Mystery Stamps From Germany Have Similarities to the 1923 German Transfer Set
Two uncatalogued sets of sports transfers hail from Germany — and include baseball
The 1923 German Transfers set isn’t one that is widely known to all collectors. However, pre-war collectors, in particular, are often familiar with this unique issue.
That multi-sport set featuring baseball players and boxers has come to more popular, largely due to its inclusion of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. Ruth and Cobb cards are becoming increasingly expensive, thus sending collectors to some of their more affordable options — including these. While Ruth’s and Cobb’s stamps have gone up in value, they are still far more affordable than most of their other traditional cards. tl;dr, the German Transfers set of baseball players and boxers is somewhat known to collectors.
What aren’t as known, however, are two groups of other sports-related transfers sets. While it isn’t known if these other transfers were issued by the same company that issued those initial ones, they do bear somewhat of a resemblance to those. Like that set, these were also both issued out of Germany.
So what about these other sets? What are they, exactly?
Well for starters, one set is a baseball-only set and the other is a multi-sport set. While we don’t know if these were issued by the same company distributing the 1923 German Transfers sets, we know that these two sets were almost certainly issued by the same manufacturer as each other. Both have a yellow transfers ‘header’ card with the same child at the top with the stamps arranged and stapled in the same manner to the header card.
No company name is known but each one included 15 stamps (three rows of five). These are transfers with perforated edges like stamps. When stuck to a surface, the image shown should affix to that surface. You’ll sometimes see old transfers in notebooks and scrapbooks. And while it should go without saying, even though I’ve got the full, unperforated transfer sheets here still with the original header attached, you can also find these out in the wild individually. Individually, they measure 1 1/4″ wide by 1 3/4″ tall.
Each also includes the same type of color scheme as the more popular 1923 German Transfers set, heavily relating on red and green coloring. The multi-sports utilizes more green in the backgrounds, save for the middle bottom stamp, depicting a wrestling scene. Why is there a plain white background on that one? Because a “Made in Germany” tag appears in green ink that would be impossible to see with a green background. The same “Made in Germany” print appears on the baseball-only stamp at the bottom middle depicting a fielder.
No date for either set is known, unfortunately. However, for what it’s worth, Heritage dated them to the 1910s in this auction listing. I’m not sure what that is necessarily based on but, given the 1923 dating of that initial set I mentioned, a 1910s-20s date seems reasonable here, too. That, of course, is hardly confirmed and a later date cannot be ruled out.
In reviewing the baseball transfers, one image immediately jumped out to me. While the players featured certainly are not named, one picture of fielder reaching up to catch a ball looked so much like Ty Cobb’s iconic caramel card pose found in the E98 set and elsewhere that it couldn’t be ignored.
Is this Ty Cobb? Well, like anything else, the answer is probably going to vary if you’re looking to sell one (yes, obviously) or buy one (of course not). But some of the features are — notable.
You’ll notice the image is reversed but that can be explained away by the fact these were transfers with those images reversed. And the fact that it’s a full-body pose shouldn’t cause too much alarm because all of the images in the set shared that characteristic. But the style of hat, the sweater design (right down to the placement of the notable wrinkle in it on the side), and the ball placement at least makes the images look similar enough to do a double take. Even the collar of the shirt is present.
Is this Cobb? Eh, who could say? Frankly, I think you’d have a pretty tough case of trying to prove that in a court of law without identifying more of the other images and attributing those to other known pictures. Selling this as a definitive Cobb card seems like a stretch.
To my knowledge, these transfer sheets have only one orientation. That would follow the situation in the 1923 German Transfers set, too. Because the sheets of transfers were stapled to the header card at the top, the top row of transfers in each set usually will have staple damage.
On the baseball sheets, those include the fielder throwing right (no ball), left facing batter with a red shirt, and, in some cases, the baserunner (the middle stamp, which can sometimes avoid the staple damage). On the multi-sport sheets, that includes the boxing and ice skating transfers, along with sometimes the tennis transfer, which is in the middle.
At a minimum, this damage will include staple holes. The first sheet of transfers in each booklet may have additional damage from the staples, as shown here on this boxing example.
Finally, let’s take a quick dive into the checklist of each of these sets.
Multi-Sport Set and Checklist
The multi-sport one, unfortunately, does not include baseball. It also doesn’t include basketball, ice hockey, or American football. It does, however, have the usual assortment of other sets you see in most of these international types of releases.
Here’s the full rundown of what’s in the multi-sport set in alphabetical order (stamps are not numbered):
- Discus Throwing
- Field Hockey
- Horse Racing
- Ice Skating
- Track and Field (Running)
Baseball Set and Checklist
Here’s the full rundown of what’s in the baseball set in alphabetical order (stamps are not numbered):
- Baserunner, facing left
- Batter bunting
- Batter, facing ahead
- Batter, facing left (green shirt)
- Batter, facing left (red shirt)
- Catcher, facing ahead
- Catcher, facing left
- Fielder, catching ball
- Fielder, facing left with bat
- Fielder, facing right
- Fielder, on base
- Fielder, throwing left
- Fielder, throwing right (no ball)
- Fielder, throwing right (with ball)
- Pitcher, facing forward