Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 1: 1991-95 Conlon Collection

Baseball card collecting circles tend to look down at the "junk wax" era of cards as a sort of black hole where nothing good emerged.

For the most part, I agree. I've got thousands of cards from 1987 to 1994 under my bed and in my closet and in my binders and...well, everywhere.

However, there were a few high points in those years. Or as I call them, "the gems of junk wax".

Conlon Collection, a set not issued by any of the major card companies of the era, is my personal favorite "junk wax" set. Issued from 1991 to 1995, it chronicles the beautiful photography of Charles Conlon (as seen by the famous Ty Cobb card at the top of the post) and includes pictures from the turn-of-the-century to the late 1930's. And because they came out in the "black hole" era of baseball cards, they're cheap too. The 1995 editions are tough to find, but the 1991-94 issues are fairly common. I purchased a box of the 1991 edition (36 packs) for around $20, a price which includes shipping costs. If you're at all interested in the history of baseball, this set is perfect.

It's got the big stars. The photograph used for the Gehrig card shown above is one of the finest shots I've seen.

However, it's also got a lot of the forgotten names of early baseball. There were others besides Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Cobb, and Wagner, you know. Hal Chase, a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player who fell in with the wrong crowd (he was kicked out of baseball for betting on the 1919 World Series). Johnny Evers, part of the famous Tinker-to Evers-to Chance double play combo. Some of these photos show just how much the game has changed. Take the bat the Evers has on his shoulder. There's barely any hint of a barrel on it.

The 1994 Conlon issue has a subset that includes some tremendous early action shots, as evidenced by the two cards shown above. These cards were a steal at my local flea market, found a whole handful of these action cards in a 12/$1 box.

My favorites of the Conlon series document the 1919 World Series, famous for the series-throwing "Black Sox". Since all of the "Eight Men Out" were formally blacklisted from major league baseball (much like Pete Rose today), they cannot have cards issued by a licensed manufacturer, making their cards all the more difficult to find.

This set just goes to show you that junk wax does have its bright spots, you just have to dig a little deeper than usual. Where else can you find a card of Hal Chase or Eddie Cicotte?


Mike said...

That is a great set!...who was the guy who jumped up & down and whooped and hollered on the foul lines?..there's a card of him in there,right?..Heinie somebody?

Nick said...

Hughie Jennings. There is a card of him in these of him "in action". I'll have to use it in a later post!

moremonkeys138 said...

I love this set. I'm a huge baseball history nerd so this was right up my alley. I only have the first three years (91-93) though. Haven't found the '94 or '95 yet.

Nick said...

'94 was the last one I was able to get, a guy on a site I trade on was selling a bunch of em and I got about 100 for $11. It's probably the toughest of the first four years to get, but they're out there.

The '95s are impossible to find, I've only got around four or five in my collection.

Austin said...

what if i told you i had over a hundred of the 95 edition how much would they be worth?

Nick said...

They're worth more than the 91-94 Conlons, but overall they're still not worth a ton. Some sets are funny that way, they're not worth that much but you can't find them anywhere.

According to my Beckett in front of me, the base value on these is 50 cents a piece. The stars are worth a little more (Feller, Greenberg, Speaker, etc.). If you've got the Babe Ruth (#1405), that one's worth $8.

(PS- Any chance you'd be interested in unloading them?)

CaptKirk42 said...

I like these sets. They are a great way to get cards of the stars from the day before yesteryear. I have a few of these and need to get off of my butt and look for some more (as with about a million other sets I only have some cards of). I first saw some of these cards when they were new and I wasn't really into them then because I thought they were "too cheap" and just one of those "Speical Collectors Issue" ploys. I think it was Ultra-Pro that would included one of these cards free in the package when you bought a 10 or 25 pack of the 9-pocket album pages (whatever their sheet counts were). That is when I started getting into them. I figured "Free Card" OK so I got sucked into their sales machine. It seemed like it was always the same two or three cards that would be included but it was fun anyway to get them. I forget if my local card shop sold them that way or not.

Unknown said...

I found a Feller auto for 25 cents in a stack of Conlons. I love these cards though their value is not high. Thanks for the write up on these cards

Unknown said...

I have several of these cards, I'm so glad that I bought them when I did.

Unknown said...

I have the complete 330 card set in factory plastic of the 1994 set and dont know how much its worth ca someone help me

Unknown said...

if you would email me at please thank you