Recapping My Favorite Pickups in 2021 (Part 1)

Man, its been one heck of a year. I can’t be the only one saying that. Collectors have seen card prices continue to soar and while I suppose that’s great for the stuff we own, it’s not a great time to be buying. Nevertheless, like many of you, I suspect, I did quite a bit of buying. In fact, suffice to say, 2021 was the most I’ve probably bought in my life.

It was really hard trying to narrow down my favorite pickups for the year. But in the end, I settled on these 12 (plus an honorary mention).

Honorable Mention – 1910 C60 Imperial Lacrosse Scrap/Print Error

Issued around the same time as the American-based T206 baseball cards, the Canadian Imperial lacrosse were ones I’d found interesting. Prior to 2021, that interest was only cursory and anytime I looked for these rare cards, I never seemed to find any great deals on them.

The cards are much rarer than T206 cards and many other tobacco cards of that era. They are also the first sets of cards for the sport of lacrosse and, interestingly, many players in the set also played ice hockey.

I finally made the plunge and picked up a small lot on eBay. But it wasn’t until the cards arrived that I realized one was flat out wild.

The card for Eugene Gauthier pictures him with a National team. The front is mostly pretty standard but the back features that of another player named Pringle. Further, that back is a drastic miscut and was printed upside down.

Freak print errors like this in T206 are rare but you do see them because there were so many T206 cards printed. A major print error in a set like this is far more difficult to find because production was much lower. And in fact, I’ve not been able to track down another sort of error like this one in the set.

Honorable Mention – Game of Sports Set

This was an obscure set I’d never heard of prior to this year. It was a matching game issued in Germany, likely around 1900, and since acquiring the set, I’ve found only one other one that was previously for sale.

While not in my top 12, I had to make room for this set. First, while many international sets included sports like golf, tennis, cricket, and soccer (this one has all of those, along with wrestling), this one is unique because it also includes baseball. Baseball did find its way into some early international sets but most of those cards were previously well documented.

Second, I made my way to the National this year for the first time ever and this one was a pickup at that show. It was very cool to stumble upon it there having no prior knowledge of the set. The seller, too, could not tell me anything about it.

Here are the two baseball cards from that set.

No. 12 – Caramel Card Lot

Early this spring, I picked up a large lot of early candy/caramel cards. It was a collection of all sorts of things, really, including E90s, E92s, E93s, E101s, and some Philadelphia Caramels, as well as a rogue T207 of Hall of Famer Zack Wheat. I was able to start E92 and E93 sets, in particular, as a result of buying this lot.

The lot wasn’t particularly cheap but including several mid-grade cards and given the rate these sets have gone up, it ended up being a fantastic buy as it was.

One card, though, made it a really special pickup. Included but not advertised in the lot, was the rare sunset variation of Dots Miller’s E90-1 American Caramel card. As I’ve written before, that card is extremely rare with even low-grade cards selling for several hundred dollars. This one was in really nice shape and made a great buy even better.

No. 11 – Babe Ruth W512 Strip Card

The Babe Ruth card in the 1925-27 W512 strip card set is one of the easier cards on this list to find. Still, it made my list because it finally completed my combined 100-card W512 and W513 set.

When I began to build those sets a couple of years ago, the card could be bought for around $300-$400 in low-grade condition. That price has pretty much doubled these days. It’s one of those cards that, like many others, I wish I had purchased it before the price spike.

It’s not an attractive card by any means. Ruth has distinctive enough features that are drawn out in the artwork that you can tell that it’s the slugger. But in general, it’s a pretty weak drawing of the greatest player of all time and shelling out big money for it isn’t exactly a ton of fun.

But it was also a sorely needed purchase. I had basically wrapped up this set (needing only the Ruth) more than a year before this early 2021 purchase. It just took a while to finally commit to buying the Ruth and I decided to put it off no more and put myself out of this misery.

No. 10 – W.G. Grace 1896 Godfrey Phillips General Interest

Having picked up one of the soccer cards from this tough set a couple of years go, I’d been familiar with the 1896 Godfrey Phillips General Interest set for some time. The cards were so rarely seen that it was hard to get a good handle on the complete set.

But prices on it have soared in the past two years. The two soccer cards, which were roughly $50-$100 in decent condition, have seen the prices soar to ten times that amount. Those massive price increases have brought more out of the woodwork and while you still don’t see many of them, they are for sale a bit more than they have been traditionally.

The biggest card in the set belongs to the legendary cricket star W.G. Grace. The Grace card was so rarely seen that I’d only been able to find a single image of one online prior to this year. But the prices on Grace’s card have topped more than $1,000 this year (one recently sold for over $1,200) and I jumped at the opportunity to buy a lower-grade one — mostly with fears that it might not be this affordable for too much longer.

The card is not technically a rookie even though it’s often advertised as one. Grace appears on some trade and Baines issues prior to this one. However, it is his earliest mainstream card and a critical pre-war cricket issue.

No. 9 – T100 Honest Silhouettes Baseball Card

Issued around 1910, the T100 Honest Silhouettes set isn’t one that’s on the radar of most.

There are a few reasons for that, I suppose. For one thing, it’s a mostly non-sports set. For another, it’s simply a set that is quite rare and not many examples from it come up for sale.

There are a few sports cards in it, however, and I’d previously picked up the football card and boxing card. But the more popular baseball card had eluded me until this year. I finally got one in November of this year and it was a really nice example, an SGC 3, to boot.

The card is often described as a Roger Bresnahan card, even though no player is named on it (or on any of the other sports cards in the set). Featuring a catcher that plays for New York, many collectors have made the assumption that it’s the Hall of Famer that is featured. But as I covered here, there’s no real proof that it’s him.

No. 8 – Cy Young T205 and T206 Upgrades

Like the Ruth W512, these aren’t terribly rare cards. However, they replaced really ugly versions of a key Hall of Famer, Cy Young, in my T205 and T206 sets.

The T205 card I replaced had paper loss on the front, part of a corner missing, and easily the ugliest card in my set. My T206 portrait of Young was not nearly as bad, but was trimmed all the way around and had some paper loss on the back.

Now, to be fair, the replacements aren’t exactly mint condition or even mid-grade condition. The T205 is merely an SGC Authentic grade and the T205, a PSA 1 (MK). But they are light years ahead of what I had before and that is further proof that all authentic grade cards are not even remotely the same.

And if you’re curious, you can see my before/after cards here and here.

No. 7 – Art Whitney (with dog) Old Judge Card

This card has been on my radar for a few years. And it’s one that has gotten increasingly more difficult to find with collectors beginning to hoard it a bit.

Even with copies soaring to $1,000 or more for even modest low-grade examples, owners of it have not been inclined to sell. So when one popped up on eBay early this year, I was immediately interested.

The card features major league player Art Whitney on the front alongside a dog. The unique photograph has grown into one of the favorites in the massive set and while Whitney’s other cards have modest values, this one is much more expensive.

I ultimately ended up winning the card. Unfortunately, it was damaged in transit and, graded an SGC 1.5, the case was cracked badly and unusable. To prevent further damage, I removed it from the case. The seller was great and we agreed on a discount to compensate for the damage. But it’s a card I’d love to have graded again just because it looks great against the black SGC grading insets.

Graded or raw, though, this was definitely one of my favorite pickups of the year.

Look for Part II tomorrow, which will cover the top 6.

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