  At a time when they’ll need SGAs to attract a crowd, the overall lack of ingenuity were both a little surprising and disappointing.
 
It wasn’t all bad, though.  Keeping with tradition, the Phanatic’s Birthday seems like it will be one of the standout promos of the year.  Whoever thought to give kids Phanatic socks gets a star from me. There is also promise in the 1960s retro bobble head.  I would be happy if they went completely retro with an old-school, “boy” themed bobble – maybe with a variant face or something.  Really the only way they could mess it up is by either making it in the likeness of Dom Brown or by tasking Forever Collectibles with the job.
 
I’m sure we’ll be treated to a few add-ons – perhaps via one of the scheduled “theme nights,” which produced some of the more memorable collectibles from the 2014 season (Stitch N Pitch Phanatic, Star Wars Baseball).  I’d be interested to hear some of your impressions from the SGA list…
 

See the full list of promotions...

Making Guesses About 2015 SGAs

As teams across the Major Leagues have begun releasing tentative promotional schedules, the Phillies have sat idle.  After stating via their official Twitter account that details on 2015 promotions would be released in December, the team, which will undoubtedly need to use stadium giveaways and theme nights to attract fans to Citizens Bank Park, has gone radio silent.
 
Of course, a lot of things have changed since that November morning: Franchise icon Jimmy Rollins was traded to Los Angeles; their 2014 home run leader Marlon Byrd is now a Red; and, the future of roster staples Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard hang in the balance.  My guess is these situations have caused at least some delay in announcement – and there may have even been situations where planned SGAs were completely scrapped.  One day over the recent holiday season I caught myself daydreaming about how the promos may develop…

  • Cole Hamels (100 Career Wins) Commemorative Ball (Replacing the Rollins Hit Record)
  • Bobble Heads: I think this is the year we see a Domonic Brown bobble… I’ll bet on him and either Ben Revere or Ryne Sandberg serving as another.
  • Cody Asche bat day
  • Chase Utley t-shirt

With notable names scarce, I can also see the Phillies leaning heavily on both the Phanatic and their team logo in additional SGAs.  These could be logo beach towels and backpacks or a Phanatic cereal bowl/spoon set.  Another scenario may be the inclusion of an alumni giveaway.  Though infrequent over the past decade, a John Kruk figurine was handed out in 2013 and Roy Halladay was honored with a second Phillies SGA bobble last summer.  If they were to take this path, we could maybe pencil in a Darren Daulton figurine as a late-season promo.
 
It will be interesting to see how these predictions play out… Hopefully sooner than later, too!