In the Mail (June 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.

Ah, another month means another pile of cards added to the collection. Sticking with some of the more unique stuff, here’s a look at a few of the cards I’ve picked up this month.

Last time out, I mentioned I’d picked up the complete Felix Potin second series, issued in or around 1908. The series contained about 500 cards and while mostly sports, it did include a few key cards of athletes I’d wanted. So of course I couldn’t stop there. Turns out the seller also had complete Series 1 and Series 3 sets and, well, I bought those too. I’ve now got the complete 1,520-card set from the pre-war era.

No, I don’t plan on showing all of the cards, obviously. But here are a couple of the keys in boxing cards of Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey found in Series 3. Series 3 is really where it’s at in terms of the sports cards. It also includes a valuable card of legendary swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, most famous for being credited with the invention of the sport of surfing.

I wrote more about the athletes in the Felix Potin series here.

Speaking of complete albums of cards, I managed to find a complete Tobler card series, which consisted of 30 different six-card sets. There’s actually a second 30-set series, too, but I haven’t managed to track that one down yet.

I wrote about these cards recently, too. Unfortunately, they’re not a sports series, so collector interest in them is not as great as things like the Felix Potin cards. But they are great Swiss chocolate cards that are very difficult to come by. The series features all sorts of subjects and the cards are typically tougher to come by than the Tobler stamps are. The stamps are somewhat desirable as there were actually several series of sports subjects in those.

Alright, my two favorite pickups in the past month were a couple of baseball cards.

First is this ultra rare Baines Shield card for the Quebec baseball team. This is actually the Pre-War Cards Obscure Card of the Month, and I’ve got a full writeup on it, which you can find here.

But basically, the Baines Shield cards mostly represented soccer, rugby, and cricket teams. A handful of cards, though, represented golf and baseball.

Issued out of the UK, all Baines Shield cards are fairly tough and the golf cards are very tough. The baseball cards, however, are nearly impossible. To date, I’ve only seen one other one — a card for Montreal, which was auctioned off more than a decade ago. You just rarely see these available.

Forget my pickups in the past month — this is going to be one of my favorite pickups for the entire year, just because of the rarity.

The other baseball card is a bit more common but still a difficult pull.

This one’s an 1888 Duke/Honest Comic Characters card featuring the lone baseball subject in the set — a baseball player. There are also sports cards featuring a boxer and jockey, but the baseball card is by far and away the key. The set includes wacky images and this one has a baseball player getting hit in the eye with a ball and is titled, “Off His Base.”

If you’re familiar with 19th century cards, you know that comedy was a popular theme in baseball cards, so this one is hardly out of place. But it’s a pretty difficult card to track down and I was happy to not only find one but get one of the handful of graded specimens out there.

Just a really fantastic card.

Sticking with the baseball theme, the next one is, you guessed it, a card I’ve written about before.

While Cracker Jack is most known among collectors for their 1914 and 1915 baseball card sets, a series of postcards issued in 1907 gives us what is quite possibly Cracker Jack’s earliest baseball card.

The company issued a series of postcards of the Cracker Jack Bears traveling the globe. Most are non-sports cards but one includes the bears playing a game of baseball.

This is a postcard that’s gained a bit of popularity in recent years. Some sellers command as much as $75-$100 for it. But you can usually find it significantly cheaper with some patience.

The card is No. 12 in the set and features a batter and catcher.

Baseball was a big theme of the month, so sticking with that, I continued building my small collection of pre-war autographs with two more signed cards.

First is a 1939-46 Exhibit Salutations card autographed by Hall of Famer Luke Appling. Second is a signed 1940 Play Ball card of Hall of Famer Bob Doerr.

While I’m not only collecting autographed Hall of Famers, that’s where my focus has been. I’m also sticking with only graded and authenticated cards for the most part not only for display purposes but just for the ease of moving should I ever decide to go in that direction.

Appling and Doerr were both well-known signers. You can probably pick up modern cards signed by the two of them for around $10 or so. But as I wrote in this article, finding signatures on pre-1948 cards is much harder. They are out there — particularly on gum cards, which were popular targets of autograph collectors later on. But they are infinitely rarer than, say, autographed baseballs and what not. That’s sort of the appeal to me. I’m really not a huge autograph guy but seeing signatures on cards that are 80-100 years old is just kind of great.

The final baseball pickup of the month was a big one. I purchased a few lots of T206 cards totaling nearly 100. Typically, I wouldn’t write about something as common as the T206 cards in these pickup articles. But getting so many at once was a somewhat notable pickup for me.

Didn’t I already complete the T206 set? Yes, I did. But some of these will be used for upgrades, some are part of other trades, and some will be sold off.

Seeing this many T206 cards together never gets old. Yes, I’ve seen all of the images. And yes, I’ve got all of these cards already. But it’s still a sight to see the fantastic artwork on these cards, which ultimately lured me into the pre-war world.

I’m not sure something like that will ever get old for me.

Alright, this post can’t be all baseball — let’s hit one other cool sports card pickup.

If you’ve been following this site, you know I’ve been talking a good bit about the Stollwerck Chocolate cards lately. Recently, I’d bought a bunch and then a bunch more. I picked up another few hundred and probably have around 700 or so now.

These were chocolate cards issued out of Germany and while the majority are non-sports cards, there are actually a good many sports cards scattered in the series.’ Like other international chocolate cards, these were issued in small subsets (in this case, there are six in a subset).

Stollwercks are a bit like other pre-war cards. Similar to things like the Old Judge cards, finding any, random Stollwercks is not hard to do. But finding specific ones can be extremely difficult.

Because the sports ones are popular, they do pop up slightly more than some of the others. They’re still very difficult to find and because of that, dealers often ask the moon for them. It isn’t uncommon to see a seller asking for $100 or more for some.

I like Stollwerck cards as much as any random collector that buys off-the-wall stuff does. But I don’t like them that much.

However, when I can find them at reasonably affordable prices, I’m all in. Most of the Stollwerck sports cards I had to date were in tennis, track and field, and gymnastics, along with some other minor sports. But here, I picked up a hockey card (possibly the only one — not sure) and two cricket cards. That’s a perfect way to end the article.

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