T118 Hassan World’s Greatest Explorers — Duke of Arbuzzi

T118 ExplorersWinter has finally arrived in Boston; after months of mild weather there’s now snow on the ground and single digit temperatures. (And hockey! But more on that in a couple days.) So I thought I’d do a winter related post on a card from a T118 Hassan set: World’s Greatest Explorers.

I initially learned about this set from this article about Jefferson Burdick (which I seemingly can’t find and link to now) and how it was common for collectors to stamp their names on the back of their cards. The article had an image of a card from this set–James B. Lockwood–and Burdick’s stamp on the back. I’d love to get a card from a show or in the mail and turn it over to find it was once owned by the greatest collector of them all. Anyway. I decided to try and track down a few of these since they’re relatively inexpensive and focus on an interesting subject. First up: Duke of Arbuzzi.

The Duke, aka Prince Luigi Amedeo, is famous for exploring and mountaineering, particularly K2, the world’s second tallest mountain. In fact, one of the common routes to the summit is one he carved out and a part of the mountain, the Arbuzzi Spur, is named after him. I had planned on writing more about him but it seemed for more interesting reading about his life than typing about it here.

What I really like about this card is the background. The icebergs and starry night sky are beautiful and really round out the palette of the card. A few others from this set are painted to be at dusk, however, I believe this is the only to be at night. The whole image reminds me of the graphic novel George Sprott (1894-1975) by Seth. It tells the story of  the title character, an amateur Arctic explorer turned Canadian news personality. Seth is a professional nostalgic, so he’d definitely appreciate this set.

Being the first post of the year, I feel obligated to note a couple resolutions.

1. Make more trades. I think I made three last year and I have a giant box of doubles in my drawer.

2. Be a little more adventurous and get out of hockey and baseball more. Especially OPC/Topps.

This post was a good start to the second resolution!

T118 Explorers back


Alien #78 — It Lives to Destroy!

Alien - 78I thought I’d slide in one last post in 2012–this one brings me up to an even fifty for the year. One thing I’d like to do in 2013 is more posts on cards and sets not usually featured on others blogs. So behold: the first post on Topps’ 1979 set based on Alien. The set has 84 cards and 22 stickers. There’s a card for each character (including Jones the cat) but the majority of the set is a synopsis of the plot. Of course, they feature hokey and corny descriptions of film stills like the one on the right. “It Lives to Destroy!”? (C’mon Topps, you could have come up with something that went with the movie’s dark atmosphere a little more than that.) I’m actually surprised Topps decided to make an Alien set. At the time, it was common for them to produce sets based on popular movies–like E.T., Indiana Jones, Star Wars, et al.) but I can’t imagine that much of an overlap in Topps’ and the film’s demographics.


I watched Alien when I was way far, far too young. It was the Saturday matinee on TV-38 when I was only nine or ten and it freaked the hell out of me. I remember eating baked beans after, afraid they were Xenomorph eggs and my stomach would explode soon after. My near-constant fear was soon intensified even further on a family vacation to Universal Studios when–while on that Experience the Movies! ride–I was forced to, well, experience Ripley’s horror escaping the alien, just like the scene in this card. Nightmares followed for weeks.

Still, a pretty awesome movie.

Alien - 78 back

Batman #16 — The Penguin’s Trap

I thought that I’d post something in the spirit of Halloween, so here’s a card from Topps’s 1966 Batman set.  Apparently, Topps did a number of sets that year involving Batman, including one based on the eponymous film. (I’ve only seen a few minutes of the movies–the intro involving Robin using an anti-shark spray to save Robin–which, thankfully, appears in the set.) Comics were the reason why I eventually stopped collecting the first time around when I was younger, so it’s nice to come full circle and marry the two.

The images are bright and hand-painted; they remind me a lot of Mars Attacks! which came out around the same time. (A little bit of research just yielded that both sets were done by Norman Saunders.) It’s interesting to see they were done on canvases not much bigger than the cards. The backs, though bright and O-Pee-Chee-esque, are another story. Its prose is terrible and stiff, cornier than the TV show. In a way, though, it almost makes the card better.

Frazer-Nash / Grand Touring Sports Coupe

This is only my second card from the 1961 Topps Sports Cars set. This one inverts the manufacturer/model listing from the Moretti I own but I guess it makes more sense this way. In a past post I compared the 2001-02 Topps Heritage Hockey set to Pop Art but I wish I hadn’t because these are definitely more Warhol-esque.

I don’t know much about British cars other than Jaguars are supposedly unreliable and I only know that because of an episode of Mad Men from last season. (Quick aside, Topps should totally do a Mad Men Heritage set, like how every hit show in the seventies and eighties had their own.) I’m mainly interested in this set because they’re tallboys. Topps produced a number of these back in the sixties and seventies and this is the only set that realistically fits in my budget.

  • 1961 Sports Cars
  • 1964-65 Hockey
  • 1965 Football
  • 1969-70 Basketball
  • 1970-71 Basketball

Are there other tallboy sets? I guess 1976-77 Basketball could qualify but its dimensions are different, they’re even larger.

The Sinking of the Panay

I’m reading Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, a sci-fi, alternate history novel about Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers win World War II. One of the protagonists, Robert Childan, owns an antique store. Early in the book, a character inquires about a trading card:

“I will give you an example,” the major had said. “Do you know what is meant by “Horrors of War’ cards?” He had eyed Chidan with avidity.

Searching his memory, Childan had at last recalled. The cards had been dispensed, during his childhood, with bubble gum. A cent apiece. There had been a series of them, each card depicting a different horror.

“A dear friend of mine,” the major had gone on, “collects ‘Horrors of War.’ He lacks but one, now. The Sinking of the Panay. He has offered a substantial sum of money for that particular card.”

The card and the set exist! Released in 1938, Horrors of War feature cartoons of varies dictators and atrocities. The dark, clean lines and smaller dimensions give these cards a real Bowman feel. Below is a scan, borrowed from here.

2011 Allen and Ginter

Dream of the 1890’s

This is another set I’m working on; all the base cards, minis, and inserts. They’re fairly rare, I think at only 1-2 a case. Most prices are silly on eBay (especially Brian Wilson’s) but I was able to get this for a decent amount.

Even though I teach English as a Second Language, I admit that I had to look up “flocculence” in the dictionary. It’s the noun form of flocculent, which means “having a fluffy or woolly appearance.” Unlike the previously mentioned Champ’s Rookies, these inserts really nails the aesthetic and matter of the  early 20th century. Ditto the rest of the inserts, though Topps made a few decisions with their base set I’d say are strange at the very least.

A connection between an obsession with strange facial hair that existed in the 1890’s and its current renaissance was parodied in the latest episode of Portlandia in which Fred Armisen sports a bib.

Usually, Allen and Ginter inserts have terrific backs that are cleverly written, so I was disappointed to flip this one over and find only a checklist.

Sports Coupe Italy / Moretti

I originally bought this on ebay as a birthday gift for my dad but once it arrived in the mail, I knew I could never let it go.

It’s part of the 1961 Topps Sport Cars set. There’s only 66 cards and a bunch of license plate stickers but they’re tallboys and feature a great, simple design. I can’t think of another set of horizontal tallboys but it fits great with the dimensions of a car. I love the single color background, the white border, and the slash between the country the car is from and its name. And the copy is wonderfully awkward and uses the oxford comma. “It is quite small, and very expensive for its size.” As with most Topps sets from the sixties, there’s a single panel comic on the back. They’re never funny but they add to the cards’ overall charm.

See the rest below.