In the Mail (October 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.

Earlier in the year, I had sort of a crazy buying spree that lasted a couple of months. And with a deeper dive into non-sports sets, I’m sort of at that stage again. I increasingly find new, very cool stuff and it gets hard to focus on current sets I’m working on.

Things have been a bit out of control if I’m being honest. Here’s a picture of one mail day from the end of the month and, well, yeah. That might not be so bad if that was a rarity but the reality is I had several mail days like that in September. All told, I had nearly 200 packages and envelopes come in and a few of those packages consisted of more than 100 cards. It’s been bad, fam, and none of that even counts the crap I ended up with at a recent card show a few weeks ago.

The cards are, of course, great. But it’s the sorting, cataloging, etc., that’s been tough. I haven’t been able to keep up with my scanning and even the time it takes to get everything simply out of the envelopes and into binders is considerable. Not to mention, I’m running out of binder space so problems abound here in the pre-war cards world.

But, alas, we’ll live, and it’s a good problem to have, I suppose.

I made this point on Twitter but the addition of this Amelia Earhart 1934 National Chicle Sky Birds card was not only my favorite pickup last month but it may be my favorite non-baseball purchase this year.

I’ve always loved the story of Earhart but had never bothered to look into her cards much. That changed recently as I’ve dug in hard on the 1911 T38 Aviators set. That set, of course, doesn’t include Earhart. But it does include the famous Wright Brothers and the set led me to look into other aviation sets. With all due respect to the T38 set, none is probably more popular than the 1933-34 National Chicle Sky Birds set, which is about four times as large and includes many popular figures.

The card is sometimes considered to be Earhart’s rookie, depending on who you ask. Earhart actually has at least one earlier card in the 1932 Reetsma Olympia set. However, she is pictured along with four others at a ceremony and it is not a standalone card. It may be earlier but it is not as celebrated (or valuable) as her Sky Birds card.

That wasn’t the only non-sports pickup, though.

That T38 Aviators set is also one of my latest focal points.

I started paying more attention to this set as I’ve found it’s basically as rare as the T36 Auto Drivers set that is slowly starting to take off. It’s also an American Tobacco Company set and issued right around the same time period.

The set has only 25 cards but is not terribly easy to complete just because of the rarity. Two cards in particular, cards of William Wright and the Wright Brothers.

I started tearing through this set almost immediately with September seeing me nearly build the entire thing. I’m currently at 23 of the 25 cards and managed to pick up the card of The Wright Brothers, shown here.

Interestingly, in addition to this card, there is a second card of Wilbur Wright in the set. Orville, however, did not make it onto his own card. Both cards of the Wright Brothers (this one and Wilbur’s) are quite tough to find and the population reports of graded cards show us that this is a tougher set. Despite the popularity of the Wright Brothers, there are only a handful graded of each.

In the non-sports world, I’ve really started focusing on America-themed and historical type of cards, including presidents. I’ve made this point before but it bears repeating. I think there’s a good chance to see growth with many of those types of cards, which have remained quite affordable in the midst of the drastic increase we’re seeing in sports cards.

One of the many pickups last month I had in that regard was a really gorgeous cabinet card of the assassinated 20th century president, James Garfield.

Cabinet cards are sort of another new interest of mine. I picked up one of Hall of Fame champion James Jeffries a while back and have been on the hunt for more since then.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, these are part card, part photograph. Cabinets are typically real photos of subjects that were affixed to cardboard to create a sort of display card. Many of them out there picture unknown subjects as families often had them created of themselves, even if they weren’t famous. But some do indeed feature famous subjects, including athletes. Cabinets of baseball players, of course, are quite popular and expensive.

They can range in size with some smaller ones the size of modern baseball cards and larger ones the size of an 8X10 photo or whatever. Many are perfectly manageable, though, and in that 5X7 range.

Speaking of cabinets, another one I added was one of the legendary boxer John L. Sullivan.

Sullivan was quite the figure in the 19th century. He was regarded as the last of the bare knuckle champions and the first of the new champions of gloved fighting. A lone defeat at the hands of James Corbett is the only true blemish on his record. And he participated in some of the most well-known fights of the 19th century, including a reported 75-round fight against Jake Kilrain.

I’d wanted a Sullivan cabinet for some time and the good thing is that they are fairly common. No, don’t expect to head to your local card shop that’s busting Panini packs and expect to see one there. But if you’re looking for them, eBay typically has a dozen or so.

Some of Sullivan’s cabinet cards depict him as a fighter but many simply have him in plain clothes, such as this one that I picked up here.

So, if you’ve been following the site news, you know that in the past month, I’ve been working pretty heavily on a site addition to feature even more sets. I’ve added sets for many new sports, including track and field, auto racing, cycling, aviation, billiards, swimming and diving, and more. Included in that ‘more’ is lacrosse.

Pre-war lacrosse cards are not common by any means. I’ve been able to find only three dedicated lacrosse sets so far, in fact. And talking with lacrosse card guru Todd Tobias, he also knew of no others. But the three are somewhat big ones and were issued by Imperial. Imperial Tobacco in Canada (which also is believed to have created the C46 baseball card set) was the maker of all three sets (C59, C60, and C61), dating to roughly 1910-12.

The sets don’t get much love but are gaining steam a bit, thanks to a surge in modern lacrosse cards. I’ve always wanted a few of these but the sets (248 across all three sets) are pretty rare and make a go at any of them very tough.

Interestingly enough, the set is sort of a hotbed for early hockey cards, too, as many early hockey players also played lacrosse (both were Canadian sports). Several hockey players, headlined by Hall of Famer Newsy Lalonde, are found in these sets.

Last month, I managed to pick up ten of these cards. Some are shown here but the real highlight was a unique error card with an upside down and miscut back, that I wrote about recently. It is the only such error in any of the three sets that I’ve seen to date.

Speaking of freak/misprint cards, many of you know I’m quite fond of those. I wouldn’t say it’s an emphasis in my collection but, well, I’ve got more than a few of them. Blank backs, print errors, and the like are always cards I love to see and I pick them up when it makes sense.

I recently purchased a lot of some 1935 Goudey baseball cards recently. Now, this is a set I completed some time ago, but I’ll always buy up duplicate gum and tobacco cards when they’re cheap enough and I’m looking for something to do. So I bought some Goudeys recently and as I was putting them into the binder, I found this very cool looking one that I didn’t notice until just then.

The card is one for the Red Sox and even features Hall of Famer Joe Cronin. But the printing on it was all wrong and you can see the result — a pretty wild color shift.

The back is normal and it’s not hand cut, so I don’t think the card was an unissued scrap, per se. But the card is fascinating to me because, while these sorts of mistakes made their way in earlier tobacco/candy cards (and significantly more in strip cards), you see them much less frequently in the later gum cards in the 1930s with quality control seemingly much better. Sure, you see registration issues, etc., in those cards. But seeing this kind of error in such a late set is not common by any means.

Another unique card was scooped up that I wanted to mention, since it was a rare football issue. And frankly, I don’t get the chance to buy a ton of football.

In the 1920s, Amatller Chocolate created a set of actors and actresses called Artistas de Cine. Based in Barcelona, Spain, Amatller created all sorts of sets in that decade, including some boxing and tennis cards.

This set features movie stars but a few of them are sports cards, of a sort. Reginald Denny’s card, for example, portrays him as a boxer, which fit because he was also an amateur fighter. Another card depicts actor Walter Hies, who is shown golfing. But one card depicts Harold Lloyd as a football player.

Lloyd is somewhat known in the sports world as he appears on some cards with Babe Ruth from acting in a film together. Here, he is depicted as a football player since he starred in a movie called “The Freshman,” where he was in that role. It’s a very tough card in a very tough set that you rarely see and once I saw it, I knew I had to have it.

A while back, I mentioned the T36 Auto Drivers set that I’ve been working on. Not much progress made on that front (though I did add one card last month) but that led me to another pursuit — the T37 Automobiles set. I was quite busy last month and picked up many singles as you can see here.

This set isn’t quite as rare as the T36 set is. And while all of the cards have drivers and are not just automobiles, the people featured are generic, unnamed subjects. The focal point is certainly on the cars themselves as opposed to the drivers.

Many recognizable car brands, such as Ford, Oldsmobile, Buick, Fiat, etc. are found in it. But it’s also a mix of ‘regular’ cars and cars used for sport/racing. Fans of F1 will enjoy cars of brands such as Mercedes and Renault, for example.

The cards are easier to track down than the T36 set but they are not abundant, either. In lower-grade, they typically start in the $7-$10 range but some of the more popular names or rarer cards can be significantly above that. It’s also a 50-card set as opposed to the 25 cards found in T36.

But honestly, much of September was spent pursing American Tobacco Company non-sports sets. And let’s just say there was a lot of pursuing going on.

Here’s a picture of some of these cards taken from that aforementioned card show, just as a reference point of some of the sets. But I had a couple hundred come in the mail last month from several new sets, including the T118 World’s Greatest Explorers set, T30 Arctic Scenes set, T77 Lighthouses set, T53 Cowboy Series set, T73 Indian Life in the 60s set, and T29 Animals set.

These sets were all issued from around 1909-11, the same time American Tobacco Company was issuing the T206 baseball cards. The number of sets they created in that time period was not only astonishing but gives you an idea of just how popular tobacco cards were at that time. I’ve managed to complete three of these sets so far (T53, T118, and T30) and that also gives you an idea to the ease of which they can be handled. If you’re looking for some easy set builds of old cards, these sets are well worth a look.

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