Sunday, February 24, 2019

From the Favorites Box: Jules Verne, 1952 Topps Look 'N See #97

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

Jules Verne is one of my favorite authors. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island have been important parts of my library since childhood.

And I'd like to say the timing worked out so perfectly that this Jules Verne card from the 1952 Topps Look N' See release was exactly the 20,000th card I acquired for my collection. However, being that I didn't even know how many cards I had in my collection until recently, I can't make that claim.

Anyhow, back to the card itself. At about 2" x 3", it's smaller than a standard-sized baseball card. But if the front still looks familiar, you're onto something. The Topps baseball card design from the same year, 1952, sported quite a similar look. 

Just replace the solid yellow border around the name with a marquee, and replace the "Famous Writers" icon with a team logo, and there you go.

The card backs are different, though, with a brief write-up on the luminary pictured on the front. Also included is a cool little feature where you've got to decode the answer to a question using a piece of red cellophane. (If you look closely at the card back you can just make out some inconspicuous shapes printed in light blue ink, hiding behind the main paragraph.)

So, what inventions did Jules Verne predict in his books?

Well, I happen to have a piece of red cellophane for just such an occasion, so when this card arrived in the mail I went to work.

After placing the cellophane on top of the card I did see something that resembled a hidden image and text, but it was barely coming though. Faded ink over 65+ years? Maybe.

Regardless, it certainly wasn't clear enough to share here on the blog. So the next thing I tried was to place the card face-down, along with the cellophane, into my scanner to see if the digital result was any more legible. Nope. Not much different at all. But then I thought, Hey, wait! Photoshop!

So, after much tinkering with red semi-transparent layers and then some color balancing and contrast adjustments, I was able to produce a decoded version that was good enough to share, although still not the easiest to read. 

The answer to the question? (Get ready before you scroll down, it's really bright)


I wonder if this is where Takara/Hasbro got
the idea for their Transformers decoder

After your eyes adjust, you'll see the answer is submarines, airplanes, and television. (That's a little school of fish underneath the submarine.) It's interesting that you can still just barely see the "Look 'N See" text peeking through the red filter, running across the card just below the school of fish. I don't know. Maybe cellophane paper was better in the 1950s.

Back to the set: There are 135 cards in all, including authors, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, and more. Trying to complete it, however, is not on my to-do list, mostly because the cost of certain cards outweighs my desire for them (in halfway decent condition, Amelia Earhart, Teddy Roosevelt, Rembrandt, and Babe Ruth cards usually run about $50 apiece).

I'm happy to have a card of the father of science fiction in my collection, though (and in my favorites box), and wouldn't mind picking up a few other cards from the set.

Thanks for reading!

*It turns out I have just over 20,000 cards in my collection, so although this particular card may not have been number 20,000, it is one of 20,000.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Stastny Brothers

Can you imagine three brothers all playing ice hockey on the same local team, and on the same forward line? Sure, that's likely happened numerous times. But what about all three brothers playing for their country's National Team? Okay, that's much less plausible. And then what about all three turning professional and playing for the same NHL team? No chance, right?

Well, remarkably this happened. And after a recent eBay pickup, I'm pleased to have autographs now for all three brothers. Here they are:

In hockey conversation, Peter is the brother you'll hear about first, simply because he was the most talented. Just how talented? How about this stat:

Wayne Gretzky scored more points from 1980 through 1989 than any other player in the NHL. Guess who's second on that list? Yep, that's right. Peter Stastny.

That's not to say his brothers were slouches, however. Check out the stats on the backs of their 1984-85 cards:

And that's not even the half of it.

Many hockey fans—and sports fans in general—are familiar with the story of Soviet or Cuban athletes defecting in order to pursue their professional careers here in North America. But I think fewer fans know that athletes from Czechoslovakia under the Soviet influence faced the same dangerous path.

And in 1980, the Stastny brothers—Peter, Marian, and Anton—had quite the experience getting here.

The best article I've found on the subject is here, at BSN Denver:

Please give it a read. Just remarkable.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Catching for the Improv Team

A few weeks ago, while researching the 1956 Topps Baseball set for a separate blog post, I came across this card:

1956 Topps #159, Clint Courtney

Immediately I thought he bore resemblance to another man who put on the baseball uniform, albeit on the TV screen. Any guesses?

Here are a few hints:

Like Mr. Courtney, he was also a catcher (but for the Improv team).

He was heckled by an opposing team's celebrity catcher. (Get your shrimp here! Big-mouth shrimp on special today!)

For a time he held a front office position with the New York Yankees: Assistant to the Traveling Secretary.

He knows where to find a good calzone.

Give up? 

Here's the answer:

To tweak the card, I created new red and yellow text boxes, found a similar font for the player name, position, and team, and replaced the Washington "W" on the cap with a Yankees logo from the cap of another player in the set. Additionally, I brushed out Clint Courtney's signature that appeared at the bottom of the card.

Here's a picture of George in his Improv uniform, from "The Understudy" episode of Seinfeld. See the resemblance? Uncanny. (I flipped the image so George is facing the same way as Clint.)

And once I found that image, I figured it was too perfect to leave the card as it was. Next, I had to try to make a complete Costanza custom, with George's face on the left side instead of Clint's, and a small image of the CostanzaMidler collision added on the right.


It took a lot of tinkering to try and mimic the 1956 Topps design (the card you see above is my eighth attempt). I'm just not skilled enough to match the originals, which were painted by artists who used photographs as reference. Regardless, the card gives me a chuckle. I hope it does the same for you.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Introducing The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game!

It seems like the O-Pee-Chee Company became a bit lackadaisical when it came to the player bios on the backs of their 1982-83 hockey cards. Either that, or they were trying to get every eligible bachelor in the NHL hitched.

Why, you ask? 

Well, many of the player bios in the 1982-83 set were created using the following template:

Player X is [married / a bachelor]
His last amateur team was [insert team here]
His hobbies include [insert hobbies here]

Wonder if these bachelor bios helped anyone find Mrs. Right? Wonder no more! Welcome to the first episode of The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one has the most groovy appeal. [APPLAUSE]

First, let's review the set.

There are 396 cards in all. Once we remove the League Leaders, Team Leaders, and In Action cards, that leaves us with 330 individual player cards.

Of those 330 cards, we have 64 bachelors, 112 married men, and 154 cards that don't specify—either because there wasn't enough space on the card back or because their status just wasn't mentioned.

Now, let's start the premier round and introduce our first three bachelors! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Center from the Edmonton Oilers, Ken Linseman
Bachelor number 2: Defenseman from the Hartford Whalers, Chris Kotsopoulos
Bachelor number 3: Left Wing from the Boston Bruins, Normand Leveille

Now let's find out more about them, straight from the back of their hockey cards:

So, readers, who's the winner of the first episode? 

Bachelor number 1: Airbrushed Ken Linseman, who (appropriately enough) enjoys art?

Bachelor number 2: Toronto native Chris Kotsopoulos?

Bachelor number 3: NHL rookie Normand Leveille, who is fluent in several languages?