In the Mail: November 2020

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.

Well, I didn’t get to an In the Mail segment last month so lots of great stuff to look at in this latest update with some pickups from the last two months. I had way too much stuff I wanted to feature but I tried to keep it as brief as I could here.

My biggest pickup, without a doubt, was the Kelly-Mascot card from the T210 Old Mill set.

I’ve written about this card before and while the minor league cards of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Casey Stengel are easily the most important/valuable cards, the Kelly-Mascot card is third.

The card is distinctive because it’s the only mascot card in the set. The mascot, in this case, was a young boy, as team mascots were a lot different in the pre-war days than they are now. And given that it is in a tougher series, Series 7, it is a very difficult card to find. That one came available in an auction in the low-grade condition I could afford was just a really nice find. It’s easily one of my favorite pickups of the entire year.

There are only a handful of the cards across all major grading platforms and this one happens to be the only one graded by PSA at all.

Another very cool, very tough single that I got recently was a card I’d been chasing for quite a while.

The T88 Mutt and Jeff set is an early 20th century tobacco card set with mostly non-sports cards. But there are two very cool baseball cards in it — one is a batter for the New York Giants or Highlanders/Yankees and the other is a catcher for the Chicago Cubs.

Any cards from the set are rare but these baseball ones are particularly tough to find because they are sort of scooped up and then put into collections where they rarely see the light of day.

The Cubs card is fascinating because, as I wrote here, a variation points to a potential trademark avoidance issue. Basically, one version of the card includes the Cubs logo and mentions the Cubs by name while another one removes those references.

Here’s the Cubs card that I just recently got, along with the New York card that I’d had for a while. Both are extremely rare and PSA has graded only three of these cards total, I believe.

As you can see, mine are quite worn. But, hey, when you deal with stuff this hard to find, you basically take it in any condition you can find it.

One more really great single that I was excited about is this card from the 1884 Lawson Game set.

That set is often considered to be the first true game card set created for the sport of baseball. Despite that, cards in it are pretty affordable because they do not picture specific players. The set was sort of a landmark one with a lot of hype. As part of a way to promote it, the game’s maker actually ran a tournament with real life major league players.

While a set with blue ink backs is the most common, a more expensive set with burgundy backs was also issued. Those cards were sold for fifty cents per deck while the blue ones were only twenty-five cents. The burgundy set is much rarer and those cards are harder to find.

I’ve always liked the look of these cards and thought a graded one would be a nice addition. But I did not envision trying to get a PSA 10. They are out there just because the cards are often found in very nice shape. But they are somewhat tough to find and asking prices can be high. I found one that I really liked and added that one this week. This has the picture of the ‘striker’ (batter) on it and it’s just an incredibly nice looking card. It also has the burgundy back and that really makes it quite a find.

PSA has graded about 20 of these in a PSA 10 but they are not separated out by back type and I expect there are few burgundy back cards that were graded a perfect 10.

Fine, one final single card — you twisted my arm.

I felt bad leaving this one out because it’s a basketball card and I just get so few opportunities to add basketball cards to my collection that I almost have to spotlight them here when I do.

Shown here, we’ve got a 1936 Pet Cremer basketball card for Team USA’s basketball team. This isn’t just a picture of any Olympic basketball team — it features what was essentially the first real Team USA squad from 1936.

The team, as it would do in later years, dominated the competition on the way to winning the gold medal. Featured on the card reaching for the ball is a player named Joe Fortenberry. Fortenberry was the star of the team and this card featuring him is one of his few basketball cards.

Really great card from a really tough set.

Now, as much as I love singles, I’m really a set guy. And I made some movement in that part of my collection, too.

The N91 Duke Yacht Colors set from 1889 was one I started at the end of last year. You might even remember me mentioning it in the In the Mail article from January.

These 19th century tobacco cards made for an interesting set. They featured actresses to represent different yacht clubs around the world. What the tie is — or, more specifically, the reason for it — is not entirely clear to me. But it was one of many Duke tobacco sets produced in the late 1880s/early 1890s.

These cards weren’t something I’d typically buy. But with only 50 cards in the set and finding a bunch for $3-$4, I figured it’d be a cheap set to build. Problem is I rarely found more at that price and wasn’t following auctions close enough to keep tabs on them. I got sick of sitting on the set and found a bunch more in the $5-$6 range and bit. I did end up paying $10 or so for a few in better condition but it was balanced out a little by finding some more in that initial $3-$4 range.

Set completed. Here’s a page from my binder.

Another nice 19th century pickup resulted in more good set dealings. I picked up a small collection of Raphael Tuck Die-Cuts of soccer and rugby cards.

As I wrote here, they are essentially one big set consisting of four soccer cards and four rugby cards. I was able to pick up all of the soccer cards and just missing one of the football cards.

Unfortunately, finding the final card will not be easy. As I wrote recently, these, like the tennis die-cuts are pretty rare. Even if they are not technically rarer than the popular Tuck baseball die-cuts (I personally think they are — at least here in the U.S.), they are seen far less because they are not traded/sold nearly as much. I’ll have my work cut out for me in trying to find the final card.

Another set-related pickup was this fine lot of 1908 and 1909 Ogden Pugilists and Wrestlers.

This is an interesting set. There’s a 1915 Ogden Boxers set that looks exactly like these cards with the same style/design. I am working on that set and then had bought a lot of 1908 Ogden Pugilists and Wrestlers a while back.

I had not planned to build the second series but this grouping had some of those in it, so game on.

One more set-related pickup of note was a lot of 1893 Arbuckle Coffee Sports and Pastimes cards. I picked up some of these over the summer and then recently bought some more of them.

These are just fantastic looking cards. The America card, which has a baseball depiction is the one, if any, that collectors have usually heard of from this set. But it’s really so much more with cards featuring boxing, tennis, and more.

My favorite part about these cards is just the lithography. The images on them are really second to none. I am now up to 49/50 in the set missing only one card. If you want to see the fantastic pictures, you can see my set here.

One final oddball thing I wanted to call attention to was a set I just learned about.

These great booklets of cards are from the 1930s Amalgamated Press Sports Wallet set. ‘Booklets’ is probably the wrong word. They are booklets but the booklets are just the holders, really. Inside of those are actual cards.

The cards are paper thin and include a variety of subjects. They are not easy to find but I was fortunate enough to find a couple recently that I really wanted for a few reasons.

One, the top, was for sort of a hodgepodge of athletes. The cards I really wanted in this booklet was one for tennis Hall of Famer Fred Perry and famous English hockey player Lou Bates, who played for Wembley.

The other booklet (bottom) included athletes from movies. One really cool card that I wanted features Joel McCrea, who played a football player in a movie. There aren’t a ton of pre-war football cards (certainly not in comparison to baseball, anyway), and it was one I really wanted. But the real prize in the booklet, that I was not aware of when I bought it, was for a boxing card featuring Hall of Famers Jack Dempsey, Primo Carnera, and Max Baer. That trio appeared in a movie called the Prizefighters and the Lady.

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