Collectors opening 2013 Panini Cooperstown were treated to an assortment of cards featuring some of baseball’s greatest names. However, one insert set included the product might have come as a surprise to even knowledgeable collectors: Colgan’s Chips.
These circular discs were based on a set originally issued between 1909 and 1913. The original set contains several hundred subjects including Honus Wagner, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Ty Cobb, while Panini’s 2013 issue has 160 subjects drawing from the nineteenth century, such as King Kelly, to the 1990s, with the likes of Barry Larkin. To differentiate the two, Panini’s edition was sized 3/4′ larger than the original. However, both the front and obverse show their attention to detail in crafting a modern set that pays faithful homage to the original.
John Spano, co-owner of MSB Sports Cards has long collected Colgan’s Chips and is the author of 1909-1913 Colgan’s Baseball Sets: Packed with ‘The Gum That’s Round’ that appeared in Old Cardboard. “Cool!” was Spano’s one word reaction to first discovering the Panini set in his eBay alerts. “Something to keep me busy as I wait for the last ten that I need. I like that Panini did everything to maintain the heritage of the original product — they look like Colgan’s (except that they are larger).”
“After receiving the first one (Donnie Bush), I liked that I could grab nice examples for around $5 a piece at shows. I was in grad school at the time and didn’t have a lot of extra income so they were a cheap way to get my fix! As I became more familiar with the nuances of the set I really grew to enjoy the challenge of acquiring rare examples. I am also a fan of the black-and-white headshots — many are mini-Horner’s,” Spano stated, explaining his nearly twenty years of collecting the set, and referencing the renowned early twentieth century studio photographer Carl Horner, whose iconic images appear throughout the set.
Over the past dozen years card manufacturers have turned to virtually every vintage set in an attempt to market themselves to consumers. With more traditional sets like T206, Allen & Ginter, Turkey Red and the like being familiar with consumers, Panini has turned to a more eclectic set with Colgan’s Chips that has surprised many hobbyists. “Without a doubt — but I think these heritage products are running out of new options,” Spano continued.
“Cobb followed closely by Wagner — I love the shot of Speaker — and really like some of tough minor league players from places like Birmingham, Chattanooga, Utica, and Omaha. Elmer Flick (Toledo variation) was rumored to be unicorn until a couple surfaced a few years back. I grabbed one, which also had a back variation (208 in present series), and is the only back variation I have ever handled. I estimate that over 2000 Colgan’s have been in my possession at one time or another in the last eighteen years. There are multiple levels of rarity in the group — most likely due to changes in teams and limited print runs for certain players. The players that changed teams in the Spring of 1911 are the most difficult (Colgan’s stopped the E254’s in May of ’11),” stated Spano, listing some of his favorites and the rarities that he has encountered during his collecting.
If Panini hoped it would inspire vintage collectors to rip their retro product, they may have missed the mark. “with eBay making it easy for me to grab these in lots I don’t see myself buying much of the product to get one example per pack,” Spano explained, and has already picked up about half the 160 card set.
If the past is any indication, the retro product may have an impact on the vintage issue as well. “Definitely. I am obviously biased towards Colgan’s, but if I was a collector of both modern and vintage, seeing one of these might inspire to grab some of the original product. I think there are collectors that not only enjoy these tribute/heritage products but also have vintage collections,” concluded a decidedly optimistic Spano.
Click here to see the current and past Colgan’s Chips on eBay.