Fred Clarke ‘Pittsburgh’ Variation one of E90-1 American Caramel’s Tough Shortprints

With just over 120 cards, The E90-1 American Caramel set is an incredibly difficult pre-war set to build. It isn’t the somewhat intimidating size of it that’s even the toughest part. It’s that the set issued from 1909 through 1911 includes so many difficult shortprints.

In building this set (I’m about 15 cards short, currently), I know this first hand. About half of the set can be put together with relatively little effort. After that, you’ve got about 40 tougher cards. Beyond that, you’ve got about 20 more that are incredibly tough. There’s some overlap there and it’s a bit difficult to tell how much tougher some cards are from others. Safe to say, no two collectors would probably agree on the difficulty of certain cards. But in general, there are the easy cards, the tough ones, and the really tough ones. One of the tougher ones is a unique variation for Hall of Famer Fred Clarke.

Clarke starred primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leading the league in various categories during his career, including doubles, triples, walks, slugging percentage, and OPS. The only other team he played for was the Louisville Colonels in the late 1800s. When the Colonels became extinct, he, along with several other players, including the legendary Honus Wagner, joined the Pittsburgh Pirates.

One team that Clarke didn’t play with was Philadelphia. Curiously, most of his E90-1 American Caramel cards have Clarke as a member of the Phillies instead of the Pirates.

Now, the art on those Philadelphia cards is correct. On both versions, Clarke has the Pittsburgh name across his jersey. But on most of the cards, the Phila. name is at the bottom, abbreviated for Philadelphia.

What caused the mixup is unclear. After all, there was not another player named ‘Clarke’ with the Phillies when these cards were produced. But we do know that American Caramel fixed the mistake later. What we can also say is that it was not fixed until somewhat late because there are far fewer of the corrected cards out there.

As stated, most of the cards are the error version with Philadelphia printed on them. But some have the Phila. in the background and are overprinted with the corrected ‘Pitts.’ for Pittsburgh. All of the Pittsburgh variation cards I have seen have traces of the Phila. in the background of them, though I cannot say definitively that is the case with all of them. That is the case on my card, which is pictured here.

One question for set collectors is if the card is really needed for set completion. Well, it all depends on how you treat error cards. The card, certainly, was not intended to be a completely different card as the picture is the same on both. But because a correction was issued it is certainly a different card. While some collectors undoubtedly put the corrected Pittsburgh card into the checklist, others might not.

The Pittsburgh cards are much rarer. While PSA has graded nearly about 70 of the Philadelphia variants, they’ve only graded about 30 Pittsburgh cards. It’s a similar tale for SGC, which has graded about the same amount of Clarke cards — fewer than half are the Pittsburgh variation.

As expected, the Pittsburgh card is significantly more valuable. Low-grade Philadelphia cards start around $100 but the Pittsburgh card in the same condition starts between $200-$300.

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