The 2019 Year in Review
Here’s a look back at the news and discoveries in pre-war cards from the past year
Last year, I put together a year in review for pre-war cards and all of the news and notes surrounding them. I figured I’d take another stab at it this year.
2019 was a pretty exciting time to be collecting pre-war cards. Values were not only maintained but continued to be on the rise and, as we do every year, we continued to learn entirely new things about these amazing cards with a bunch of new finds and discoveries.
Altered Cards Scandal
Without question, the biggest story of 2019 was the altered cards scandal that was uncovered on a popular card forum, Blowout.
Many high-grade cards (and some low-grade ones, too) were proven to be altered with many of them trimmed to improve their appearance. While most of the cards technically looked better, trimming a card or otherwise altering it physically strongly decreases its value.
Third party grading companies apparently missed many of these alterations, giving these cards higher grades than they should have received, making them more valuable than they should be. The news extended beyond the card collecting community and was even covered by popular news outlets, including the Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times.
Despite the discovery of these cards, though, high-grade cards still continue to sell quite well with many collectors still willing to pay big money for them, often believing the scandal is more limited than it is made out to be.
While the scandal has faded a bit from the spotlight, it very much remains something that will be watched as we move into 2020.
Black Sox Anniversary
2019 was the 100-year anniversary of the infamous 1919 Chicago Black Sox team that conspired to throw the World Series. It was a topic discussed all year and the cards surrounding those players continue to be highly sought after. I put together a five-part series on the anniversary looking at the players’ cards. You can find those here:
- Part I: The 1919 Chicago Black Sox Remain Popular with Collectors
- Part II: Interesting Cards of Cincinnati Reds Players in the 1919 Series
- Part III: Cards of Others Associated with the Black Sox Scandal Have Drawn Interest
- Part IV: Despite Ties to Scandal, Interest for Clean White Sox Players has been Tepid
- Part V: Following Bans, Black Sox Players were Largely Forgotten in the Gum Card Era
New Discovery of 1933 Stoodleigh’s Hockey Cards
The first big new discovery of 2019 was surrounding a rare set of food cards for hockey players.
In 1933, a set of hockey cards was created for Stoodleigh’s, a Canadian restaurant. Until 2019, only four cards were known to be in the set but the entire checklist was not clearn.
A reader discovered four additional cards, which are believed to make up the remainder of the set. For the first time in many years, we now have what is believed to be the complete checklist of this rare set.
To me, this was one of the more notable discoveries of the entire year. The four new cards are shown below.
Blue T206 Old Mill Cards
2019 also saw two new reportedly blue Old Mill T206 cards.
T206 cards with Old Mill backs were generally only printed in black and brown ink. However, one with blue ink surfaced in 2012. The card likely would have been printed by mistake.
Two more of these cards with blue ink Old Mill backs are now known — one for Jack Powell (which is one of six horizontal cards found in the set) and another for Kid Elberfeld’s Washington portrait card, according to this thread. Assuming these cards are legitimate, they would generate quite a bit of interest from T206 collectors. Their rarity, however, makes it difficult to say just how valuable they may be.
Babe Ruth Shotwell ‘Card’
Major waves were made when a collector announced he had discovered a rare Babe Ruth card.
The card was allegedly a pawn shop find. It was said to contain a rare Shotwell advertising back on it. That is important because only a few Shotwell cards from this set are known. Shotwell was a candy company that produced a few sets of cards, including some rare sets surrounding football star Red Grange.
Adding to the confusion is that several news outlets reported the find, which led many non-collectors to believe in its legitimacy.
However, to date the card is believed to remain unauthenticated by any of the three major grading companies. And some markings on the card that appear identical to the same marks as found on a different Ruth Shotwell card, as outlined on the Net54 site, have led many collectors to declare the card a fake.
New Overland Wrappers Finds
The Overland Wrappers set is a series of candy wrappers that featured pictures of baseball players. The wrappers are rare as most were undoubtedly discarded upon purchasing the candy. But some were collected due to the pictures and biographies of baseball players on them.
Dating the series can be difficult but they are believed to have been printed over a period of years covering at least 1936-42.
In March, a collector reached out to me with images of two new wrappers that had not been previously checklisted for Lon Warneke and Babe Dahlgren. These players added to a set that we’re still learning more about and additional discoveries from it would not be too surprising.
Hall of Fame Adds Baseball Card Exhibit
In March, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced the opening a new exhibit called Shoebox Treasures. The exhibit is important to collectors as it features baseball cards.
Collectors visiting the museum in Cooperstown can now see a variety of cards on display. More than 2,000 are said to be featured and a baseball card wing to the Hall of Fame was something that was long overdue.
The exhibit was opened in May.
New T218 Joe Jeannette Variation Discovered
The T218 Champions set includes athletes from a variety of sports. It is probably one of the more collected tobacco card sets that does not feature athletes from any of the four major sports.
Boxing cards are key to the set and one fighter found in it is Hall of Famer Joe Jeannette. Jeannette’s card is not expensive but, starting at about $10-$15 in low-grade condition, it’s one of the more desirable boxing cards.
In the spring of 2019, a collector made a notable discovery, pointing out that Jeannette has a card with a variation that has his name misspelled on the back. The error card has only one ‘N’ in Jeannette’s last name.
To date, the error has not caused great waves in the set. But it does appear to be much tougher than his corrected card.
Abe Goldstein W512 Unchecklisted Error Found
As a collector of the W512 and W513 strip cards, I’m often on the lookout for these. The multi-sport sets are highlighted by famous athletes in all types of sports, including baseball, boxing, tennis, golf, and more.
One boxer found in the set is Abe Goldstein, a former bantamweight champion. Cards in both sets have a card number printed on them. But in the spring of 2019 while sorting through a pile of these cards, I made an interesting discovery.
While most of Goldstein’s cards have the No. 49, a rare variation does not include a card number.
More Unchecklisted Sawyer Biscuit Photos Discovered
The spring was a really busy time for new discoveries and we saw some more in another pre-war set.
The 1938 Sawyer Biscuit set checklist grew by three more with a collector stepping forward with some previously unknown ones. This collector found photos for Sugar Cain, Newell Kimball, and Red Corriden. Photos for these three were not previously known to exist in this rare set issued by Sawyer Biscuit.
Tango Eggs Ty Cobb Variation Confirmed
The 1916 Tango Eggs set is a rare food card issue. It is one of the few noteworthy sets that was issued during World War I.
The cards are pretty difficult to come by and, with the exception of a large find of them in the 1990s, they had been practically unknown to much of the hobby. Even to this date, we are still trying to sort out the checklist for them.
The set seems to mirror the 1915 E106 American Caramel card set. However, while there are 48 cards in E106, only 22 had been known with the differing Tango Eggs backs.
There are two Ty Cobb cards in the E106 set but only one, a front facing picture, had been known of Cobb to exist with a Tango Eggs back. The second had been rumored at times but not seen publicly by the majority of collectors.
That changed in June when a collector on Net54 shared an image of the second Cobb variation (the batting pose) with the Tango Eggs advertisement. The Cobb addition formally expanded the known Tango Eggs checklist to 23 cards.
eBay Baseball Card Hall of Fame Announced
In June, eBay announced its own Baseball Card Hall of Fame. The idea was to recognized players whose trading cards have ‘held the highest value and had the greatest influence on baseball’s card and collectibles world.’
Inductees included ten players total across all eras. The pre-war era included Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
While some players, like Ruth and Mickey Mantle, were entirely expected to headline the list, the group also included a few surprises with players like Ozzie Smith and Mariano Rivera also ‘inducted.’
David Hall’s T206 Collection Enters Marketplace
David Hall, founder of Collector’s Universe, has been collecting T206 cards for a long time. Most notably, Hall almost certainly had the largest master collection of the set as he strove to find every front/back combination that he could.
Hall’s massive 5,000+ card collection is being split up into several auctions. The first portion of the collection alone was said to be auctioned in July, September, and December of 2019 (per this Sports Collectors Daily article) with more cards being offered later.
The extensive collection contained numerous rarities, including not only the big names from the set but also many extremely difficult front/back combinations.
Investment Shares Sold for Honus Wagner T206 Card
In the summer of 2019, Rally Rd., an investment firm, announced plans to offer shares to collectors to invest in a Honus Wagner T206 card.
The specific Wagner T206 card was the one formerly given to the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore as part of an estate. It has been known around the hobby as the “Nuns Wagner.” The nuns then consigned the card and it was later sold for $262,900, though its value is likely greater today.
Rally Rd. estimated the value of the card to be $520,000, offering 10,000 shares for the aforementioned $52 price.
New Willie Keeler E90-1 American Caramel Card Variation Discovered
The final new discovery of the year was one that I stumbled upon in comparing E90-1 American Caramel cards.
Hall of Famer Willie Keeler has three known variations in the set and I recently found an error on one of them.
The minor find is a missing period after the American League designation on the front of Keeler’s pink background portrait card, the easiest of his three cards in the set. The error is undoubtedly a minor one but is also much rarer than his others that all have the period after the American League abbreviation.
The impact of the error won’t be known for a little while. And whether or not similar errors exist on other cards in the set is unclear (I am not currently aware of any).