In the Mail (December 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.

As if these articles weren’t long enough, this month’s edition seems extra long. I simply had too many things I wanted to talk about a little and, try as I could, I just couldn’t cut the list down any shorter. Well, let’s just say I didn’t want to.

So what came in the mail this past month that was noteworthy?

My favorite pickup was probably the T100 Honest Silhouettes card of the baseball player. This card, issued sometime around 1910, is just a real tough one to find. I’ve been after an example for a few years now but always seemed to miss the boat on the rare occasions I’d see one for sale. It’s a card that is predictably just buried in collections that folks refuse to sell. The set is primarily a non-sports issue, but it has some sports cards in it, including this baseball player, a football player, a boxer, and a golfer. I’ve got all of those now, minus the golfer.

This baseball card features a catcher with an NY insignia on his sleeve. It’s often called a card depicting Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan but as I wrote here, there’s not a lot of great evidence for that.

There are only seven of these cards graded by PSA and SGC in total and I was fortunate to snag one of those — and it’s a nice example on top of everything else.

While that’s a tough baseball card, though, this next pickup is significantly tougher. And that’s because, well, I’d never seen or heard of one of these.

This one is a rare trade card depicting early baseball for Runkel’s Cocoa and Chocolates, a New York-based business. I won’t go too much into this card here because I already wrote separately about it. But bidding was intense for it and surpassed what I thought it would do. It’s a constant reminder that folks will pay very good money for generic issues if they are tied to baseball and if they are rare enough. I was happy to win this one and despite looking online, haven’t found any other examples.

Trending the same as my other months of buys, this month included a heavy dose of non-baseball issues. And none is more intriguing than this CDV of two tennis players from the 19th century.

While I still haven’t confirmed the identities of these guys for sure, they appear to feature tennis twins William and Ernest Renshaw. The card is notable because the pair of Hall of Famers were fantastic players, winning the Wimbledon doubles title five times. William was one of the best players of his era, winning the Wimbledon singles title seven times (Ernest also won it once). But if the card does feature them, it is important because the two do not appear on many cards at all. In fact, this may even be their earliest issue.

The card is fantastic looking in person and my shoddy picture of it here does not do it justice. It has gold edges with an all black back and measures only slightly larger than a tobacco card.

More research is needed on this one but it looks like a promising find.

Football was another sport I dove into this past month. I don’t get the chance to buy many football cards but really have had my eye on the Red Grange 1920s Shotwell cards since they’re among the few of his cards during his playing days.

The set features Grange in a variety of movie scenes. Many of the cards do not picture him in uniform and also feature him with other actors or actresses. But this card appealed to me because it was already graded and is a nice solo shot of him in a football sweater.

These cards are really a bit undervalued in my opinion. That was one reason I wanted to add one. Low-grade slabbed cards from the set featuring Grange in plain clothes typically start around $100. For one of the most important early football players, that’s a very underwhelming price — plain clothes images or not. The cards are fairly rare and among the few that picture the legendary Hall of Famer during his career. I was really glad to add this one to the collection last month.

More sports? How about a little boxing?

A while back, I picked up a 19th century cabinet card of the legendary Hall of Famer John Sullivan. Sullivan is a guy I’ve become more and more intrigued with as he was the last of the bare knuckle boxing champions and finished his career with only a single defeat.

He’s in a set of cabinet photos titled, “Champion of the World.” The set, best I can tell, includes three different cabinets — a portrait with him wearing a suit, a shirtless portrait, and an action shot.

I recently picked up the cabinet with him in a suit but this one with the action pose is probably the most desirable of the three. It’s just a really great full body photo of the former champion.

I wouldn’t call myself a full-fledged cabinet collector. But I have picked up several of them this year and, at a bare minimum, wouldn’t mind tracking down the third one of Sullivan from this set.

Onto cricket. Cricket? Yes, cricket.

Now, look — I am not going to become some sort of huge cricket collector. The cards are very popular internationally where the sport has a presence and even in the United States, cricket cards are becoming more and more sought after. But the reality is, as someone that has never watched a single cricket match, it’s always going to be a bit of a fringe sport for me.

But I do have a decent number of cricket cards from the UK and, in particular, have been focusing on more stuff of the well-known W.G. Grace. Grace is hailed as the Babe Ruth of cricket and some of his cards have been fetching incredible amounts.

This month’s cricket pickup wasn’t a card, though. In fact, it’s one of the more interesting things I’ve probably ever bought — sheet music. This is music for an honorary song for Grace and the key is the front of it, which includes a great, full-body image of the player.

Sheet music, strange as it might sound, was somewhat common in the pre-war era. It was so common, in fact, that it’s even listed in the American Card Catalog. Sheet music for Babe Ruth-related songs sell for hundreds of dollars. And while Ruth sheet music is rare, you do see it quite a bit for sale. This Grace sheet music is the first time I’d ever seen this piece for sale and I jumped at the opportunity to buy it. Given the upswing Grace cards and collectibles are on, I think it was a smart purchase.

Another non-baseball find this month I was very pleased about was this 1933 gum card of Amelia Earhart. This card is from the 1933 Wischmann Gum set featuring aviators and airplanes.

Earhart stuff is a category I’ve started pursuing a bit more recently and I’ve picked up several of her cards in the last few months. This card is one of her earliest issues and features her trip across the Atlantic. Earhart’s name is on the front and back, adding to the appeal as an Earhart card and not simply a card picturing an airplane. It’s from a rare set and is in really nice condition to boot.

I even jumped into non-sports last month with another great 19th century trade card.

This card features famous inventor Thomas Edison. It was an advertisement for a medical product called Edison’s Polyform.

The card has an interesting backstory. He was said to have developed a medication to treat his own ailments. He mentioned this to a company who then came to some sort of an arrangement to sell the medication to the public. Edison was not pleased with his likeness being used to promote the medication and actually went to court against the company.

His face and name was printed on the bottles and in advertisements, including these trade cards. While that’s intriguing enough, these cards believed to have been issued in the 1880s may be the earliest cards of the famous scientist.

The cards are rare and are paper thin, meaning it is hard to find them in good condition. This one I picked up is extremely clean and if not for the current grading shenanigans going on with high prices, I’d definitely have it on its way to hopefully be put into a slab for protection. We’ll see. It’s a card I could see there being more demand for.

Over the past few months, I’ve been buying small collections of tobacco cards from the UK. I once bought a collection of a few thousand cards there but, with the recent rise in card prices, I haven’t seen large collections like that in a while.

Still, I’ve been finding collections of a few hundred here, a few hundred there. These are mostly non-sports cards, which are less valuable, but I’m adding some sports cards to my collection with those buys, primarily with soccer and cricket cards.

Here’s one such lot, which included a mix of sports and non-sports cards. Most of these were from the 1920s and 1930s and there’s a glut of those sorts of cards in the UK. But I enjoy sifting through them and pulling out the more notable cards, including sports issues or cards on rare occasions featuring the United States or famous people.

Alright, a couple of baseball cards to finish up here.

I try to avoid common issues in these writeups but, you’ll excuse me for the breaking of that rule. Ever since completing the T207 set earlier this year, I’ve been trying to figure out ‘what’s next.’ While I’ve been putting my attention into a few sets, the one that is most within reach right now is the T201 Mecca Double Folders set.

That’s become a much more expensive set than it was a couple of years ago. But with only 50 cards, it’s still pretty manageable for collectors wanting to build a baseball tobacco card set. I’d really had my pursuit of that set on hold until earlier this year and I’ve really focused more on it in recent months. Of the few cards I still needed, the biggest one was the Christy Mathewson card. I picked that one up last month and am down to needing only six more for completion.

I’d love to wrap that one up in the next month or two if at all possible. But I realize that might not be possible, too. The cards are common enough that I suppose I could finish the set with a trip to eBay if I really wanted to. But I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to spend $100 on a common, either. Hopefully some patience will allow me to finish the set at a reasonable amount.

This card, in particular, is right in my sweet spot. It’s got some creasing in it but is very presentable without paper loss or tears. It’s a pretty clean card with the biggest flaw in my mind being the double ‘T’ used to spell Mathewson’s name. That error was found on several Matty cards, unfortunately.

The last card I’m going to spotlight is yet another autograph. I don’t think I owned a single pre-war autograph coming into this year but I’ve added 6-8 of them this year.

The autographs I’m collecting are ones that are graded and professionally authenticated. They’re also featuring only star players with a focus on Hall of Famers.

I’ve steered clear of the really expensive stuff so far from the early 1900s and 1910s. The autographs I’ve got are mostly from the 1930s and this is another one of those — a 1936 Goudey Wide pen signed by Hall of Famer Earl Averill.

I don’t buy everything with the hope of it increasing in value. But there are things I buy where I see room for growth and that’s the case with 1920s and 1930s autographed cards of Hall of Famers.

Averill, for example, signed a ton of things in his career. Same with other players like Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, and Carl Hubbell. But those guys signed a relatively low number of cards from their playing days and that’s the stuff that intrigues me.

The signature is a little light on this one so that’s a bit of a downside. But it’s more legible in person than in the picture and was a really great buy for the price.

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