In the Mail (January 2022)

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, December flew by. I had nearly two weeks off from work and I’m still trying to figure out where that time went. Needless to say, my card buying didn’t slow up with the holidays. I made a firm commitment to wrap up Christmas shopping by December 1 and followed through on that. So I guess at that point there was nothing left to do but buy some cards for myself.

Let’s take a look at a few items in last month’s mail.

The thing I was most happy with, I think was wrapping up three sets I’d been working on this year. The T201 Mecca Double Folders set was one that I started working on 2019. I can’t believe it took me about 2 1/2 years to finish because it’s a relatively short set with only 50 cards. And, like many sets, while I was actively building it, I wasn’t trying all that hard. From the end of 2019 to the end of 2020, I only added a handful of cards. At the time, I was knee deep into trying to finish other stuff and it was very much on the back burner. But this summer, I really picked things up and got the last 15 or so cards in the last six months.

The last card I needed was Eddie Cicotte and John Thoney and I added that one just as the year was wrapping up.

This Cicotte card was really a thorn in my side but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. I had just missed on a significantly more expensive PSA 2 then landed this SGC 2.5 for about 2/3 the cost. Really glad to finish that set off.

Another set I completed last month was the T225 Prize Fight Series No. 101 set. That is one of two T225 sets, of course (the other is the much tougher Series 102) but even with only 25 cards, it was enough of a challenge. The cards are not nearly as plentiful as even the T220 Mecca boxing cards and that one took a little patience. Again, it was another set that I wasn’t working real hard on until just the last few months.

Funny story about this set. Long before I started building it, a T225 Abe Attell card sat on COMC for what seemed like an eternity. I ended up buying the card, mostly out of pity, I think. It wasn’t a card I particularly wanted that badly and it had a bad trim job. But it became one of those, ‘why not’ cards. That was in 2020. In April 2021, I decide to really start building it but I had sold off the Attell.

So of course, what was the final card I needed? You got it — Attell.

Attell is one of the higher profile cards in the set along with Joe Jeannette and James Jeffries. There’s no John Sullivan, no Jack Johnson, no Jack Dempsey, etc. It has a lot of Hall of Famers in it but is missing most of the really big names. And with the cards fairly difficult to find at times, I gave in and settled for a graded Attell, even though the rest of my set is raw.

Many times I try to sell cards like this if I can find a suitable raw replacement just to more easily fit in with the rest of my binder set. But this is such a beautiful card that I don’t know that I’d part with it even if I got another. T225s, when they are in presentable shape, can look fantastic. That’s definitely the case with this one.

A third set that I completed was an even smaller one but another one that had sort of nagged at me — the 1878 Forbes trade card set.

This is one of the earliest baseball card sets there is. There are some earlier individual cards but I am not sure how many sets, if any, were actually issued before this one.

Despite that, it has flown under the radar. Part of that is because it’s a trade card set. Another part is because it doesn’t depict real players. Nevertheless, it is very much a baseball card set and certainly demands more attention than what it’s typically gotten.

The prices on the cards have been slowly creeping up to more respectable figures. When I first started buying these a few years ago, you could get them for as little as $10-$20. I rarely get them that cheap these days and often, prices have soared beyond $50 with some even approaching $100 on occasion. Occasionally you can find them under $50 but that is becoming less likely.

Over the last several years, I’d had some of these cards on and off. But I picked up a group last year and just finally decided to pursue the set since it’s only six cards. But man, I had a heck of a time finding the Home Run card from it. I finally did and completed that set, too. Three sets finished in December — not a bad month at all.

While I didn’t finish any other major sets, I did make some waves on one more — the 1933-34 National Chicle Sky Birds set.

A while back, I wrote about the Amelia Earhart card in it. It’s one of Earhart’s most popular cards and when I got my hands on it, I knew I had to get more from the set.

Well, full blown chasing the set didn’t happen immediately. I just had too much other stuff to work on and with 108 cards, it’s not exactly tiny. Really, the idea of hunting down a bunch of singles wasn’t all that appealing because, in part, I’m doing that on probably two dozen other sets at the moment. But I was fortunate enough to find a large lot for sale and by the end of the month, I went from having about ten cards in the set to now being about 20 cards shy of finishing the whole thing.

While the lot that I bought didn’t have most of the high numbers in it, it did have practically all of the big names, including another Earhart, Orville Wright, Baron Von Richthofen (The Red Baron), Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and others. Needless to say, that made chasing the set a given. I’ve got many of the high numbers still to go but have already begun working towards finishing this one, which I hope to do in the next six months.

Another near set I managed to pick up was the rare 1908 Mitchell’s Sports set. This has always been a set that intrigued me. Unlike many of the later UK sports sets, this one is quite difficult to find and not inexpensive. The cards rarely surface and when they do, you often only find singles here and there. But I managed to find a near set and then, shortly after the new year began, managed to find the remaining three cards I needed, which are en route.

This is one of those multi-sport series but not a sports of the world set — meaning, it focuses mostly on the sports themselves as opposed to identifying sports that are played in different parts of the world (a common theme for some other multi-sport releases).

Really fantastic stuff.

The month wasn’t limited to sets, though. On the way, I picked up several key singles. The biggest one was undoubtedly the 1896 Godfrey Phillips General Interest card of cricket legend.

Wait, a cricket card? That’s the big pickup? Yep.

Grace’s name isn’t as popular here in the U.S. But in England and other parts of the world, he was known as the Babe Ruth of cricket. His cards have been on the rise in the past two years and this card, in particular, is one that’s being chased more and more. A nicer example of it sold on eBay a little while back for around $1,200 or so.

Mine is a bit lower grade and was a better bargain than that. But it’s a card I’d passed on a few times in the past before and, realizing what it has been doing, I simply didn’t want to pass on it anymore. I don’t think I’d get to the point where I’d shell out two grand for one and I didn’t want to wait to find out if that was where it was headed, either.

The card is technically not Grace’s rookie. I believe he’s got at least a trade card and maybe one or two other earlier Baines issues. But this is arguably his most popular mainstream card and I was thrilled to finally add one to my collection.

Another single card was this 1878 Huntley and Palmer’s trade card featuring early golf. This card is part of a multi-sport trade card set (they had two sets like that with slightly different designs, actually).

The key thing about this card is that is often advertised as the first true golf trade card. I don’t know if that fact has ever been proven or even seriously tested. But I am not definitively aware of an earlier issue.

Unlike other trade issues, these cards were not meant to advertise an assortment of businesses. They were made exclusively for Huntley and Palmer’s, a UK-based biscuit brand. Aside from a rare cricket error card, it is likely the only one in the set that challenges the baseball card in terms of popularity.

The card is generic and is not known to depict any actual golfer. So I don’t know where this one could be headed for the future. I don’t know that it could rise as dramatically as what we’ve seen with the Williams T51 Murad card, which is generally accepted as the first true basketball issue. Similarly, aside from cards of Bobby Jones, we’ve not seen a huge rise in pre-war golf cards as has taken place in other sports like soccer, boxing, and cricket.

All of that said, it is certainly one of the earliest golf cards out there and really just a fantastic issue.

A far tougher issue from the sport of baseball also found its way to my mailbox last month. In came this die-cut card of a baseball player representing the Chicago Herald newspaper.

These die-cuts are quite rare. They stand up, like other display pieces, but are not paper dolls, which they are often mistaken for. The clothing on those sorts of cards can be removed and replaced. This card, however, does not have that characteristic.

These cards were used to advertise newspapers. They are hardly ever spotted and some sources list only the Chicago Herald player. However, the same boy was spotted on other cards bearing the names of other newspapers — reportedly the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Detroit Free Press, though I am hard-pressed to remember if I have seen any of those directly.

The card measures about 5″ tall and if you are fortunate enough to find one, you may see it with the head removed or the end of the bat torn off. Those sorts of flaws are popular on these sorts of stand-up die-cuts and also on the similar but differing paper dolls.

Roughly 2,000 words later, that’s a nice, rare item to end on.

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