In the Mail (September 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.

Truth be told, my buying probably dipped a little last month? I say that as a question because it’s more of a guesstimate. But I suggest that’s true just because I’d kind of been on a buying spree with the National at the end of July/beginning of August.

Those early August buys won’t be repeated here and the rest of the month was fairly light, by comparison. But there was still a lot of new stuff I picked up and, as usual, I’ll hit some of the more unique stuff here.

My favorite pickup was probably this 1903 Tetlow trade card featuring Princeton basketball. If you’re unfamiliar with this set, it’s a small issue of only four cards featuring women playing sports while representing different colleges and universities. The basketball card is the critical one and, while the T51 Murad Williams card is often seen as the first basketball card, this one was released about 6-7 years earlier.

It’s slightly oversized and sometimes regarded as more of a photograph. But it is also definitively printed on card stock so, draw your own conclusions. At the very least, it is one of the earliest basketball collectibles and one that is, like other pre-war things, heading upward in value.

Another rare, non-traditional card pickup was this 19th century stereoview card of two children, depicting the famous boxing match between John Sullivan and James Corbett.

The fight was Sullivan’s only defeat as Corbett went on to win the historic fight in 21 rounds.

This stereoview card (when viewed in a proper stereoscope viewer, it would appear as a 3D image because the two pictures are nearly identical but slightly different) is similar to another one produced by the Keystone View Company. That card, also in my collection, features two children in a similar way — mimicking the iconic bout. But that card has an 1892 date (the year of the fight) while this new one has an 1891 copyright date, likely used to promote the fight between the pair.

No, the cards obviously do not feature Sullivan and Corbett themselves. But their names on the mean that these cards sell for significantly more than they otherwise would.

Sticking with these weirder types of sports cards, another nice pickup was this group of five 19th century trade cards.

I recently wrote about these cards but little is known about them. They are die-cut cards, measuring about 6″ tall. Children are pictured in varying outfits standing on top of an assortment of athletic balls. Two of the balls have a baseball design while the other three look more like vintage basketballs or just more generic sports balls.

These specific ones have stamped advertisements for the New York Coffee Company on the front and backs are blank.

You can read more about the cards here in my recent article.

Okay, let’s jump to a few sets because that’s really what my collection focuses mostly on.

A pair of sets I’ve really gotten into in the past month are the 1910 American Caramel Prize Fighters boxing sets (E75 and E76).

As I wrote earlier, these sets are pretty similar and even include most of the same fighters and pictures. But they are two different 20-card sets and while not exactly rare, they are definitely not all that common, either.

So far, I’ve made quick work of the sets and am halfway done with them already. But the cards are a bit tough to find and prices have been on the move. The crown jewel of the sets is a card of the legendary Jack Johnson and that one has eluded me so far.

I’ll get there on this set but it might take a little while to complete.

But what I’ve really been getting more into are American tobacco non-sports sets. There are plenty of international non-sports sets I’ve grabbed over the years but the American tobacco ones are, by and large, rarer. And there are some cool topics out there.

One of the sets I’ve really been intrigued by is the 1911 T68 American Tobacco Company’s Men of History and Heroes of History set.

This is one large two-series set that features famous men and women. It’s got presidents, businessmen, world leaders, and all sorts of famous individuals.

I started by picking up a large lot and then have added a few more since then. I’m up to roughly 2/3 of the 100-card set but expect this will take a little bit of time, too. The cards do appear for sale but are not wildly common, which typically means making some tough choices about what you want to pay for them.

A second non-sports set I’ve been focused on is the 1910-11 Types of Nations set.

Known as T113, this is a far less intimidating set than T68 for a few reasons. For one thing, there are only 50 cards. For another, the men pictured in it are not famous or even depictions of known people. Rather, this is a set picturing men around the world wearing traditional clothing for their particular country.

The cards are typically less expensive, too, which helps. I picked up a fairly large lot, missing only a few for a complete set. I then bought two additional lots and, just like that, completed one set, am only a few cards shy of a second, and about halfway through a third. It’s not a difficult set to complete — particularly if you can get a head start by picking up a bunch at once.

And while I’m largely a low-grade collector, the great news is that my first set features cards that are in great shape. The ones shown here were the ones I purchased first and most have been relegated to my ‘third’ set.

Keys for domestic collectors are two American cards. One is a card depicting a Native American and a second is a businessman shown in a suit. The Native American card, in particular, is probably the most sought after card of the set.

These are still pre-war cards so you’re not going to find them in every card shop. But they are plentiful on eBay and can even be spotted on occasion at card shows where there are some vintage dealers.

A pair of final pickups I was quite happy with were these c1915 Obsequio de Susini tobacco sports cards.

These are very difficult cards and I was fortunate enough to find a seller with both. The entire Obsequio de Susini tobacco card set covers a grand total of 1,300 cards. Most are non-sports cards focused on all sorts of things. 1,000 are dedicated to war in Europe and ‘peculiarities.’ But the set also includes celebrities, transportation, and types of dances.

The smallest subset (along with the subset of dances) consists of 50 cards and is dedicated to sports. Two of the more popular cards are these shown here for American football and golf.

The football teams are not identified but the same picture was used more than a decade later in the Sports and Games in Many Lands set, first issued in 1929.

This wasn’t my first foray into this set. A few months ago, I picked up one of the three baseball cards in the set. But while I’d love to find more of the sports cards, they are just a very difficult find.

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