In the Mail: May 2020 Edition

In the Mail is a regular feature on the site — generally bi-monthly. Here, I’ll take a look at a handful of my most recent pickups. I won’t be showing everything here, obviously, and the focus is really on showing some of the more unique stuff. I will on occasion show more common cards (i.e. T206, etc.) but really want to focus on some of the more unique or obscure cards that collectors are not as familiar with.

Here’s a look at some of my most recent pre-war pickups

Honus Wagner E90-1 American Caramel Throwing SGCBeen two months since the last In the Mail segment so figured we were about due for another one.

The biggest pickup I’ve had since then without a doubt was the rare throwing E90-1 American Caramel card of Honus Wagner. This is a set I’ve been collecting and with more than 100 cards in the 121-card set, I’m getting closer to completing it.

As I wrote here, it’s an exceptionally rare card that doesn’t really seem to get as much credit as it deserves. Even in low-grade condition, it’s a four figure card.

Still, given the prices of other cards in the set, like the Shoeless Joe Jackson rookie card, it’s probably a bit underappreciated, given the rarity. To date, PSA has graded only a total of 16 of them and it is arguably the toughest card to find in the entire set.

Speaking of American Caramel, I picked up an interesting card for the E91 set I’m also building. That set has 99 cards with 33 in each series (E91A in 1908, E91B in 1909, and E91C in 1910) and I am about 2/3 of the way through it. As I covered here, the toughest of these cards is the 1908 E91A set.

E91 Christy Mathewson

One of the keys in that E91A set is a card of Christy Mathewson.

Mathewson is one of the more valuable card in the set. He is easily the biggest name with the second probably being Eddie Plank. And frankly, it was not one I was looking all that forward to buying because it is expensive.

I was not anticipating buying this card for some time. But this very low-grade one presented itself and I couldn’t resist buying it. A good portion of the front of the card over his jersey is worn away. Additionally, Matty’s name at the bottom is mostly gone, too.

Still, it’s a legitimate Mathewson card and fills a rather important hole in a tough set. Plus, it’s also a card that could be replaced down the line.

I am mostly a set collector and my personal approach in building sets is to take a card in virtually any condition. You can always upgrade it and having a card in terrible shape is better than not having a card at all.

This was just a really nice pickup and a great way to get a very tough card out of the way.

Another pickup actually really is a good example of upgrading cards in sets I’m collecting. John McGraw T206I completed my 520-card T206 set a few years ago. Since then, I have probably upgraded about 150 cards or so in it.

I’ve been upgrading fewer T206 cards these days for a variety of reasons. First, prices on non-beaters are getting more and more expensive. Second, I’m just focused on so many other card sets that upgrading any cards in general is just not all that important to me. After all, completing new sets is much more important than upgrading existing ones.

John McGraw has four cards in the T206 set and three of my four McGraw’s were pretty low-grade. I had a chance to upgrade this version with his finger in the air and while my new card (left) still has some issues, it’s just much cleaner, despite the thin area of paper loss to the side. Plus, it has a Sovereign back advertisement and is a solid overall upgrade from what I had (card on the right).

Now, it should be known that I don’t only collect low-grade cards. Besides an insane fascination with high-grade wrestling rookie cards and also high-grade Star Wars cards, some of the pre-war stuff I collect is in nicer condition, too. Many of my cards are, in fact, in that lower Poor, Fair, Good, or Very Good area. But I occasionally like to buy nicer examples of cards I’m really interested in.

N86 Duke Perilous Occupations Baseball Umpire PSA 5I had a chance to do that recently with a really nice PSA 5 example of the baseball umpire card from the N86 Duke Perilous Occupations set.

I wrote about this card a little while ago and it’s just a very cool 19th century issue.

The set is mostly a non-sports issue from Duke Tobacco. The gist of the release is that cards depict people working dangerous occupations. The card shows an umpire being chased by angry players. Many pre-war cards, of course, featured umpires in distress. You can read more about some of those here.

While I’d had a copy of this card, it was in low-grade condition. Having one in nicer shape was something that’d been a goal of mine and I was pleased to find this one.

To the Ball Game Playing Card BlueI wrote about that card as part of the Obscure Card of the Month series. You might recall another Obscure Card of the Month was an old playing card called, ‘To the Ball Game.’

Those are actually part of a full deck of regular playing cards with the backs showing a woman in a carriage with the caption ‘To the Ball Game’ on the bottom. The words ‘Ball Park’ are also in the background.

These cards are pretty difficult to find and dating on them seems to be from the early 1900s or 1910s, though I’ve never been able to really verify that. They are printed with either red ink backs or blue ink backs.

I’d previously seen (and had) a few of the red ink back cards but had never found a blue ink one available for sale. That changed recently as I found one and quickly bought it. I cannot say conclusively that the blue ink ones are tougher to find but it seems that way from my own experience.

3M Golf Blotter 3

Another very tough card that I was able to find was another golf blotter from 3Ms 1920s series.

Like many ink blotters, these are difficult to find. They were used as a card on which excess fountain pen ink could be wiped. As a result, the great majority of them would have been discarded. But these collectibles cards do still exist and the 3M Company created a set of golf blotters in the 1920s.

I have only ever seen a few of these and that included three different ones — all of which I have in my collection. But a fourth surfaced on eBay recently and I quickly grabbed it.

It remains to be seen if four comprises the complete checklist but I kind of doubt it. Perhaps ‘doubt’ is too strong of a word. But they are so rare that it would not surprise me in the least if there were more to the series than what I have seen.

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