Rare Notebook Cuts Often Mistaken for E95 and E96 Caramel Card Proofs

The Base Ball Series Notebooks are responsible for a great deal of confusion

1913 Base Ball Series Notebook CoverIn or around 1913, a special series of notebooks was printed. Today, these are generally called the Base Ball Series Notebooks. They might typically only be credited as a nice pre-war item and not treated with much significance. However, they have been given quite a bit of attention from card collectors because of their unique covers.

Shown here is one of the covers from a Huggins and Scott auction, which sold for $1,100. The covers show five different pictures of baseball cards and there are several different versions.

The cards pictured are from the E95 and E96 Philadelphia Caramel sets. They use the same pictures found on cards in those sets and, at a glance, anyway, can look just like regular E95 and E96 cards.

There are a total of 55 different cards in the E95 and E96 sets combined but only some of the cards in those sets are known to be represented on the notebook covers. In other words, not every E95 and E96 card is known to have been pictured on a cover.

Notebook Cards vs. Regular E95/E96 Cards

While the pictures on the covers look like regular E95 and E96 cards, there are some differences. First, they are printed on a thinner stock since they are only notebook covers. Second, they have smaller borders and, third, they have blank backs.

Where things get interesting is what some collectors have done to these notebook covers. Just as old time collectors cut out pictures of cards from early tobacco albums and advertising posters, some did the same to these. And because the pictures on them are the same as legitimate E95 and E96 caramel cards, that can cause some problems.

E96 Philadelphia Caramel TinkerJoe Tinker E96 Notebook CutHere on the left, for example, is a picture of a notebook cut of Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. Tinker was featured in the E96 set and on the right is a picture of a legitimate E96 card.

As you can see, the cards look like mirror images of each other. However, the thin borders and hand cutting on the card on the left make it look a bit different (just as the blank back and thinner stock would if you saw it in person).

Now, when cut from the notebooks, the cards can easily be distinguished between regular caramel cards because of the differences I mentioned above. Typically, that would be great but the differences in the cards actually pose a big problem.

And that’s because they re sometimes mistaken for E95 and E96 proof cards.

The Incorrect Proof Card Label

Proof cards, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term are cards that are basically samples or prototypes. They’re cards made early on as the printer tries to get prepared to print the real deal. These cards will usually look slightly different, may have cross marks on the borders to indicate where they should be cut, etc.

Pre-war proof cards do exist and are quite valuable because they’re almost always pretty rare. Most of the time, they would be considered more valuable than a regular card. While a Ty Cobb card, for example, may be worth about $2,000, a proof could be worth five or ten times that amount.

Thus, you can imagine how these cards cut from an album being mistaken for proof cards would be a real problem. Things like album cuts and these notebook cuts certainly do have some value. However, they aren’t typically worth as much as the regular card and definitely not worth as much as something like a proof.

Nevertheless, these have often been mistaken as proofs. Sometimes, it’s a deliberate attempt by a seller to ‘get over’ on a buyer. Other times, a seller legitimately has no idea what he/she has. Regardless of intent, these have been passed off, sometimes for expensive prices, as proof issues.

What are these cards really worth? Well, if you have a uncut sheet, you’re better off keeping them intact since those can sell for over $1,000, depending on who is on the cover. Common cut cards in low-grade shape start around $20-$25. Stars can be much more, but as I said, in general, they would be worth less than the player’s regular card and far less than what a true proof card would be worth.

Keep in mind that there are possibly some legitimate proof cards of E95 and E96 out there and some have been found that differ from these notebook cover cards. However, if you’re faced with the opportunity to buy a proof card from either of these two sets and it exhibits the three features I mentioned above (smaller borders, blank back, thin card stock), chances are that the card in question is more likely a notebook cover than a true proof.

A final note here is that collectors should not take the word of third party grading companies regarding these cards. While companies now grade these as notebook cuts and not proofs, some have been erroneously graded as proofs in the past.

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