The studio where Tim Carroll creates some of the most unique sports card art in North America looks the same today as it did a week ago. Skies had darkened last Wednesday night. Winds blew. Thunder, lightning and rain crashed down. It was scary, but his home was largely untouched when the violent outbreak moved further east.
The same can't be said for folks living just 15 miles away. In fact, there's not much left of Smithville, Mississippi.
The school, post office and 12 of the 14 businesses in the town of 900 are gone; demolished by one of the powerful tornados that tore through the deep south that night. 200-mile-per-hour winds have little mercy. Even the town's only funeral home is nothing but a foundation. Visitations for the 15 Smithville residents who died in the EF-5 twister are being held elsewhere.
Feeling helpless in the aftermath, an art teacher in Tupelo, decided he had to do something. For the past few years, he's taken otherwise unloved common cards of recent vintage, cut them into shapes and used the modern cardboard to create remarkable reproductions of some of the most classic cards in the hobby. The poster-sized works feature the likes of a T206 Honus Wagner, a 1952 Topps Mantle, 1964 Topps Pete Rose and several others.
To aid those suffering in his home state and in nearby Alabama, Carroll took the 1965 Joe Namath art he created in 2009 and has placed the piece on eBay. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go toward purchasing bottled water, Gatorade, toiletry items and other essentials for the displaced tornado victims and the recovery crews working day and night.
"Living only 15 miles from Smithville, I know quite a few people from there," Carroll told Sports Collectors Daily. "Fortunately, all of them have been accounted for and are OK. They happened to be at work and were not in the path of this monster storm. I am deeply saddened, though, by the damage that can be seen there. It's like a third world country. Finding trace amounts of debris in my backyard (Saturday morning) makes me even more thankful for what I have."
Monday was a milestone day for Smithville. Several missing people have been accounted for and classes were held at other locations. The recovery, though, will be long for those who lost virtually everything.
"As with all tragedies, the one good thing to come of all this is seeing the people from surrounding communities rallying around these poor people and lifting them up," Carroll explained. "With the humid environment of the south, however, searching for the missing and sifting through debris is very exhausting."
He's selling the Namath piece, which required 33 hours of painstaking work, as a tribute to Alabama, where dozens lost their lives and damage is even more extensive.
"Namath played his college ball at the University of Alabama, and while I do not expect a massive amount of money from this auction, although hopefully enough to contribute extensively to both towns, I do want them to know they are all in our thoughts and prayers also," he said.
Over 1200 1980s and 90s football and baseball cards and nine glue sticks were used to complete the Namath piece. You can see the process by how it was created at TimCarrollart.com.
It's one of eight in a 'holy grail' series of vintage cards he's re-creating with valueless cardboard--sort of a recycling project for card collectors. Carroll started the bidding on the Namath at just $199, although the artwork is clearly worth much more. He's hoping generous bidders will step up to the plate.
Once the auction closes later this week, he'll buy the supplies and deliver them.
"I plan to post a scan of the receipt and pictures of the load that is purchased," he promised. He'll put the images on his website, he says, "to show how a bunch of common sports cards can contribute mightily for people in need."
Click here to go to the auction.