In the Mail (February 2021)

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.

My buying over the past two months has really been sort of a blur. I’ve been spurred on to really make some bigger buys recently for a variety of reasons. Some have been individual cards I’ve wanted. Others have been to fill holes in sets nearing completion. And some have been upgrades over cards I’ve had in sets. Here’s a look at what I was up to last month.

Without a doubt, the one card that irked me in my T206 set was a poorly trimmed Cy Young portrait card. My other two Youngs in the set are not beauties but they were far better than the portrait card I’d had. If I recall correctly, it was one of the first big buys in the set that I had. The front of it is actually fairly clean with a nice image of Young. But the borders were gone and it was just one of those cards that sort of irked me.

I really haven’t been doing much with T206 upgrades but figured it was time to move on Young. I regret not doing it sooner when prices were more manageable but I found this really clean graded card of Young with a clean back.

Now, I can rest on that set for a bit. I could stand to upgrade a few other cards but that Young was the most egregious one.

While that was a nice pickup, it wasn’t the biggest one of the month for me. That honor belongs to another, much rarer Cy Young card — his Cleveland variation in the E90-1 American Caramel set.

The Young Cleveland card in the set is one of those super tough variations. The ‘problem’ in acquiring is that, not only is it a very rare card but it features one of the top names in the set.

The E90-1 set is known for all sorts of difficult variations. But many of those are of common players and when they are found in low-grade, can be had for a few hundred dollars. However, a few of those variations are of big name players like Young and Honus Wagner.

I found this card and negotiated a bit with the seller before pulling the trigger. It cleared another hurdle in this set for me and I’m now down to needing ten cards in the set (aside from Shoeless Joe, who is not likely to be pursued at the moment). So far, this was my biggest pickup of the year and knocked out a really tough one in a set that I’m starting to wrap up.

The most unique pickup of the month is one of those cool oddball deals.

I don’t collect much in the way of display pieces. For one thing, I’ve got enough stuff on my walls. For another, I don’t know, I just haven’t gone that route very much. But a pre-war publications piece caught my eye and I couldn’t pass it up.

It’s going to be hard to see from my inadequate picture but this is a 1938 Wheaties advertisement featuring Joe DiMaggio. The add broke down DiMaggio’s play in the 1938 World Series in which his New York Yankees swept the Chicago Cubs in four games.

The cartoon depictions show DiMaggio doing it all — from making a clutch play in the field to his hitting. And of course, as an advertisement for Wheaties, Joe breaks down how the popular breakfast cereal was a critical component.

I haven’t really decided what to do with this at the moment. I’m not necessarily a Yankees fan and, while it would look great framed, I’m not sure it really fits in at my house. It was just too good to pass up, though. Being a DiMaggio piece already makes it plenty interesting. But the fact that it’s one from early in his career makes it even better.

Another buy in January was this lot of 1923 Sarony Tennis Strokes cards.

The cards are one of those issues from the UK that were instructional by nature. They include pictures of former tennis player J.C. Parke performing any number of tennis shots.

I wouldn’t necessarily call these cards scarce or even rare. But they are not seen nearly as much as other sets from the 1930s are. These 1920s tobacco cards are not seen that often here in the states other than large marketplaces such as eBay. Asking a dealer for them will likely get you a confused look if nothing else.

I picked up a bunch of these a while back but sort of had paused pursuing the rest. I found this lot altogether, which included a few that I needed and pulled the trigger. I’m now up to 22 of the 25 cards in this set and hopefully can find the rest at decent prices to wrap it up.

Another pickup last month was from the world of boxing — and it was a bigger one.

Not Cy Young big, but not necessarily cheap, either. This is a 1919 Underwood & Underwood rookie card of the great Jack Dempsey.

If you look closely, you’ll see that PSA labeled this as a 1920 card. But in the boxing community, it’s mostly been accepted as a 1919 issue. That’s because this card is part of a two-card set featuring Dempsey along with fighter Jess Willard. They are believed to be promotional cards for the pair’s 1919 fight.

It’s a great card, really. It is oversized, about the size of an Exhibit card. But it is definitively not a postcard with only a blank back. And it is not merely a photograph either as it is printed on Exhibit-like cardstock. It features a really great image of a Young Dempsey, presumably just before winning the heavyweight title from Willard.

This is a card that’s, like most things, gone up in value. But I still think there’s significant room to grow on it as Dempsey cards become more and more popular and as an accepted rookie card for one of the most iconic fighters of all time.

This card didn’t satisfy a set hole but was a really nice individual pickup nonetheless.

Off into the world of hockey.

This one is sort of a confusing card. It’s a tobacco card that actually advertises a playing card. In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s (at least), British Consols inserted tobacco cards into their cigarette packages. The cards featured pictures of playing cards and if you collected a full set of them, you could receive a real set of playing cards (confused yet?).

The pictures of the playing cards were typically just standard playing cards. King of Diamonds, Three of Spades — that sort of thing. But one of them actually pictured the Joker card in the deck, which was a hockey player. Backs of these cards had a variety of advertisements for British Consols or their brands.

While I’ve seen several of these cards, they’d always featured the standard playing cards. I was having a heck of a time trying to track one down that featured the hockey player. Fortunately, I got my hands on one. While dating these cards may be tough in some cases, this one is clearly a 1926 or 1927 issue as there is a mention at the bottom stating the offer for the playing cards was good until March 31, 1927. Just a very cool card and one that was extremely tough to track down.

Another very tough card I tracked down was from a rare 1903 set.

The 1903 Scottish Clan set is mostly a non-sports set. These cards were issued by Mitchell’s and Three Bells Cigarettes and featured men from various clans in Scotland. While most in the set are not sports-related, two of them are, depicting early golfers. The golf tie-in, of course, worked quite well since the sport was invented in that country.

These cards are very tough to find. Any of the cards from the set can be considered somewhat rare but you rarely see the golf cards for sale. Fortunately, I was able to pick up one up from COMC.

I did end up paying a bit more for the card than I wanted to. But once you understand the true rarity of this set, frankly, the price I paid was probably a little underwhelming, to be honest. It is a card that if I ever sold, I would ask for significantly more. It has the look of a more inexpensive 1930s UK cigarette cards (save for the card number at the top, which was unique). But don’t let that fool you — this is a very tough issue to find here in the states.

A final card I wanted to spotlight was one that finished a set for me.

I started assembling an 1893 Arbuckles Coffee Sports and Pastimes set last year. There are 50 cards in it and, as I’ve said before, the artwork on them is simply phenomenal.

The cards, if you’re unaware of them, feature different sports and pastimes that were popular in different places around the world. It’s a theme that was used quite heavily in the early 1900s for international tobacco card sets and this one was a bit unique in that it was created for a popular coffee brand. It is important to keep in mind, though, that while the Arbuckles cards are the ones seen the most, this same set was used for many different brands, similar to other 19th century trade cards that were not exclusively used by a single company.

I’d been stuck on 49/50 in this set and finally picked up the last card I needed for Hawaii.

While Hawaii is a state now, of course, that didn’t happen until the 20th century (1959). At the time, Hawaii was an independent nation of its own.

The card, for whatever reason, seems to be quite hard to track down compared to the others in the set. It’s just a card I’ve rarely seen and when I had, the prices were a bit more than I wanted to pay. Some sellers can ask as much as $20-$30 for it and, while that is sometimes seen for the cards depicting the more popular sports like baseball, boxing, and tennis, the Hawaii card’s primary focus is on surfing.

It’s a nice looking card like the others in the set and I was glad to finally put that set to rest.

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