In the Mail (March 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.

The last couple years of collecting have sort of been a blur, frankly. I’ve been buying more than ever and expanding the reach of things I collect quite a bit. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve branched out much from the four major American sports and now I’ve been active in both the sports and non-sports space in the pre-war landscape.

That’s meant a lot of buying each month so when I took a look back at this past month of pickups, it was a really light February for me. That’s been by design. Truth is, I’m making a pretty big non-card purchase this month and my collecting has sort of taken a backseat. That theme continued this month as well so expect April’s post to be another scaled back version.

I have certainly picked up more cards, obviously. But I try to avoid the more common issues in these posts. How many T206 or Goudey and Play Ball cards can be interesting, for instance?

But, hey, you know I couldn’t stop buying entirely. And I still managed to pick up some items that were worth some attention. So let’s get to those.

The biggest buy of February was this E90-3 American Caramel card of Hall of Famer Mordecai Three Finger Brown. No, it wasn’t super expensive. But it is notable that it was the final card I needed to finish my E90-3 set — a 20-card set with a checklist entirely of Cubs and White Sox players. You might remember, I picked up a large partial set towards the end of last year. I spent the early part of this year knocking out the few remaining cards and that set is now complete.

E90-3s (and E90-2s, the Pirates team set) are significantly rarer than the vast E90-1 set that I’m nearing completion on. They exist in far fewer quantities and I can’t imagine there are a ton of complete sets out there floating around.

Rare as those cards are, this was actually the most mainstream set that I’ll be featuring here.

Two cards I was glad to pick up were these two rom the T7 Turkish Trophies / Hamilton King sets. A total of seven subsets make up that series and only two, Subset T7-1 and T7-6 feature sports.

The cards feature women wearing an assortment of clothing and participating in all sorts of activities. As you might expect, there’s a premium on the sports cards — particularly one depicting basketball since that is one of the earliest cards of that sport.

The T7-1 sketch series doesn’t include basketball. But it does include women playing hockey and golf — easily the two key cards from that subset.

These are really great, oversized cards with black line sketches of the subjects. The small bits of color added to them really make them ‘pop’ quite a bit and this is a series you rarely come across.

Speaking of oversized cards, I managed to get my hands on another rare, large-sized card.

As I wrote in this recent article, the Shirley President Suspenders collectibles aren’t really trading cards. Instead, these were smaller advertising displays that storekeepers hung in windows to indicate they sold the President brand of suspenders.

These displays were sent to stores at a rate of one per box of six suspenders. Stores also had the option of writing to the store to get more of them. But as display pieces, most were discarded over the years and you rarely see these for sale. Even when you do, they often will have a good amount of wear and tear.

So when I saw this billiards card, one of six in the set, I had to have it. Not only because it was a rare card but also because it was in fantastic shape.

I don’t hang a ton of card stuff on walls. I’ve got a few jerseys in shadowboxes and a few large, dumb autographed photos, like this, that are framed. But I’ve got to find room for this somewhere. It’s just incredible looking.

Now, from large cards to small ones.

There are a lot of early chocolate cards from Europe, folks. In particular, many of these sets were created in Sweden. One such set is the 1930 Mazetti Chocolates set. Little information on sets like this is usually common. I don’t even know if the 1930 date is confirmed to be accurate. Many of these sorts of sets are ascribed to the 1930s and that somehow turns into 1930 — like we saw with the Joe Louis non-rookie card that I recently wrote about. But I digress.

Many of the international chocolate cards are tiny. Not small, like American or UK cigarette cards, mind you. I mean, tiny. Some of these cards, like the Mazettis, are roughly 1″ wide by 2″ tall.

A few of the series’ aren’t too hard to find. The Cloetta/Cloetta Ross cards, for example, aren’t common, but you can find them on eBay with some regularity. But others, like Mazettis, are much tougher.

Out of the blue, a seller listed about a dozen or so on eBay recently. Seeing that many pop up at once does not happen very often. I’m intrigued by the cards but wasn’t dying to have any of them. I did throw a few bids in and managed to get one of the more high-profile cards in tennis legend Bill Tilden.

I was surprised to see a few go for relatively large sums, topping $100. But looking back, I wish I had thrown a few more bids in for some others that went for relatively low amounts given how rare these cards are.

Still, not complaining. Happy to have this one of Tilden that is in great condition.

Sticking with international stuff, I was really pleased to get my hands on a blank-backed card of actor Fred Astaire from the 1935 Gallaher Portrait of Famous Stars set. This is a set out of the UK issued by Gallaher Cigarettes featuring movie stars. Gallaher was one of the more active cigarette companies producing cards in the 1920s and 1930s.

Now, I sort of preface this with a disclaimer that more work needs to be done on my end with this card. I bought it on a bit of a whim and, while it certainly is blank-backed, I am not sure if any of these cards are found with blank backs.

However, so far, I have not seen any evidence of that. All other cards I have seen from this set include a biography of the subject along with a name and card number. This is the first blank-backed one I’ve come across in my limited experience with this set. PSA does not list any blank backs in their registry for the set so I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s a fairly rare card.

I love picking up blank backs or other cards with similar print defects. I just haven’t seen many of those from the UK and they certainly aren’t advertised with the same furor that you see for popular blank backs here for popular sets like T206. We’ll see about this one.

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