Sunday, December 2, 2007

Capital Publishing Company and Its Cards

The Story of

CPC Cards


CAPITAL PUBLISHING COMPANY OF WASHINGTON, D.C., put out CPC cards in 1971-75. This was an era when Topps had the baseball card market virtually wrapped up. CPC took the only course open to it: its cards depicted deceased players. CPC cards, about the only alternative to Topps cards in that era, are king-sized--4 1/8 by 5 1/4 inches--like the Cobb card shown above. They carry year-by-year statistics on the backs.

The cards were first advertised in The Sporting News. Readers were asked to write for a "Free Babe Ruth Card," along with information about how to obtain other cards. Ten different players were in each series. After one series of 10 went into the mail, CPC would move ahead and print another series. No gum was involved.

How many cards of each player were printed? Certainly more than 1,000 Ruth cards were. (They were printed by themselves-not with other cards.) Beyond that, the press runs were in the hundreds. The runs varied. More cards sold in the summertime, so more were printed than in the winter. (Lithographers provide an overrun, usually about 10%, to cover imperfect items. If the run happened to be perfect, CPC benefitted.)

Although a player occasionally was printed a second time, there were no real variations. The original card was simply reprinted. (CPC's proprietor recalls that some numbering corrections were made from one run to the next.)

The cards were printed "four-up," or in sheets of four, before cutting.

There was no particular logic in selecting which players would be depicted. Availability of good photos (in the public domain) was the first consideration. The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians provided some of the photos. Others came from the proprietor's collection.

Many famous players were printed. Many obscure ones were. That was the mix sought. Several of the Black Sox appeared. Oddly, there was a bit of a run on obscure White Sox pitchers.

It happened to be football season when the 100th player was published, and interest was at a low ebb. The publisher went on to other things (most notably baseball books), and the set was discontinued. This happened in the middle 1970s. Distribution of the cards numbered above 100 was hap-hazard.

About then, Den's Den of Bowie, Md., asked to be able to market full sets. At the time, Den's Den was one of the major card/memorabilia distributors, so this arrangement became exclusive. Den's Den advertised and sold the sets to collectors for $25. At least the first 100 cards were included in each set.

By the late 1970s, CPC ran out of one of the cards. Other numbers were in short supply. Rather than reprint cards, CPC ended its arrangement with Den's Den and shoved the remaining cards off in a forgotten corner.

They remained stored away for many years. CPC's proprietor retired and moved temporarily to Mexico. Then, settling in central Georgia, he debated whether to save the cards or not.

He did save them. In 2000 he began selling his remaining books on eBay. He soon put some cards on eBay, one at a time (because no full sets remain to be sold).

Records of the cards beyond number 110 are sketchy. There was a Freddie Fitzsimmons card printed but destroyed because of an error. Obviously three other cards were printed with Fitzsimmons. There's no record what they were and no specimens have been found.

A teacher in California bought up most of the Mo Berg cards. He uses them in his history classes. (A few Berg cards were held back for collectors.)


As noted, some of the cards sold out in the late 1970s. Others might be in storage but as yet not located. Here's a list of those original cards NOT available from CPC at this time:

5-Roger Connor

7-Clark Griffith

10-Russ Christopher

11- Snuffy Stirnweiss

20-Eddie Collins

31-Vern Stephens

34-Sam Jones

37-Fred Merkle

45-Sam Crawford

59-Johnny Allen

70-Jim Barrett

71-Grover Alexander

101-Rube Benton

102-Jim Poole

106-Lefty Grove

107-Roberto Clemente

108-Al Spalding

109-Bill Barrett

110-Bob O'Farrell

(These cards might be available from dealers, some of them via eBay.)


In 2005, CPC responded to demand by reprinting some cards. These are not marked "reprint," but are identifiable because they are on slick stock and look more like glossy photos than the original cards did. So far eight have been reprinted. They are: 5-Roger Connor, 7-Clark Griffith, 20-Eddie Collins, 31-Vern Stephens, 102-Jim Poole, 107-Roberto Clemente, 109-Bill Barrett, 110-Bob O'Farrell

Checklist of CPC Cards

1. Babe Ruth

2. Lou Gehrig

3. Ty Cobb

4. Jackie Robinson

5. Roger Connor

6. Harry Heilmann

7. Clark Griffith

8. Ed Walsh

9. Hugh Duffy

10. Russ Christopher

11. Snuffy Stirnweiss

12. Willie Keeler

13. Buck Ewing

14. Tony Lazzeri

15. King Kelly

16. Jimmy McAleer

17. Frank Chance

18. Sam Zoldak

19. Christy Mathewson

20. Eddie Collins

21. Cap Anson

22. Steve Evans

23. Three-Finger Brown

24. Don Black

25. "Home Run" Baker

26. Jack Cbesbro

27. Gil Hodges

28. Dan Brouthers

29. Don Hoak

30. Herb Pennock

31. Vern Stephens

32. Cy Young

33. Eddie Cicotte

34. Sam Jones

35. Eddie Waitkus

36. Roger Bresnahan

37. Fred Merkle

38. Ed Delahanty

39. Tris Speaker

40. Fred Clarke

41. Johnny Evers

42. Mickey Cochrane

43. Napoleon Lajoie

44. Charles Comiskey

45. Sam Crawford

46. Ban Johnson

47. Ray Schalk

48. Pat Moran

49. Walt Judnich

50. Bill Killefer

51. Jimmie Foxx

52. Red Rolfe

53. Howie Pollet

54. Waily Pipp

55. Chief Bender

56. Connie Mack

57. Bump Hadley

58. Al Simmons

59. Johnny Allen

60. Hugh Jennings

61. Fred Snodgrass

62. Heinie Manush

63. Dazzy Vance

64. George Sisler

65. Jim BottomIey

66. Ray Chapman

67. Hal Chase

68. Jack Barry

69. George Burns

70. Jim Barrett

71. Grover Alexander

72. Eimer Flick

73. Jake Flowers

74. Al Orth

75. Cliff Aberson

76. Moe Berg

77. Bill Bradley

78. Max Bishop

79. Jimmy Austin

80. Beals Becker

81. Jack Clements

82. Cy Blanton

83. Garland Braxton

84. Red Ames

85. Hippo Vaughn

86. Ray Caldwell

87. Clint Brown

88. Joe Jackson

89. Pete Appleton

90. Ed Brandt

91. Walter Johnson

92. Dizzy Dean

93. Nick Altrock

94. Buck Weaver

95. George Blaeholder

96. Jim Bagby Sr.

97. Ted Blankenship

98. Babe Adams

99. Lefty Williams

100. Tommy Bridges

101. Rube Benton

102. Jim Poole

103. Max Butcher

104. Larry Benton

105. Chick Gandil

106. Lefty Grove

107. Roberto Clemente

108. Albert Spalding

109. Bill Barrett

110. Bob O'Farrell

There was also an uncut sheet of four players inserted into a publication. Those players: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Thurman Munson. A misnumbered Fred FitzSimmons card also was printed.