Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does New Era Repair Broken Visor Boards? Yes, But There's a Catch (a Few Actually)...

How many collectors out there have vintage caps with broken visor boards (the proper term for the piece of cardboard inside of the brim/bill)? I'm sure there are many. It's a problem many vintage cap collectors face. They get very brittle with time and if you try to bend it at all, even on accident, it cracks with a very loud "pop" or crumbles like a cookie. In my own collection I have a several vintage New Era caps that are in mint condition except for one fact: they have broken visor boards. I had heard from another collector that in the past New Era repaired broken visor boards. I now know that indeed they do (at least when it comes to caps made by them), but there are many catches. I will explain in detail.

On Monday, August 9th, 2010 I called New Era to ask this question. After calling many numbers, going through robot operators and pushing buttons, I got through to New Era's corporate office. After being on hold for 10+ minutes, a very nice lady answered the phone and I told her about my broken visor board problem. She said that they could fix the problem, however New Era DOES NOT REPAIR USED CAPS. The reason is this: New Era's seamstresses are unionized and the unions will not allow them to work on used caps, my guess is for health reasons. I said that was fine as a few of mine are unworn and in new condition. She simply told me that it sounds like an "easy fix", and my instructions were to ship them to the New Era factory in Buffalo, NY, with all of the materials and a letter explaining what I wanted them to do.

I chose three caps from my collection that represented three different variations of vintage New Era caps. First, a 1974 - 1979 San Diego Padres cap with a leather sweatband. I had already partially disassembled the cap and removed the visor myself in an attempt to see if I could repair it on my own. Second, a 1981 - 1986 Seattle Mariners with a cloth band. Third was my 1975 - 1978 Boston Red Sox, also with a cloth band, as well as horsehair backing, satin taping, and a more squared-off shaped visor, the kind that was later more common on snap-back caps used for spring training. I had a San Francisco Giants cap in bad shape that had an identically shaped visor and sent that with the caps in fear that New Era no longer has visor boards in that shape, and it's a good thing because it turns out that was the case. Here are the photos of the exact caps I sent:

That same day I dropped them off at the post office, and I got a confirmation number so that I could make sure the package arrived. On Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 they returned to me. Here are the results:

The Padres cap's visor was perfect. The sweatband and it's tags however, appear to have been removed from each-other at some point. They were reattached, but the tags are now in rough shape. The front of the sweatband also appears to have melted somehow. I will write to New Era to see if I can find out how/why it happened.

The Mariners cap was completely flawless. However, changes to major parts of the cap were made. A COMPLETELY NEW sweatband was placed on the cap. The original LOT/PRICE size tag, and the "Official Licensee" MLB tag were salvaged. Much to my surprise, the original New Era manufacturers' tag was replaced with a new one! Also, the backing under the front panels was replaced. My guess is the sweatband and backing were damaged while taking the cap apart.

The modern tag looks out of place, no?

The new backing.

I was right about the Red Sox cap's visor. The replacement I packed with it was used, and the fabric was sewn onto the visor using the current-style. It also received a new sweatband with a modern manufacturers tag. The original horsehair backing was left in place (thank God!).

You can see the difference in where the seams went onto the visor!

The new tag.

My thoughts are that while I am a little upset that my caps are not not 100% original anymore I am happy that they are finally in one piece again. I am grateful to New Era for doing this for me. They didn't have to, especially free of charge (yes, you heard me, FREE!!!). How many companies of their size do this kind of stuff? Probably not very many. I now have some unique pieces of head-wear that you can't walk down to your local sports apparel store and buy.

Now you are left with a choice: What means more to you? You cap being 100% original but with a broken visor board, or a replaced visor board but a new sweatband and possibly new backing? It's really up to you.

If you try doing this and you are disappointed with the results or never get your caps back, don't blame me. Other collectors have told me that they called New Era and were told that they do not repair caps for individual customers. DO AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

How about used caps? Well, I tried taking a used cap to some local seamstresses and apparently they need a special machine just for caps to remove everything. I tried contacting other cap companies and I have been met with a resounding "no" even when offered money. I will let everyone know if I find anyone that can repair used caps.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Collector's Corner

While I am waiting to finish my current Ballcap Blog projects, I will be featuring collectors and their collections. I'm sure some of you are curious about my collection, so I will go first.

Name / Age / Occupation: Paul Carr, 23. Teacher’s Aide, Student, and Drummer (www.undergonelive.com)

How I began collecting: When I was a kid I in the mid-90s, I loved baseball. I always wanted to wear the caps the pros wore, my first pro cap was a Chicago Cubs road cap I got when I was 9 years-old in 1995. Around that time, I received a bunch of 70s baseball cards from my grandparents as a gift. I was fascinated by all the bright-colored caps and odd-looking logos I had never seen before. I went to a local flea market and someone was selling a few old caps. For some reason I ended up with an 80s Angels cap made by New Era which I still have in mint condition today. I also had some kind of sports magazine that advertised the remakes made by Roman and I had my parents order me a few of those. I still have them but I wore them a lot and they fell apart real quick. I usually found others at flea markets and I would just buy them because I knew they didn’t make them anymore. Some I wore, some I didn’t. I don't wear the caps I have now, I just wear contemporary ones and New Era "Cooperstown Collection" reproductions.

I do sell my caps IF I end up with doubles from lots that I purchase. I MIGHT trade if I can get something if I want in return. Contact me at insomniac186@yahoo.com for my want list.

Collection pictures below:

My New Era Collection

My Roman Collection (Partial)

My Sports Specialties Collection

My "Crown Jewels" (Best of My Collection):

1962 Kansas City Athletics (Road) made by New Era

1968 - 69 Oakland Athletics made by New Era

1975 - 82 Oakland Athletics made by New Era

1946 - 49 St. Louis Browns made by New Era (may have been made at a later date but there is no way to tell)

1977 - 82 San Francisco Giants made by New Era

1977 - 80 Seattle Mariners made by New Era

1969 - 73 San Diego Padres made by New Era

1974 - 79 San Diego Padres made by New Era

1980 - 84 (1984 variation) San Diego Padres made by New Era

1981 St. Patrick's Day Philadelphia Phillies made by New Era

1972 - 85 Texas Rangers made by New Era

1975 - 78 Boston Red Sox made by New Era

Game Used/Issued:

Mid-1970s Chicago Cubs used by Steve Swisher, made by New Era

1993 Spring Training Florida Marlins team issued but not used, made by Sports Specialties

Mid-1970s San Diego Padres used by Alan Foster, made by New Era

Late-1980s San Diego Padres used by unknown player, made by Sports Specialties

Thanks and I hope you enjoyed my collection. Please email me at insomniac186@yahoo.com to have your collection featured!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More blogs in the works!!!

Sorry for the lack of updates it's been a busy week. I have a few blogs in the works but I have to rely on other people to get back to me which is taking much longer than I expected, and I have also been out of town and therefore haven't been around a computer long enough to finish the blogs.

I am going to begin featuring cap collectors and interviewing them. If you would like to be featured, please email me at insomniac186@yahoo.com and send pictures of your collection. Please try to get your whole cap collection into one photo and then photograph a few of your "crown jewels." I will then send you an interview as soon as I can. Hopefully this will start early next week.

Paul Carr

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The San Diego Padres "Taco Bell" Caps (Part 2)

The “Taco Bell” cap saga continues.

After my blog about the Padres 70s & 80s "taco bell" caps I received several emails regarding versions of the caps I never knew existed. There have also been some recent happenings regarding the Padres this season and the bell caps. Let’s discuss.

At some point, the 70s-style bell caps had overlapped “SD” logos instead of interlocked ones. I’m guessing it was the earlier ones. I thought I had noticed one before, but a Ballcap Blog reader sent me pictures of several examples. Here is one below.

It turns out that Roman did make a 70s-style bell cap, but it appears to have been under Mitchell & Ness. I received an email with a picture and I was told that they were made for a “Turn Back the Clock Game” about eight or so years ago. There is no manufacturers tag and the cap was leftover from the lot sent to the team. After some research, I found that Mitchell & Ness did indeed sell these in retail, which I confused with American Needle. American Needle has apparently never made the 70s-style cap. The embroidery pattern of the interlocked “SD” is from the embroidery archive of the Roman/KM/McAuliffe companies, which Mitchell & Ness had access to at the time. KM did make Padres caps from around the 1969 to 1971 time frame, so at least with these caps the embroidery is accurate and thus makes it one of the better reproductions.

Turn Back the Clock Game-issue cap. There is no manufacturers tag.

Retail version. Ballcap Blog reader Louis Griffel made his cap seen above more accurate by swapping the incorrect brown button with a yellow one.

I also found out in that in 1997 the Padres wore a cap with a full yellow front panel, during an interleague “Turn Back the Clock Game” against the Angels in 1997. Evidently it was a screw up. The caps for that game were also made by Mitchell & Ness. The screw up may be explained by the fact that Mitchell & Ness did not have an existing pattern for the 70s bell cap design yet, but did have the existing embroidery pattern. Someone has to have one somewhere. If anyone has pictures please let me know.

Here is the awful later Mitchell & Ness version of the 80s cap after they changed cap manufacturers. It’s not even a triangle, and nowhere near the realistic bell shape.

While we're on the subject of reproductions, here is Twins Enterprises’ version of the 80s cap. Not bad compared to the above Mitchell & Ness version, but the only reason I never bought one was because “1984” is embroidered on the bottom rear of the cap. Twins Enterprises’ reproductions have been out of production for a couple of years or so.

Louis Griffel got New Era to make him a 1984 style cap back in late 1997 before New Era started making their reproductions of it. Apparently hand-made by New Era CEO Chris Koch, it is by far the most accurate reproduction ever made (except for the wide bell and gray underbill). The front panel is even made of nylon.

I got an email with a picture about what was supposedly a 1983 spring training prototype. It has been added to the list of “holy grails”. It was sold on eBay around the year 2000.

Evidence now shows that there are THREE different versions of the 1980 to 84 New Era version. I was sent several pictures that show that the 1983 caps had brown interlocked “SD” logos instead of the black "SD" from 1984. The 1980-82 versions had the larger “SD”.

This season, the Padres have been having a promotion called “Throwback Thursdays,” where the Padres wear retro uniforms at Thursday home games. It appears they have been alternating all season between the 1978-style and 1984-style uniforms. Since I had previously reported that the reproduction 70s caps were out of production and that “New Era will probably make more available the next time the Padres have a 70s “turn back the clock” game” I scoured the internet looking for them, and quickly hit a brick wall. Then, a fellow collector told me that they may be exclusive to the team store at the ballpark. I made a phone call to the “Padres Majestic Team Store” at Petco Park in San Diego and sure enough, they had them. Wanting a 70s-style Padres cap I could actually wear, I asked them if they could ship me the cap, as well as the 1984 version. They obliged, and here they are, $42 each (ouch!) plus shipping with FedEx (double ouch!). It was a very pricey purchase, but if you can’t get them anywhere else you have to pay the price. As expected, they seem relatively unchanged from the previous New Era “Cooperstown Collection” versions. They still haven’t put a yellow button on the top of the 70s cap. The logos are now embossed, but not drastically so I’m not complaining. One thing that is different is a big deal to me: there is now an "MLB batter man" logo on the back just like the current caps. However, this is understandable, since the team is wearing the 70s and 80s-style bell caps on a semi-regular basis this season, they are now basically “alternate” on-field caps. One thing that is NOT understandable is the infamous New Era “flag” logo on the side of the cap. At least it is brown so that it blends in. The insides are the same except the taping, which is now black instead of white. The 70s cap also has a black sweatband (perhaps a tribute to leather?). The caps are also 70% acrylic, 30% wool. Yuck! The texture is very rough and scratchy. I can’t believe that New Era is allowing the team to actually wear these! I confirmed that the team is indeed wearing them after reviewing photos of the games. Maybe it’s not New Era’s fault, maybe the team is trying to save a few bucks. A call to New Era revealed nothing other than it may be a team preference.

Here are the official on-field “Throwback Thursday” caps:

I will be out of town through the weekend so don't expect any new posts until after Monday. I do have a few blog projects I am working on and I will try to finish them when I get back next week.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Chronology of New Era Cap Tags

The history of the New Era Cap Company has been well documented, so we won’t get into that right now. New Era has been the dominant cap maker in Major League Baseball and anything baseball-related for decades, steam-rolling the competition, and now has been the exclusive cap maker for Major League Baseball since 1994 (what monopoly?), after beating out final competitor Sports Specialties Corp.

The oldest New Era cap in my collection is a St. Louis Browns cap circa 1946 to 1949. Don’t ask me how much I paid for it! Anyway, New Era basically used the same tags inside their caps from the early days all the way until 1984. Since then they have changed rapidly, usually about every two years. Now, by tags I mean their manufacturers’ label on the back-center of the sweatband inside the cap, as well as the size tags and what-not.

Let's take a look at the evolution of New Era’s tags from the beginning to the present day. All years are approximate as it’s hard to tell exactly what years they were used, as some may have bled into other years. Special thanks to my friend Adam LeRoy. It was his idea for the blog and he took most of the tag photos from his collection. I filled in the gaps with photos from my collection. If I missed any, please let me know!

Early New Era tags. There is a slight difference between the two; one says “100% WOOL FABRIC, the other says “PERSPIRATION PROOF”. My first instinct was that this had to do with a difference in cap materials, or cloth and leather sweatbands. However, all I can tell you is that this is not the case and I have seen either tag on the same cap with either cloth or leather sweatbands. I never understood the “LOT/PRICE” tags or what they meant, other than having the size on them. Perhaps the caps sent to the teams go marked or written on. Anyone know?

1983 – 1984: Due to Sport Specialties Corp. entering the on-field cap market and becoming the first “licensed” cap company, New Era quickly follows suit and adds the “OFFICIAL LICENSEE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL” tag to their caps.

1985 – 1987: New Era modifies their manufacturers' tag, basically adding a few words. This would be the last tag to grace a New Era cap with a leather sweatband. Cardboard “Diamond Collection” tags attached to the caps in retail stores make their debut. Sports Specialties gets them as well, as both companies are awarded co-exclusive licensing for making on-field MLB caps (Roman Pro & ANNCO (American Needle) were granted co-exclusive licensing for old-style caps for the "Cooperstown Collection").

1988: The “Diamond Collection” inner tags make their debut; the main tag is modified again, adding a second New Era logo. The “LOT/PRICE” size tags begin to disappear but still show up. This is the last time the sewn-on extra ring of sweat protection around the rim of the sweatband is used.

1989 – 1993: The main tag is dramatically simplified. The “LOT/PRICE” tags show up sparingly but it is the last time they are used.

1994 – 1996: Now the exclusive supplier of MLB ballcaps, New Era drastically revamps all of their tags. The main tag now shows the “5950” logo.

1997 – 1998: The infamous “flag” logo makes its debut. The main tag again undergoes a major overhaul, as well as the size tag, which is now bigger than the main tag, and makes it clearer than ever before that THE 59/50 IS THE ONLY CAP WORN ON THE FIELD OF PLAY YADA, YADA….

1999 – 2001: The manufacturers tag and size tag remain largely unchanged, but the Diamond Collection tag changes to display “Authentic” instead of “Diamond.” New Era slogans begin to appear on the taping. At first they appear on the taping between the front panels, then on all of the taping.

2002 – 2004: All tags again undergo a major overhaul with the manufacturers tag and size tags in odd shades of red and blue. The word “Diamond” is removed altogether from the “Authentic Diamond Collection” tag and thus becomes the “Authentic Collection.” There are a few different variations of logos and slogans on the taping.

2005 – 2007: The New Era “Blue Box” logo makes its debut, further simplifying the manufacturers tag and size tag. These would be the last tags used on a wool on-field cap.

2008 – 2009: Polyester on-field caps make their debut. Now that the sweatband is black, the tags are changed accordingly, except the “Authentic Collection” tag is redesigned.

2009 – Present: The tags get spruced up from their plain polyester debut.