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How to Turn 996 Common Baseball Cards Into a Honus Wagner

PSA Collectors Club

Hordes of 1980s and 90s cards give their lives in pursuit of the Holy Grail.

Like any good card collector, Tim Carroll knows how to trade.

He’s been in the hobby since 1987, about the time thousands of new collectors were being born every day and the card companies cranked up the presses to meet the demand.

The sports card shops and card shows were stuffed with boxes and sets of products produced with much fanfare but are now more often than not, relegated to some deep, dark storage area.

Carroll, though, sees something in those 1980s and early 90s cards that few others do. He has the creativity. He has the love of vintage sports cards.

He has the scissors and glue.

This spring, he acquired nearly 1000 Topps, Fleer and Score cards from a local shop and began a special project. He wanted to turn those virtually worthless pieces of overproduced cardboard into a T206 Honus Wagner. Not by trading, but through his skills as an artist.

Beginning with a sketch, Carroll conceived a new type of baseball card art that is striking in appearance, both up close and at a distance. He cut portions of the 996 cards to fill the color demands of what he wanted to create: a T206 Wagner “baseball card” made entirely of modern cards.

He knew it beat using them for kindling.

Utilizing parts of the cut-up commons, Carroll began piecing together sections of his creation, then filled the rest of the canvas with the smallest details.

Wagner’s hair, eyes and skin tone. The detail on the jersey lettering. Lettering for the bottom.

An orange background to match the original T206 came courtesy of 1988 Topps, which had a hue that gave his Wagner art a vintage feel.

“For Wagner’s jersey, there was only one choice,” Carroll told Sports Collectors Daily. “1989 Fleer supplied me with all of the gray I needed.”

The project took 41 hours spread over nearly three months. The result was a new pop-art type Wagner. Never had so many 1980s common baseball cards given so much– and looked so good.

But Carroll wasn’t done.

He soon began creating another baseball card classic– a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle using mid-to-late 1980s Topps and Fleer cards and a smattering of 1991 Score. He duplicated the Mantle card down to the smallest detail, including Mantle’s autograph at the bottom.

This time the project used over 1100 cards, 11 professional type glue sticks and 32 hours. Carroll finished it last week in just four days thanks to severe weather around his Mississippi studio that kept him inside and focused on the job.

As an accomplished collector, Carroll knows which year and brand will work best for the colors he needs and then hits the common boxes for his “paint”.

“If I need a light spot on the face, I will go for a light-skinned player that is part of a bright photo,” he said. “Vice versa for darker areas. I have also learned that the player’s gloves can be used as primary sources of shades and flesh tones.”

Carroll says he uses no embellishments to create the works of baseball art.

“My work is 100% cards and glue. The entire point of the series is to trade my commons – and only my commons – for the cards I can only dream of owning. I have thought about ways to make parts of the card easier to duplicate, but I quickly decided against it. I felt that using any other technique except cutting and pasting would depreciate and jeopardize the entire series.”

Carroll says he isn’t sure what he’ll do with his one-of-a-kind originals but mentioned a fund raising auction as a possibility. Collectors will have a chance to own a copy, though. Carroll plans to create 100 prints of the 26″x36″ Wagner, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the T206 card issue.

“I have also had a few collectors inquire about having pieces made of their favorite players, and I am happy to consign pieces to enhance their collections.”

With two important baseball cards now re-created, Carroll will turn his attention to creating “cards” from other sports. A 1965 Topps Joe Namath and 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski will be next, followed by basketball and hockey subjects as part of a series he plans to create.

Carroll, who owns a college degree in elementary education, has been an artist for years, but says his latest project has been the most fun he’s had creating anything.

“I am connecting things I love and know with the art. Collectors that have seen the pieces understand them; they get the message I am trying to deliver. Some collectors have taken it a step further. One fellow on-line trader told me that the Wagner – to him – symbolized how far the hobby, sport, and nation have come. He said the many ethnic groups that made up Wagner’s face was a testament to the evolution of the game. I think it is wonderful that people can take my work and understand my message, and they can even interpret it in a way that benefits them.”


For more on Tim Carroll’s art and to see additional images of the process, visit his website.


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  2. […] for art projects.  Ever seen what Tim Carroll does with those giant boxes of low end cards?  He turns them into reproductions of some of the hobby’s most iconic cards.  Very cool stuff!  Maybe you have another […]