A Study of the Rarity of E90-1 American Caramel Variations
Some variations of players in the popular set are rarer than others
As was the case in many sets, some players in the E90-1 American Caramel release were featured on more than one card. A couple of things are interesting about that fact in this set.
First, many players receiving this treatment were not superstars. Often, manufacturers would create more than one card for popular players that were stars — almost certainly to encourage consumers to buy more of their product. Some players in the E90-1 set with more than one card certainly were big names, such as Honus Wagner and Cy Young. But others like Kitty Bransfield, Harry Howell, and Roy Hartzell were undeniably inconsequential. Most variations were also not the result of team changes.
To give us an idea of rarity of certain card variations that players have, I’m using pop reports from third party graders. Unfortunately, using SGC’s data wasn’t feasible here since it was all over the place with some card variations not even identified. So we’re using data from PSA and Beckett.
Bransfield has two variations that are generally known as the ‘P’ and ‘No P’ cards based on his jersey which has a ‘P’ on some. The images are two completely different ones and the other notable thing is that the ‘No P’ variation has a pink background.
Interestingly, the ‘No P’ variation is often pushed as the much tougher of the two. But pop reports show the two variations to be about equal with only a few more of the ‘P’ cards graded to date.
Out of curiosity, I also checked eBay, which actually shows eight total ‘No P’ cards of Bransfield vs. only two ‘P’ variations. The idea that either is significantly rarer does not seem to be the case at all as pop reports indicate a pretty even split.
Clarke’s pose on both of his E90-1 cards is the same. But one version is an error listing him with Philadelphia when he played for the Pirates instead.
The mistake was ultimately corrected but not until many cards with the Philadelphia name were issued. The Philadelphia version is much more common with about twice as many graded of those than the Pittsburgh cards.
Gibson has two fielding poses in the set that are distinguished by the view of the image. One is a front-facing view of the catcher while the other is a back view.
Both are pretty tough cards in the set with only a little more than 40 graded by PSA (none by Beckett) of both variations combined. But it’s the back view that is much tougher with only 14 graded copies to date.
Two Hartzell cards are found in the set with one being a batting pose and the other, a fielding pose. It’s the batting pose that is much rarer, accounting for only about 1/4 of the 88 PSA and Beckett cards to date.
I don’t see much love for the Hartzell batting card compared to some of the other variations. But compared to his fielding pose, it’s significantly tougher and probably a bit of an underrated card.
Howell’s cards tell a similar tale as Hartzell’s. He has two pitching poses – a wind up card with his glove up and one where is throwing the ball. Of the 95 graded PSA and Beckett copies, fewer than 1/4 are the wind up variety.
Howell’s wind up card gets more credit as a tough one than Hartzell’s batting card does. Still, given how few there are compared to his action shot, it’s probably on the underrated end as well.
The two Joss cards get quite a bit of attention from collectors because of his stature. The Hall of Famer has both a portrait and action pose and both are valuable.
While it’s ugly, his action pose is the tougher find. While more than 100 of his portrait cards have been graded, the horizontal throwing pose has only been graded 40 times by PSA and Beckett. As expected, it’s generally the more expensive card, too, sort of bucking the trend of portrait cards selling for more than action poses in some sets.
Keeler is the only player with three cards in the set.
Some will argue that only two were intended. His portrait card has the same picture but is found with both pink and red backgrounds. It isn’t known if that was intentional or not but they are two distinctly different cards. A third variation is a horizontal throwing pose.
The ‘throwaway’ of the group, if there is one, is the pink background version. That’s by far the most common and has been graded nearly three times as much as each of the other two.
But the horizontal throwing pose and the red background portrait cards are the real finds. Both are pretty tough and have been graded about the same (there are slightly fewer red background portrait cards) with about 25-30 copies of each combined by PSA and Beckett.
Leach is a deceptively tough subject in the set and that goes for both of his variations. Both throwing and batting cards exist for him and with only 41 cards graded combined by both PSA and Beckett, it’s easy to see that he’s one of the tougher commons.
Both are tough but the throwing variation is a bit more difficult.
Miller’s variation is one of the more intriguing ones in the entire set.
Miller was surely intended to have only one card but has two as a second variation was discovered only a few years ago. Most cards have Miller against a blank yellow sky background but some cards have a red sunset added to match those found on some of his other caramel cards with the same picture.
Because grading companies only recently began cataloging this ‘sunset’ variation, we can’t say for sure how it compares to the other one. But the version with the sunset is undoubtedly rarer and hardly ever seen.
Anyone finding the sunset card before it was recognized has done quite well for themselves. Today, it can cost hundreds of dollars … and that’s even when you can find it, which isn’t too often.
Stone has two cards in the set with both being fielding poses. They are distinguished as one has one of his hands showing in the picture with the other showing none as both hands are outside of the card’s boundaries.
The ‘one-hand’ version is the far tougher one with about four times as few copies having been graded.
Wagner is arguably the biggest name in the set and both of his cards are plenty expensive.
The Hall of Famer has a batting pose and a throwing pose and few collectors could probably tell you that the throwing pose is much tougher. Out of only 57 total cards graded to date by both PSA and Beckett, only 16 have been with Wagner’s fielding pose on them.
Either way, don’t look for any bargains on either card. Aside from a few cards, such as the iconic Joe Jackson rookie card, these are among the more valuable cards in the entire set. Even in low-grade condition, graded ones of the easier batting variation are nearly impossible to find under $1,000.
Young has two cards in the set but, unlike most players on this list, his covers time spent with two different teams.
Young has a portrait card with Boston and also a side action shot with Cleveland. We know the Boston cards were printed earlier as he played for that team in 1908, presumably as this set was being put together. Young joined Cleveland for the 1909 season and those cards would have been produced at some point after the Boston cards.
Some might point out that Young also pitched in Boston for part of 1911, which is also when this set is believed to be have ended. But that team was the National League Boston Rustlers while these cards feature Young as a member of the American League Boston Red Sox.
The interesting thing is that you’d expect there to be more of Young’s Cleveland cards since he joined that team early in the production of this set but that’s not the case. While more than 100 of Young’s Boston cards have been graded by PSA and Beckett, only 27 of his Cleveland cards have been graded. That hints to those cards being printed later in the overall run of the set as opposed to early when he first joined the team. The company, apparently, was in no great rush to create a different card for him. An easy fix would have been to change only the team name on his Boston cards and obscure the logo on his shirt — both of which seem like relatively easy to do.