Sunday, July 15, 2012

09 Nubs, Runners and Bust tilts

Thought we could take a quick look at how these coins were made and whether that can account for the bust tilts we metioned in post 07.

The way plastics were molded back in the 1950s was called injection molding. As shown below a resevoir of plastic is connected to the mold. The plastic is heated up and forced into the mold. Each piece (coin) that is being molded has to have an inlet (for the plastic to come in) and an exit (for the air to be expelled and the plastic to move on to the next coin. The connections between the coins are called runners. When you break each piece off and plastic remaining behind are called "nubs". For expensive pieces these nubs would be polished off.

For those of you who are grey beards like myself, you will remember gluing together plastic models (airplanes, cars etc. ) as a kid. What came out of the box were all the parts still connected on the runners.

On the armour coins there are two and only two positions for the nubs. One is directly above the head and the other is the middle "star" on the right side of the coin. These are shown for a aqua Ford below. Also shown is a likely layout showing how the molten plastic would move from one coin to the next. Lastly I actually came across a Simmons coin where a bit of the runner apparently broke of and stuck to the surface of the coin (while it was still hot I guess) . Got this coin real cheap.

Back to Bust Tilts

In order to have the bust tilt variations they must come from different molds. The remaining question is why only two bust tilts ? I thnk this means there were two master molds and multiple copies of the molds (if required to meet production schedule) were made from these two master molds. Why two master molds ?? Can't answer that one, but there obviously were. Some of the coins do not have bust tilt variations such as Reynolds and Thomas. The Thomas bust always point into the gap between Pittsburgh and Pirates and the Reynolds busts all point to the Y in Yankees. My guess here would be that these two just randomly ended up in the same spot when they were layed out when the two master molds were made.

The variations vs bust tilts are shown in the table below.

For Antonelli and Jackson we could asume that the variations are the two master molds and early on they saw the problem and stopped using the error molds making the error  coins the rare ones.

 I'd say the same thing for the Finnigan and Snider variations. These are the two mold variations and they show up in approx equal populations because no one ever caught these errors.

We cannot use this argument when the correct variation is the rare one [ i.e. Trucks and Jensen] In these cases a new mold must have been cut later in the production run and in the case of Jensen two molds were made because we have bust tilt variations for the rarer corrected Jensen.

If we look at the Haddix variations why would anyone care whether there were bigger or smaller gaps in St Louis Cardinals ? They wouldn't my premise is that these simply are the two master molds, but I cannot answer why is one significantly rarer than the other ?? Master mold broke ??

Gilliam, Mantle and Kuenn are more confusing having 3 variations each,  although none of the variations show a bust tilt.

With Gilliam we can assume the two original molds were "L or R" and "L - R". Why a new mold was needed ??... but it must have happened because in this case they even changed Giliams face which does not show up for any other coin. Since the new mold was cut as L-R I like to assume that L-R is the corrected variation for both Gilliam and Mantle.

The Mantle error "Mantel" is at least 10:1 vs the corrected coins so I have to assume that both molds were initially Mantel and late in the process a new mold was cut correcting the Mantle spelling but using (L-R). After the Gilliam correction they must have cut a 3rd Mantle mold with L-R designation.

Kuenn is equally as confusing. One can assume the original two molds were the spread and tight variations . Both of these had the last line incorrect on the back of the coin. When this was caught late in the production cycle, a new mold was cut correcting both the Kuenn spacing on the front and the last line on the back.

In terms of rarity, one could assume that the Mantle L-R, the Kuenn correct, the Guilliam tight L-R and the Trucks - White Sox were all corrected about the same time. Mantle probably only appears significantly rarer because everyone wants the Mantle correct coins (the aforementioned Mantle effect).

Why a new face for Gilliam?, why care about L or R vs L-R ? Since the people who did this are at least in their 80's or are no longer with us  AND since Armour when I have contacted them claim they have no information or coins still on hand, we will never really know for sure.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

08 1955 Swirls continued, oddball colors

SWIRLS continued

- Some swirls are minor and some are major.

- with minor swirls it is sometimes hard to tell what the minor color is , i.e. is the swirl black or navy blue ?, is the swirl red or orange ?

Some more examples are given below.

Alot of the peach coins appear to be swirled, ditto the tans. I think this is strange for very rare colors such as these. The Vernon coin has a swirl of yellow and red on top of his cap. How can both colors be in the swirl?  The swirl goes through the thickness of the coin to the back side.  Yellows are he easiest to see swirls in. Shown are swirls of black(or navy) and red (or orange ) . The Turley navy with yellow swirls is a major swirl looking on both sides like a "cat eye" marble [ for those of you old enough to know whatthat means]. The Antonelli yellow swirl is on a rare New York variation. The Jensen black swirl is on the more common Reb variation. In the case of Jensen and Crandall the switrls are clearly black (not navy) since they are on Navy coins.

I graded the black Vernon and PSA gave me a 5 !. It is perfect in every way except the swirl which they obviously view as a flaw. I popped it back out.


There are also some very unique and one of a kind colors that have showed up in all 3 years. There are many proposals for how this happened. For instance when down towards the end of a certain color batch of plastic rather than throw it away the workers could have simply mixed them with another color to give these unique colors ? or they could have simply mixed colors to see what they got and have some fun. Who knows ?

Here are a couple of examples

Kuenn greens: shown are he common pale green, the rare dark green and the rare lime green. The coin on the lower left I call olive green. It is the only example of this color that I have ever seen. It is not marbeled and is uniform in color back and front and when held up to the light.

A little harder to see is the "unique blue" Kluszewski shown below. It doesnt show up very well but to the eye the clor on the left is a more grey blue color. I have this color for Guiliam, Berra, Turley and several other players so maybe it is a intentional rare color ?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

07 Of Swirls and Bust Tilts

Now that we have gone through all 3 years of Armour coins, we can take a deeper look at issues in Armour collecting namely swirls and bust tilts.


If color is the key - Swirls are the rarest of the rare colors. Swirls happen when the load of plastic was changed without cleaning the mold. The first shot in of the new color would produce a set of coins that had the two colors swirled together. Lets look at a couple of these rare beauties.

 I will load pics of some more unique swirled coins later.

Since most collectors and sellers recognize that swirls are rare, some try to claim them when they are not real. The major example of this is claimed black swirls in 1959 and 1960. Since there were no black coins in 1959 and 1960 there are no black swirls - period end of discussion. Minor black spots or marks on any years coins are much more likely burn marks from the plastic for some reason getting scorched in the mold. If you think that's cool and unique and rare and want to collect coins with burn marks that OK with me, but don't call them black swirls !

I have seen a 1955 black Berra with silver swirls. That may be one of the rarest coins in existence.

Note added 12/2017 - I take it back...the Silver Mantle with gold swirl is definitely the rarest swirl I have now seen...


The other topic that true Armour Coin Collectors must be aware about is the phenomina we have named "bust tilts" . Lets look at the red, navy and aqua Rosen coins below. Look at the pointy part of the bust on the left of his neck. You can see that it points either to the N or the D in Cleveland. These are the two bust tilt variations of the Rosen coin. Some use the tip of the cap as the pointer, but I prefer the neck.  So far I have not seen one bust tilt as being more rare that another although maybe for larger groups that would prove to be untrue.  How these came to be is more confusing. Bust tilts exist for all 3 years, although I have not seen them for every coin. There are usually only two bust tilts when they exist. In a few cases I have seen 3 but never more.  These are not random, they are very specific . One must conclude that they are due to the coins being produced in multiple different molds. If there were one master mold and the rest of the production molds were made from the master (which is the usual case in plastic molding) then we would not have this phenomina of bust tilts.  If anyone has a better explanation for these please let us know.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

06 1955 Armour Part 2

Picking up where we left off lets look at the wide spectrum of colors available in the 1955 set.

Common colors appear to be dk red, red, orange, aqua , navy, pale green, pale chalky yellow, med yellow and dk yellow. The there is the somewhat rare black. The rare group consists of trans red (with specs), pale orange, peach, trans blue with specs, lime green, dk green. Very rare colors include sky blue, tan and metallic gold and silver. The gold and silver are surely the rarest of the rare. There are also many what appear to be one of a kind od ball colors that we cannot be sure were done for all players.  Below are some photos of a number of these color variations.

top row: dk red, red, tan, black
3rd row: dk green, limegreen, pale green, navy
2nd row: orange, pale orange, peach, aqua
bottom row: dk yellow, med yellow, chalky light yellow

                         Aqua                          sky blue                        unique blue                      navy

I have Rosen in 15 unique colors; Berra, Doby and Simmons in 13; Antonelli, Mueller and MAntle in 12 and the rest of the variations in 7 to 11 different colors.
If we take the 37 different variations x at least 15 different colors we have ~ 555 different coins in the set. (excluding one of a kind colors silver, gold etc. )
The following is a grouping of 55 Mantles from the collection of SFLA Yank:

I will be loading more unique colors onto this blog as I get a chance.

Here is a scan of  gold Snider & Jackson coins.

Lets go back now and take another look at scarcity. We can attempt to judge this by PSA graded coins, however we must be aware of three things :

(1) the Mantle effect - everyone knows Mantle is a sought after coin so Mantle is graded far out of proportion to its issued population.

(2) PSA was tracking the population before south florida yank, Doug Stultz and I informed Bob Lemke of the variations and PSA accepted the Std Catalog of BB Cards variations. When PSA finally agreed  to expand the number of variations in the set they were faced with the issue of which variation had they already graded ?  They needed to decide which variation the ones they graded in the past were. It would be logical to have chosen the common variation, but did they do this ? Unfortunately we did not think to track how many of each coin was graded at these points, so we probably will never know for sure. As time goes on and more coins get graded this will effect the population less and less.

(3) regrading - The rarer coins are more likely to be popped out of their cases and sent in for regrading thus affecting the overall population. You can certainly blame me for part of that !

In terms of my perception of the rarity by studying  EBay auctions over the last decade+ I think the Antonelli ratio is correct, Gilliam - correct , Jackson - correct, Jensen - Reb is at least 2:1 if not more; Kuenn -  correct bats/throws last line is 1:5 or less; Mantle incorrect to correct is >> 3:1, possibly as high as 10:1; Trucks 1 word is >> 2:1 possible > 5:1 . I think after the Mantle corrects, Trucks White Sox is the hardest coin in the set. 

Some coins are notoriously hard to get in certain colors. If we look at the rare coins listed above in the PSA 1955 registered sets, we can account for 40 of the 137 graded rare coins; 6 are navy, 6 aqua,  4 are yellow; none are red and only 1 is orange  ?? Mantle correct are notorious for red, orange and yellow being impossible to find.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

05 1955 Armour part 1

Saving the best set for last, lets go over the 1955 Armour set, the set that started it all.

The 1955 set consists of 24 players, 10 of whom were from the NYC area teams (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants). As far as we can tell in 1955 all of the coins came in all of the reported colors although some are much rarer. 1955 Coins were only available one per pack from the purchase of Armour hot dogs. No mail in offers similar to 1959 and 1960 were available in 1955. With variations there are at least 37 coins as listed below.

1955 Variations

 In 1987 (32 years after their initial distribution) when Bob Lemke published the 1st edition of the Sports Collectors Digest “Baseball Card Price Guide” 2 1955 Armour coin variations were listed : Harvey Kuenn (a) spaced letters in name and (b) condensed letters in name and Mickey Mantel (a) incorrect spelling (Mantel) and (b) correct spelling (Mantle). These same two variations were identified by Doug Stultz in his key SCD article in Feb of 1987. Doug was the first to attempt to capture the many color variations found in all of the Armour sets.
Starting in 1999, comparing notes with Doug Stultz and Larry Serota ( aka SFLAYank), who were bidding against me in early EBay auctions, we came up with numerous other variations in the 1955 set. In 2004 Lemke ( Editor of the Std Catalog of BB Cards - i.e. the BB card bible) accepted the Trucks variations (a) Whitesox vs (b) White Sox in the 13th edition of the Std. Catalog of BB Cards. By the 2006 15th edition we had identified and reported variations of Antonelli, Guilliam, Jackson, Jensen and two Mantle correct variations and they too were also listed. Since then, 4 more variations have appeared: (1) Gilliam with tight spacing on Brooklyn Dodgers (which has been added to the price guide); (2) Haddix with tight spacing on St Louis Cardinals; (3) Snider with a 341 or a .341 as is batting average and (4) Finnigan with either Quincy or Ouincy as his home town which are all undergoing the verification process. Credit for Snider and Finigan goes to long timer Laura Salzy.

2013 UPDATE - the Finigan, Snider and Haddix variations have not been added to the Std Catalog of BB CArds. Bob Lemke has retired and Krause Publications rejected changesto he 55 set right before Bob left. He describes heir attitude as being more concerned wit hmaking money than on accurately tracking new findings on old less followed sets.

It should be obvious but this is my blog and I get to say it " the Std Catalog of BB Cards " isn't the Bible anymore." Fortunately or unfortunaely it is now up to colelctors like me to maintain this info on the internet otherwise it will disappear forever.
The rare variations are usually the corrected ones i.e.
Jensen- Red Sox
Trucks - White Sox (two words)
Kuenn -Bats, throws (last line)
Mantle- correct spelling
but, in some instances like
Jackson – Infielder
Antonelli -N.Y
the correct variation is the common coin.
The Mantle, Gilliam and Kuenn coins exist in 3 different variations. In the Mantle case the incorrect spelling “Mantel” is the common variation and the corrected coin with “Mantle” spelled correctly comes in two variations showing him as batting “L or R” (more common) or “L-R” (rarest coin in the 1955 set). Since the only other switch hitter in the set is Gilliam, one cannot be sure whether “L or R” or “L-R” is the corrected version since Gilliam shows this variation also (the “L-R” variation is the rarer one here also). The 3rd variation of the Gilliam coin has different facial features (note the difference in the eyes and lips in the photo below), has a closer spacing (condensed) of the “Brooklyn Dodgers” on the front of the coin and comes (so far) only in the “L-R” variation. The last line on the back of the 1955 hitters coins is normally “Bats X Throws X” (X = L or R). In the 2 more common Kuenn variations (shown below) his name, “Harvey E Kuenn”, is either condensed or spread on the front of the coin and the last line on the back is “1954 Average 306”. The much rarer corrected version has the spacing corrected on the front of the coin and has “Bats R Throws R” as the last line on the back of the coin.
Lets take a close look at these variations.
Antonelli - N.Y Giants vs New York Giants on back of coin. New York Giants is the much harder to find variation

Jackson - Infielder vs nfielder on back of coin. nfielder is the much harder to find variation

Jensen - Red Sox vs Reb Sox. Red Sox is the harder to get variation.

Trucks - Whitesox vs White Sox , The two word white sox is the much harder variation
Guilliam - ( L or R) vs (L - R). L-R is the harder variation
Guilliam - Bklyn Dodgers spread vs tight. Tight is the much harder variation
Kuenn front - front Kuenn nornal vs spread vs Kuenn tight; back last line = batting avg vs last line Bats / Throws. Normal Kuenn with last line on back bats/throws is the much harder variation.

Finnigan - Quincy or Ouincy on the back. Both ~ equal population
Haddix - St Louis Cardinals tight vs spread. Tight is the much harder variation
Snider- with and without comma on date and .341 vs 341 on the back of the coin. Unsure of rarer variation at this time
Mantle - Mantle on front spelled "Mantle" or "Mantel" Incorreect spelling is the common coin. Corrected coins come with (L or R) or (L - R) on the back of the coin. Correct spelling / (L -R) is the hardest coin in the set

Next blog we will look at 55 colors .....................