In the Mail (November 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.
Well, the year is almost over and I seem to be trying to end it in the way that it began. In January, I sort of went on a bit of a buying spree. And while I haven’t been buying thousand-dollar cards lately, I’ve still been spending good money. Some here, some there, and it’s definitely been adding up.
But the good thing is that, some really great pickups have been quite inexpensive by comparison. I get joy from buying a card that’s $10, just as I do spending a lot more on a card.
That said, my favorite pickup last month was not a cheap one. I’d written before about the N557 Little Rhody American Baseball card and it’s one of my absolute favorites. That card may be my favorite baseball card of all time but a similar, much rarer one had eluded me for years.
The 1888/1889 N285 Buchner Morning Glory Maidens card of a female baseball player has a similar motif but is harder to find. I’d been looking for one for years and always came up empty. A raw one surfaced on eBay a while back with an asking price of $1,000 but I was hesitant to spend that much on one that I wasn’t sure if it would even secure a numerical grade. That, of course, is not usually that important to me. But that’s a lot of money to play for a lithographic card of a player that is not even a real subject. So I passed.
Fast forward to last month and I won this card in an auction. Not only is it graded, it’s the highest-graded example out of all of the major graders, PSA, SGC, and Beckett. Heck, there are only a handful graded period. Forget my favorite pickup of the month — this is one of my, say, top five pickups of the year. It’s a card that, frankly, I wasn’t sure I’d ever find.
A cheaper 19th century buy was a group of Newsboy cabinet cards.
Actors and, in particular, actresses, were featured on all sorts of 19th century cards and collectibles. They were featured on many cigarette cards and also on larger cabinet photos, such as these.
Cabinets are essentially a type of display photograph. They are photographs that are mounted onto a cardboard backing and were then put on display in a house or store on a counter or china cabinet. Most are roughly 5″ x 7″ or 6″ x 8″ but they can vary quite a bit in size with smaller and larger ones. These particular ones were issued by Newsboy, who also issued cabinets of baseball players. This lot that I purchased here were for their cabinets of actresses, including Lillian Russell, who was one of the more popular actresses from the 19th century.
These weren’t the only cabinets I bought last month. Also in the mail was this one of legendary baseball player Cap Anson.
The cabinet is not from Anson’s playing days. However, it’s a wonderfully clear post-career image of him with the photograph mounted onto cardboard. It’s a less formal cabinet with no company name on it.
The image features Anson relaxing in a full suit while sitting in a chair. In digging for more images of him, I’ve found a similar one here, showing him presumably in the same suit and chair. The one shown here from Wikipedia states that the image is from 1907, when he would have been 54 or 55 years old.
Anson stuff is getting quite expensive and a cabinet from his playing days will run a few thousand dollars. While I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to trying to buy something like that, it certainly isn’t a priority given the number of sets I’m trying to complete. So something like this, which was significantly less, was a nice option. And the fact that the image is so crystal clear made it an easy buy.
Alright, let’s get into the 20th century, shall we?
The last couple of years, I’ve really expanded the type of cards I’m collecting. I’m not really jumping into the memorabilia or collectibles market because there’s only so much you can do. But in the last year, I’ve gotten into collecting other sports and even a whole slew of non-sports cards.
One thing I’m looking a bit more at are pre-war Japanese baseball cards. While there are a great many Japanese baseball cards, there really aren’t a ton from the pre-war era. So I’ve tried to take a look at what’s out there and picked up this set of 1930s Menko cards.
The cards don’t name real players but do picture actual teams in Waseda and Keio universities. This is actually a complete set and I thought it was a great way to add to my collection. And ultimately, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be cataloging those sets on this site once I get some time.
Speaking of ‘newer’ stuff that I’m collecting, among that group are aviator cards. And in particular, I’m very intrigued by cards of Amelia Earhart.
One of Earhart’s earliest cards is her 1932 Reemtsma Olympia card, where she is pictured in a group of people that also included Olympic swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku. The card is part of a series dedicated to the Olympics and was issued out of Germany.
The cards are paper thin and were meant to be affixed into albums. One of the more unique aspects is that the set was reprinted in 1936 and the cards are often confused. The backs, however, make it quite easy to determine which year a particular card is from because the 1936 cards mention a 1936 date.
I purchased these two card that were both advertised as 1932, even though I knew one was from 1932 and one from 1936.
Earhart may have an earlier card and trying to pinpoint a rookie for her is not exactly clear cut as she has some cards identified only as 1930s issues. But it’s certainly one of her earliest cards at a bare minimum.
Speaking of aviation cards, I also purchased a complete set of the 1911 T38 American Tobacco Company Aviators.
You might recall that I previously was working on completing a set. But while there are only 25 cards in it, it is not an easy set to build with the cards being somewhat rare. And even though I was nearly complete on a set, I was missing two cards, including one of the more valuable ones of Wilbur Wright (shown here).
So when I saw the chance to buy a complete set with the tough Wright card already in it, I jumped at it. But that wasn’t all. Shortly after that, a Wright card came up for sale individually. Knowing how hard the card was to find, I bought that one, too. So now I’ve got a complete set and am one card shy of a second set.
I’m really in love with this set and, along with the T36 Auto Drivers set, also issued by the ATC, it’s one of those really underappreciated sets that’s extremely rare and finally starting to get more attention in the recent card boom.
Yet another somewhat ‘new’ sector for me is autographs.
I’m only dipping my toes into he autograph market for a few reasons. First, I’ve got too many traditional cards I’m trying to buy. And second, I’ve always these sorts of autographs from the pre-war era with a good degree of skepticism. So I’m really trying to stick with autographs that are authenticated by PSA or JSA or some other reputable source and, trust me, you don’t don’t need to tell me that even those are not fool proof.
So while I’m inclined to avoid the really expensive stuff when it comes to autographs, I’m perfectly willing to add a few that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
I’m mostly only interested in Hall of Famers or star players, but the most recent one I picked up was of Luke Sewell, which sort of tests that limitation. Sewell was an all-star but only in 1937. He was a solid player but I’m not sure he would be classified as a true star all that much. Still, this one was affordable and came nice and slabbed/authenticated, so in the binder it goes.
Okay, moving on. There are some cards that, no matter how many I have, I can’t get enough of. I suppose most collectors have those sorts of cards — cards that they keep buying even if they already have them.
When I mention that to most people that know me well, they often will bring up my love of the T218 Champions cards. I’ve got a complete set of those, a nearly complete second set, and probably about half of a third set. But another set that sort of fits that bill for me is the 1910 T220 Mecca Prize Fighters set.
This set features a total of 50 boxers, though, given the full name (Champion Athletes and Prize Fighters), it was seemingly intended to contain other types of athletes.
The set includes boxers from across all eras up to that point in time. There are cards of some of the earliest fighters in the 19th century and they go right up to the present day stars, though the legendary Jack Johnson is MIA. That’s sort of a shame but it also helps keep the price of the set down. A full, low-grade set typically starts around $300-$500 and if Johnson was included, that number would likely have doubled at least. But it remains somewhat affordable, even though prices have certainly been on the move a bit.
This is one of those sets that I can’t stop collecting. I’ve got one complete set and a nearly complete second set. After a large buy of nearly 70 more this month, I’m not too far away from a third set now and am nearly halfway through on a fourth set.
One of the cool things about this buy in particular is that the lot included one of the rare silver border cards and a few cards with the rare Tolstoi backs. Despite having a good number of T220s, those were two types I had not yet picked up at all.
Wrapping things up, I also picked up just a random hodgepodge of stuff. Now, I typically use these articles to focus on the more unique stuff. But in looking over a lot of the other mail that came in, I started to realize that a lot of the stuff that is somewhat commonplace to me is stuff that others may have never heard of.
So you’ll see some of that here. These were cards I bought mostly in small lots from sellers.
As you can see, there’s all sorts of stuff here. Sure, there’s a heavy dose of baseball and boxing. But there’s also a bunch of minor sports cards and even non-sports cards.
The more common stuff probably sticks out to experienced pre-war collectors. Some Goudeys, W551 boxing strip cards, E220 National Caramels, etc. But there’s some rarer stuff and stuff you might not see as often there, too. Some 19th century trade cards, some D146 Donut Corporation of America cards cut from boxes, and some American Tobacco Company non-sports card. There’s also a large amount of international tobacco cards that I’ve picked up. I bought probably about 2,000 of those card last month in various lots with the majority from non-sports sets in the 1920s and 1930s. Some collectors shy away from those cards because they are often plentiful. But there are a lot of rarer ones, too, and even the plentiful ones can be good pickups as inexpensive cards.
Now comes the fun stuff — and that’s getting all of this stuff put into binders.