Collector finds Hundreds of Pre-War Cards in House Purchase
Finding a few pre-war cards unexpectedly is a nice surprise and happens from time to time at yard sales and such. But stumbling across a few hundred?
That doesn’t happen everyday.
Finds like that do still happen, though, as evidenced by a Pennsylvania resident named Jerry, who recently bought a house in the north central part of the state. He purchased the house situated next to his property and when he explored it, found quite a surprise of approximately 400 pre-war cards (mostly tobacco).
After doing some research, Jerry first mentioned his find on Net54 and I recently communicated with him via email and on the phone on Sunday to get more details on the cards.
Detailing The Find
While Jerry figured the cards had some value, he wasn’t really sure of what he had. Ty Cobb’s was the only name immediately recognizable to him when he thumbed through the cards. The sports fan and one time Little League coach previously had collected some cards as a teenager but really only dabbled in it.
“I’ve always been a sports fan, not really a collector,” he mentioned. “I purchased this house that is actually next to the one I currently live in with my wife and two sons. The house was in bad shape and needing a lot of repairs. My first thoughts were to just have it torn down. The roof was leaking badly and it was unoccupied for a few years.”
Jerry eventually decided to poke around a little first.
“After some thought, I decided to clean it out to see if it was worth fixing to possibly rent,” he recounted. “So my dad was handing boxes to me from the attic. Then we went to the other bedroom where a crawl space was. My dad was sliding boxes out and I was moving them out of the closet and into the bedroom. A few days went by and my wife and I were in there going through things.”
That’s when Jerry discovered the cigar box with hundreds of cards in it. The cigar box was a Castle Hall brand and was missing the lid. Despite that, the cards went unnoticed initially while the boxes were being removed. But when he and his wife sorted everything out, that’s when he spotted them.
“I said, ‘Hey that’s a cigar box’ and picked it up and kinda flipped through seeing the tiny tobacco cards.” In all, there were hundreds of them.
He was at first unfamiliar with the cards but was able to do some research online and figure out what he had.
Among the cards discovered were:
- (80) T206 (mostly Sweet Caporal backs with a couple of Piedmonts and a Polar Bear)
- (19) T227 – a near complete set
- (3) T205
- (12) T202 center panels
- (26) W516 Strip cards
- (1) W514 Strip cards
- (2) E92 Dockman
- (1) E91 American Caramel
- (43) T219 Boxing Champions
- (1) T218
In addition to the sports cards were more than 200 non-sports cards from various sets.
The keys to the find are a pair of Ty Cobb cards – a T227 Miners Extra and a T206 bat off shoulder card. Both are lower-grade cards but still should fetch a good amount, given how hot Cobb cards are these days.
The collection also includes 19 of the rare T227 Miners Extra cards, including two of the other four baseball players, Home Run Baker and Rube Marquard. Boxer Jack Johnson, one of the set’s more valuable cards, is also represented in the near set.
The Miners Extra cards are among the rarer tobacco issues. PSA has graded fewer than 600 of them to date and they have a rarity level closer to what we usually see for caramel cards. The set is known for advertising 25 cards even though only 24 have been discovered and reported. The ploy could have been similar to what other companies did in severely limiting a specific card in the hopes of consumers buying more product to find it.
The owner (or, more likely a relative, given the dates and his age) appeared to be a Miners Extra smoker. Not only were the T227 Miners Extra cards found but the T219 Boxing Champions cards were also Miners Extra issues and nearly 100 of the non-sports cards were Miners Extra releases as well.
That would be enough to be a significant find, but there’s more.
There are the T206s – almost 100 of them. Among them are the aforementioned Cobb and a Christy Mathewson dark cap card. Others include Hall of Famers Nap Lajoie, Addie Joss, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, John McGraw, Miller Huggins, Hugh Duffy, and more.
In addition, several other Hall of Famers and big names were found in the W516 strip cards. Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins, Harry Hooper, Eddie Cicotte, Ray Schalk, Edd Roush, and Dave Bancroft were among the W516s as was Jack Dempsey and a few other boxers.
The strip cards were in particularly fine shape with mostly clean cuts along the dotted lines. That is notable because many strip cards were hastily cut in an uneven fashion or even, at times, torn or ripped as they were separated without scissors.
Found from the Original Owner?
One of the great parts of the story is that the cards appear linked to a specific and original owner – something rarely seen these days as most of these cards are more than 100 years old.
Many bear the initials ‘E.K.’ or have the name Edward on them. Papers found in the house indicate they were the property of a man named Edward (last name withheld for now) born in 1902 and that graduated high school in 1921. He would go on to become a state policeman in Pennsylvania and a Master Mason. Born in 1902 and with his name/initials on the card, he was quite possibly the only previous owner of these cards.
Most cards found have significant damage but are still desirable. Even very conservatively, the collection should be worth more than $5,000.
So what’s next? Well, Jerry has first found some protection for the cards. After taking the cards to a local shop, a dealer provided him with about 100 complimentary top loaders. “He was just happy to see them,” Jerry mentioned on the phone, recounting how the dealer helped him out. He has since ordered more online.
Jerry has plans to sell the cards and is currently researching some options, including auctions, direct sale, or consignment.