Confirming a New Willie Keeler E90-1 American Caramel Variation

A fourth Willie Keeler E90-1 card has been discovered

Earlier this year, I wrote about the punctuation and abbreviations used on cards found in the E90-1 American Caramel set. Fascinating stuff, I know. But as I’ve been collecting the set and nearing its completion, I began taking a closer look at the cards, noting the fluctuation in how those things were printed on the cards.

About the same time, I began sorting through images of the set provided to me by collector Wayne Delia. I’m not sure quite how I noticed it but the pink background portrait card of Hall of Famer Willie Keeler stuck out.

Keeler has had three known cards in the set — a pink background card, which is the easiest to find, and two tougher red background cards, including a portrait and a horizontal throwing card. The pink background one is the least expensive of the group but still about $100, give or take, in low-grade condition because he is a Hall of Famer.

E90-1 061A KeelerE90-1 Willie Keeler American Caramel PeriodAt any rate, the missing period at the end of Keeler’s ‘Amer’ designation (signifying he was an American League player) stuck out like a sore thumb. Most, if not all, of the other American League cards had a period after the ‘Amer’ but this one did not.

I initially attributed to this possibly being an alteration. That part of the card could have had paper loss, been whited out, or, since it wasn’t a great scan, perhaps just didn’t show up all that well. But the card looked pretty clean from the image and didn’t appear to exhibit any of those things. Wayne was not sure where the image originated from but it was not his card so he was unable to take a closer inspection.

When I first found the variation, I sort of tabled it. I looked for others briefly but did not find any, so I went about my business until earlier this week when I began looking again. I posted the question on Net54 to see if anyone else had seen one of these suckers and collector Pat Romolo wrote me to say that he found a few others in looking online, sending me some images to confirm that.

Shown in this article is the original Keeler card with the image provided by Wayne (right) and a regular one with the period after the ‘Amer’ designation (left).

Logistics and Rarity

So, how could this error/variation have occurred? It’s impossible to say, really. But the two most likely scenarios are probably as follows.

First, the period on the printing plate could simply have been obscured during some print runs. This occurred on other cards in other sets, including some cards in the T206 set, leading to deformed letters (as in the Pfeffer ‘Chicaco’ card). Another more attractive possibility is that the card was printed briefly without the period, the mistake caught, and the period added in later. That would indicate a variation in the truest sense of the word and not simply a printing mistake.

The precise rarity of this card will be hard to nail down because it has not been a tracked variation. The Dots Miller sunset card was discovered several years ago and we’re still trying to determine just how rare it is.

What can be suggested is that the Keeler no-period version appears to be pretty rare. In looking online through a few dozen scans, I did not find any others. Pat found two others, in addition to an SGC-encapsulated version of the card I pictured above. Based on that limited amount of research, it certainly is a tougher version than his other cards with the period.

Now What?

Interestingly, this technically gives Keeler four cards in the set. His three were already more than anyone else and this one helps distance himself even further.

So what’s the impact of this card? That remains to be seen. Obviously, it’s a very minor variation and is┬ánot likely to be considered as significant as the Dots Miller sunset variation that was discovered in recent years. We also can’t even definitively say it’s a true variation since a print error could be responsible. But for those collectors that insist on having every variation from every set, it could be a card they want to add. However, four things come to mind.

First, it’s from a very popular set. As far as the early caramel cards go, E90-1 is near the top in terms of collectability. That could help the long-term prospects for it. If this error was instead found in a rare strip card set, few would care.

Second, how much, if any, of a premium that is paid for it will depend ultimately on the availability of it. The Miller sunset card is much harder to find than his non-sunset variation and, as a result, it’s much more expensive. Any increased value for the non-period Keeler card will depend largely on how tough it is to find.

Third, even if the card is the result of a printing plate issue, that wouldn’t necessarily kill the value of it. After all, the Pfeffer ‘Chicaco’ T206 card, as well as some others with similar issues (Murr’y T206) have sold for very healthy amounts, despite the fact that they are cards resulting from printing plate flaws.

Finally, and perhaps most important, are these variations found on other cards? If so, that would diminish its importance, obviously. But to date, I have not heard of other cards having similar differences nor seen any checklists reflecting any such variants. It will be interesting to know if more of these sorts of variations are found on other cards and if so, which ones.

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