In the Mail (March 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.

Last month I mentioned that I’d been buying some bigger cards recently. That theme continued on into February as I continue making some progress on sets. And in fact, this is probably the biggest month of buying I’ve had that I can recall in quite some time.

The biggest pickup was this 1909-11 E90-1 American Caramel card of the legendary Tris Speaker. Speaker’s cards, like other big-time Hall of Fame players, are usually pretty much in demand. But his E90-1 card was shortprinted and one of his most desirable cards ever produced.

Speaker’s cards is one of the most valuable in the set and, well, recent price hikes haven’t made it any cheaper. But to date, PSA has graded only 28 of them and it’s a card that just doesn’t come up for sale too often. In short, if you’re working on the set and you pass one up, you might not see another for a considerable amount of time.

Its a PSA 1, obviously, but I’d argue the eye appeal is quite good. It has a clean back, and the biggest flaw is really a small spot of paper loss in the background on the front. Technically, it is graded sufficiently. But otherwise, it’s a card that looks a lot closer to a PSA 2. Glad to get this one out of the way.

I’m now up to 112/120 on this set, missing only eight more (plus the Shoeless Joe Jackson rookie card that I’m not likely to be buying).

The next biggest card was an upgrade for an already-completed set.

For years, my Cy Young T205 card had bugged me. It was a real beater and while still valuable, was not pretty to look at.

After upgrading my Young portrait in the T206 set I had to do something about my T205 card. So I began looking around and, of course, hated the prices I saw. But I found one with decent eye appeal for the grade (a PSA 1MK) and couldn’t pass it up.

It’s hardly a high-grade card but it is a significant upgrade from my prior SGC Authentic one. Shown here are both cards as a comparison.

I bought the card on the left while building the T205 set and while it was lower-grade than I wanted, it filled a big hole in the set. Suddenly, that low-grade PSA 1 doesn’t look so bad.

Another big card in the month was one that killed a set for me — the 1925-28 W512 and W513 strip card set.

Most of the cards in the set are relatively affordable but two that are a bit pricey are cards for the legendary Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

I bought a Cobb a while back and got it for a much more affordable price than it is now. But I made the mistake of waiting on Ruth and the price has gone up significantly on it.

All in all, I’m pleased with this one. It’s a relatively clean looking Ruth card and while it’s not a great image, it is what it is. You’re either collecting the set or you’re not and, frankly, the Cobb in the set is significantly uglier.

More importantly than the aesthetics, I’ve now put this set to bed in probably about 3 1/2 years’ time. Realistically, though, the bulk of the set was done was before that. I’d spent the last two years on the final five cards. At 100 cards, the set is kind of a bear. But 2/3 of the set are not baseball cards and fairly to attain. The lone exception to that are really the aviators, which I’d found some trouble tracking down.

One more set out of the way.

Those three cards not withstanding, my favorite pickup of the month was one — the famous Art Whitney with dog card from the 19th century Old Judge set.

Whitney was not a star and his other cards (like other players, he is pictured on more than one card) are generally commons, this one’s special. It’s one that I’ve written about before and the appeal is that he’s pictured with this fantastic looking dog. That’s enough to turn it into a very valuable card and one that’s become really tough to find.

I found this one recently and, unfortunately, it was an SGC 1.5. I say that because it’s now been cracked out and is raw.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that cracking out low-grade cards from graded slabs is nothing new to me. I’ve outlined my ‘rules’ for doing so in the past and I’ve cracked open a few hundred graded cards — in most cases, to fit the cards into binder pages with others in various sets.

This one, though, wasn’t intentional. It was a card that was damaged in shipping and, while the seller made it right and was very easy to work with, I’m a little disappointed because it looked fantastic in the slab. But, hey, collecting is about the cards and this one is still a fantastic looking one. Quite simply, it’s one of my ten favorite cards in my collection.

Alright, enough ‘big’ cards. I also picked up a bunch that weren’t so expensive.

This one wasn’t exactly cheap but was a card I really saw and wanted to win. This is an 1887 N184 Kimball Champions card of black jockey Isaac Murphy.

Now, I had sort of tepidly had wanted one of these before but it’s a card that had fallen off of my radar with all of the other stuff I’ve been collecting. But when I saw this particular card, it was one I really had to have. The front and back are abundantly clean and, well, look at it. It’s bleeping fantastic.

Murphy is considered one of the greatest jockeys of all time. I wrote about this card and his other primary card, an N162 Goodwin Champions card, in a recent article. Both are quite difficult to find and there are all sorts of theories on that. Some collectors think that, as an African-American, his cards would have been discarded rather than kept. Whatever the reason, they aren’t easy to find and I was thrilled to get one in this nice of condition.

Another sports card I wanted to highlight was this 1935-36 Muratti card featuring basketball.

It’s no secret, but pre-war basketball cards aren’t all that common. There are some out there but, more times than not, they did not feature real players. This one is an exception as it pictures a pair of German basketball teams. That is unsurprising since the Muratti cards comprise a German tobacco set.

If you’ve heard of the Muratti’s, a somewhat obscure international set, it’s likely for the misidentified Babe Ruth card in it. Ruth is commonly said to be in this set and even graders were fooled as many of these in graded slabs state they are Ruth cards. But, as I wrote here, the card actually depicts a swimming coach that merely bears some of a resemblance to Ruth.

Graders have caught on but the problem is that many of the cards are still out there and being sold for hundreds of dollars to unsuspecting collectors who believe they are buying a legitimate Ruth. But I digress. The set does have many cool cards in it and one is this early basketball card that I was happy to find.

The final sports cards I wanted to showcase were these rather ragged looking E90-3 American Caramel cards. Issued in 1910, these are generally much tougher than the more popular E90-1 cards, also issued by American Caramel. And this set includes only Cubs and White Sox players (E90-2 featured only the 1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates).

While I am aggressively pursuing E90-1, I’m moving slower on E90-2 and E90-3 — and that’s particularly true when it comes to the bigger names. They are seen far less frequently and asking prices for them can be quite high.

I found this lot of four recently and while I would have paid what I did for them even if they were all commons, two of them are actually Hall of Famers Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers. Further, the Tinker card is the rare blue-background variant. These cards aren’t pretty to look at. They’re faded and have holes in them. But they’re for such a low-priority set for me that it hardly matters.

Those are all the sports cards I wanted to cover but I also picked up a couple of graded non-sports cards I was quite happy about.

First was one I’ve written about recently — the ‘rookie’ card of Wizard of Oz star and famous actress/singer Judy Garland. Specifically, the card is her 1939 Gallaher My Favourite Part card. Gallaher was a UK tobacco company that issued all kinds of sets. This one is part of a set of actors and actresses set where the subjects discuss their favorite role. Garland, who was quite young, naturally cited the Wizard of Oz.

I’d had a few of her cards that have been slowly climbing in value but I really wanted a high-grade one and found one in a PSA 8. Another great looking non-sports card I secured was this quality mid-grade SGC 5.5 card of Shakespeare from the Ogden’s Guinea Gold set produced near the turn of the century. That set included all sorts of famous non-sports subjects and features a great rendition of William Shakespeare.

Busy month but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled with these pickups.

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