Cy Young’s Confusing E90-1 American Caramel Cards

Like several players in the E90-1 American Caramel card set, Cy Young is one that graces the cover of more than one card. It’s quite possible that Young could have gone the way of Ty Cobb and had only a single card, but a late-career team change is the culprit here.

Young’s far more common variation is the one in which he appears as a member of the Boston Red Sox. A much rarer one is one that came after he moved to the Cleveland Naps. While his career began in Cleveland with the Spiders, Young would head to Boston after two years in St. Louis. Young would star with the Red Sox (known as the Americans for most of his time there) through 1908. But in 1909, Young went to Cleveland, where he’d remain until 1911 when he went to the Boston Rustlers for 11 final games.

On its own, that doesn’t really raise an eyebrow. But it should in context to the American Caramel set.

Why? Well, because that set is believed to have been issued from 1909 through 1911. That would mean Young was with Cleveland during those years, not Boston. But curiously, most of his cards that were printed were his Boston cards, not Cleveland. The obvious question, of course, is if the cards did not start to be issued until 1909, why was Young pictured with Boston to begin with?

The likely answer to that is that the artwork would have certainly been done already. And if the cards were issued early enough in 1909, Young could have still been a member of Boston (he was traded in February of 1909, according to SABR). But, in any event, Young was clearly a member of Cleveland by the time the cards were first produced. Instead of fixing the change early, though, they simply continued churning out Young cards showing him in Boston. We know that the change to a Cleveland card did not come until much later because there are so few Cleveland cards out there.

Shown here are both of the cards — the Boston card is a simple portrait while the action card of Young throwing the ball is a much cruder rendition that barely looks like him but the image is reminiscent of another Cy Young card — more on that in a bit.

Fred Clarke, Anyone?

The interesting thing is that American Caramel did not try to fix the issue. Cards go uncorrected all the time, but the company did fix another problem they had in the set with their cards of Hall of Famer Fred Clarke.

Clarke played with the Pittsburgh Pirates and while he is wearing a Pittsburgh jersey, the company mistakenly printed that he was a member of Philadelphia — a team he never played with.

American Caramel didn’t try to fix the picture on Clarke’s card. Instead, they opted for a cheap fix, which was to overprint the Philadelphia name with the Pittsburgh name (I wrote about this card in an article here).

So why didn’t American Caramel do a similar thing with Young’s card and simply change his team name at the bottom of his Boston cards to Cleveland?

One interesting there that sort of applies here should be noted. In that case, American Caramel did not make the Clarke change until late. We know that because there are very few of the Clarke Pittsburgh corrected cards — just as there are very few of the Young Cleveland cards. It is quite possible that those changes were made simultaneously and that the reason they did not overprint his team name was because they gave him the entirely new Cleveland card.

I suppose American Caramel simply did not care much about the Clarke error or the Young card. They simply took their time and made them a part of later printings. While the Clarke mistake could have slipped by them, Young’s move from Boston to Cleveland would not have — especially given his stature in the game. So they distributed the Boston cards and chalked it up to poor timing. And they rewarded collectors with an entirely new card of Young instead of the cheap overprint fix that Clarke’s cards received.

Irv Young?

Another interesting twist with the Cleveland card is that some collectors believe it actually pictures Irv Young as opposed to Cy. Here’s Irv on a T206 card, by the way.

The Irv Young/Cy Young issues are many in pre-war landscapes. In short, Irv was another pitcher with the last name of Young that, confusingly, sometimes went by the name Young Cy Young. His picture was used for several cards that were supposedly depicting the more popular Cy Young.

At first glance, the picture seems to mirror the one used for Young’s card in the T3 Turkey Red set, as this Net54 thread points out. But, on the other hand, this thread mentions an old newspaper photo (that I could not find) that shows the picture is Irv’s. Interestingly, that image reportedly called Young by his ‘Young Cy’ nickname and if that image was used to create Cy’s E90-1 American Caramel card, that could have been the point of confusion for the artist.

Regardless of whose picture was used to create the card, that isn’t really my focus here. Instead, the question could be raised that, if it was a card that pictured Irv, American Caramel simply limited production on it because it showed the wrong player.

Personally, though, I don’t think that’s it. After all, the Wagner batting card is limited just as much, if not more so, and that one is not believed to contain any sort of mistake. And given how long the company seemingly waited to fix the Fred Clarke card, an image error where the picture is merely an art depiction doesn’t seem to be something they’d be too concerned with.

I think both cards were merely printed late in the run for this set and were simply printed in much smaller quantities.

Rarity and Pricing

So, we know that the Cleveland cards are much rarer than the cards depicting Young with Boston. But how many more of the Boston cards were printed?

Well, we don’t know for sure. But the population reports of graded cards make it clear that Young’s Boston cards were certainly the more populous ones. PSA, for example, has graded nearly 120 of his Boston cards. By comparison, they’ve graded only about 25 of his Cleveland variations. It is likely that Young’s Boston cards were printed about four or even five times as much. Young’s Cleveland card is one of the most difficult cards to track down in the entire set.

In terms of price, today, a low-grade Boston card starts around $800 while the Cleveland card usually starts around $1,200 or so.

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