Buried in a pre-war lot, this Red Murray card provides plenty of intrigue

This caramel card oddity leaves a lot of questions with no real answers

Recently, I found three rare, blank-backed caramel cards. But unique as those cards may be, they’ve got nothing on this latest find in level of oddity.

Ever see a card and had an idea of what it was but couldn’t immediately place it? I get that feeling a lot with pre-war cards where pictures were used repeatedly in many sets. For example, I’ll see a card and maybe remember an image but unable to remember exactly what set it was from. But a recent pickup was even weirder than that.

Buried in a mixed lot of pre-war cards was a rather unique card. It was essentially a card with a single ink run (of red) and the appearance of a clear scrap. Thing is — even in that anonymous state, I knew exactly what the card was. It was a batting pose of Red Murray.

Murray was a borderline star and even led the league in home runs in 1909. He found his way into a good number of early tobacco and candy card sets, but for the most part, his cards typically sell as commons.

The Front of the Card

I’d known this card,  even in its barely begun state. At least, I knew the image and that it was Red Murray.

I knew instantly it was from a candy card set but was not sure which one immediately. The same pose is used in at least a couple of early candy sets — E94 George Close Candy and the E97 C.A. Briggs set. It’s also found in the M131 Baltimore News set since that release includes the same pictures/checklist as found in E94.

Some might point out that it is the same image found in the T206 set. And while that is true, the images are slightly different in that set and the two candy cards. This one is clearly the candy card image and not one from the T206 tobacco cards, even though it is the same picture.

Shown here is a T206, where the image of Murray is larger, a regular E94 candy card of Murray’s, and the — whatever it is I managed to purchase.

The card looks like a good old fashioned scrap but in even a more raw form than you find those. Part of the red ink background has been applied but that’s all. There’s no other color ink and no name or any other print on the front. It is undeniably the same image, of course, only without all of the other ink for the front.

Also of note is that the card has been affixed to a cardboard backing, similar to the Old Judge cards or other 19th century issues. The reason for that is unclear, of course. But it adds to the weirdness.

Also notable is the back.

The Back of the Card

It would be hard to top the uniqueness of the front. But the back is also abundantly weird in its own right.

The back has several different elements. There are two stamps on it — one of which reads, “All Cards Genuine No. 423” with the second reading, “Don’t Soil or Tear Value.” Someone has written a few things in fountain pen, which deserve a closer look.

First, there’s a name scrawled across the back — it looks like Richard Montague. That was common, of course, as collectors often added their names to the backs of cards to show ownership and there are even other examples of Montague’s name appearing on other early tobacco and candy cards.

There’s also a handwritten “Gasper Cinn.” That appears to be a nod to former Reds player Harry Gaspar — also a player from the era. But why his name is added here is unknown.

Again, what is this? Beats me. But it does not appear to be any sort of modern work for a few reasons. The ink on the back looks like fountain pen. The stamps appear older and are quite faded. And the addition of Gaspar’s name seems to date it to the period as he was an active player when the E94 and E97 cards were issued. Finally, the context in which the card was acquired is important. The card was not found sitting in with a collection of modern cards. It was in a grouping of pre-war and other early post-war vintage cards.

These things are always difficult to prove conclusively but all of the signs point to the card being a scrap of sorts with Murray’s card front not being properly printed, then attached to cardboard.

Beyond that, we’ve got a mystery. I’ve never seen a similar card and no Google searches seemed to be a match for those stamps. Hopefully more information presents itself down the line because I think it’s a fascinating card.

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