Find of a Lifetime Increases Population of a Rare Pre-War Set
In 1916, you could buy a complete set of M101-4 Indianapolis Brewing cards for a quarter. Today, things have changed a little.
Heritage is auctioning a near complete set that is a new discovery to the hobby. According to Heritage’s writeup, the collection was owned by a single family back in 1916. Now, newly graded by PSA, the set is up for auction. Though recently listed, it is already drawing the attention of bidders. The set, as of now, is already up to more than $21,000, including the Buyer’s Premium.
The family did have the Babe Ruth card, which is considered his rookie, and it graded a PSA 4 (VG-EX). That card is being offered separately by Heritage and is already up to $216,000 with the Buyer’s Premium, pushing the current value of the near-set and the Ruth up over $230,000. More than two additional weeks of bidding remains and the price will keep rising.
This particular set is in incredible condition given its age. It is a mid-grade set containing 187 of the 200 total cards. In all, more than 150 of them graded between a PSA 4 and a PSA 5. Bidding for this set would be fierce even if the cards were in terrible shape but given that the condition is so nice, it is even more desirable.
About the Set
These cards were distributed by Indianapolis Brewing. Originally, as mentioned on the backs, you could buy the entire 200-card set for only .25 and these are considered M101-4 cards.
More commonly, they are often called the Sporting News set. There are actually two different ‘Sporting News’ sets and they were designated as M101-4 and M101-5 in the American Card Catalog. The two sets are very similar with only a few minor differences to the checklist. Unless you have a checklist handy, it is difficult to tell them apart. A total of 200 cards is in each set.
They are often called Sporting News cards because, in addition to blank backs, Sporting News ads are most commonly found on the backs. But that name is pretty inaccurate as they were actually created with many different company ads on the back. Indianapolis Brewing was one of those. The cards with blank backs, Famous & Barr ads, and the Sporting News ad backs are the most common. Anything else is generally rarer and many, like the Indianapolis Brewing backs, are extremely rare.
Some of those companies only had their ads printed on M101-4 cards. Others only used the M101-5 cards. And others used both. Indianapolis Brewing used M101-4 cards so that’s what these are, obviously.
Rarity for the M101-4 and M101-5 cards varies between the different advertisers. But the Indianapolis Brewing cards are one of the rarest ones. Some perspective can be found in the PSA population report.
Upon being designated for auction, PSA had only graded 25 Indianapolis Brewing cards total. Now? There are 216 with almost all from this particular find.
Prior to this find, these were among the M101-4/5 cards that were seen the least.
Black Swamp Find This Ain’t
It’s going to be interesting tracking the Indianapolis Brewing cards after this sale if they are ever broken up. If that happened, dispersing nearly 200 of these cards out into the hobby would certainly make them less rare. Technically, they’re less rare, anyway. But if they stayed out of public view and in a private collection, they would remain just as hard to find in the open market.
Interestingly enough, I just wrote another article when I recounted the famous Black Swamp Find. Hundreds of high-grade cards of the rare E98 set were found all at once and released into the public. That ultimately hurt prices significantly.
This scenario is different, though. For one thing, the cards found here are not of the ultra high-grade condition that many of the Black Swamp Find cards were. For another, we’re talking about nearly 200 more graded examples with a total PSA population of 225. PSA graded more than three times that amount of the Black Swamp Find cards and there are more than 1,500 E98 PSA-graded cards out there. This just isn’t the same thing and trying to predict future values of these cards by using that model is kind of silly.
The rarity of the Indianapolis Brewing cards is still extremely high, even after this find. It is hard to see prices plummeting because of these additions to the population report. They could drop a little but I’m not sure it would be too significant. Like anything else, time will ultimately tell.
Whatever the future for these cards, though, this is an incredibly rare discovery.