In the Mail (August 2022)

In the Mail is a regular feature on the site that reviews some of the cards I’ve acquired during the last month. 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.

My card buying has sort of slowed down the past couple of months. There’s no real reason for that other than being insanely busy. Much of the buying I do comes from specialized searches on eBay or digging around online and I’ve just had less time to do that lately. But I did have a few interesting finds last month to mention.

Tom Boblitt’s fantastic Vintage Non-Sports Auction ended last month and I picked up many things in that auction. While many were of the rarer variety, this lot of 1909 T51 Murad College Sports cards was maybe my favorite pickup. This set features generic athletes but the colleges and universities featured are real ones.

This is a set that I’ve already completed. But it happened to be one that many of the cards were low-grade — even significantly so. I had about a dozen cards with the borders entirely trimmed and others that very much looked like they had survived two World Wars (which, of course, they had).

This lot was more of a mid-grade selection and even many of the low-grade cards were strong upgrades over the cards I had, which I was pleased about. This really is a gorgeous set and it’s nice to have upgraded most of the real beaters that I had.

Also in that same auction I picked up a large lot of W545 strip cards.

This was a set that I was largely unfamiliar with. I’d seen card from it before and probably even owned a few myself. But it’s a large strip card set from the 1920s featuring military figures, leaders, war scenes, and military insignias.

How large is the set? The 200 cards in it means it has to be one of the larger ones out there. Many of the names in it are unknown, but a few like President Teddy Roosevelt or UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill stand out.

You may have seen that I even wrote an article on these cards recently. Rather, it focused on a special subset of these, which can be found with some sort of Valentine’s Day message on the backs as a reader pointed out to me (see the update at the bottom of that article).

Finding some of the cards in the set is not too difficult. eBay usually has some. But they are somewhat hard to track down because its W545 designation is not always used in listings. And the massive size of it means that a set build can be incredibly challenging.

Nevertheless, I picked up nearly half of an entire set in this auction so, yeah — guess who’s going to be adding this to the list of set builds on his list? This guy.

Another non-sports pickup was a fantastic find, really.

This is a fantastic nearly complete Alrededor del Mundo (Around the World) Obsequio de Susini set. This set of cards is bound inside of the original album either given away or sold by Henry Clay and Bock, a Cuban tobacco firm that produced a few sets of cards for Susini (one of their cigarette brands). The set includes subsets of cards for each country. The United Sates cards included then president William Taft, the U.S. Flag, a cowgirl, Native American, and landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.

It’s always great to find complete collections of like this still bound in the original albums.

Alright, let’s get back to some sports.

One of the things I’m commonly asked about is the affordability of pre-war sports cards. Sure, I have gotten into the non-sports stuff but not everyone enjoys those as much.

What kind of sports cards can you find that are affordable? One area to look is in postcards.

Simply put, I love sports postcards. My collection of them isn’t nearly as large as that of some collectors. I don’t really focus too much on them but I do have a few hundred — mostly from the 1905-1915 years when a large number of them were being produced.

I found a postcard dealer online that had thousands of these beauties. Most were non-sports related but he had a good selection of sports postcards, too and here’s a sampling of what I picked up. In all, I ordered around 50 of them. There are a bunch from the c1910 PC798-9 and PC798-10 Baseball Lovers series’, some related sets, and just a general hodgepodge of other sports cards, including tennis, football, boxing, hockey, and more.

Postcards featuring actual athletes can be pricey. But generic-subject issues can often be found for $10 or less. It’s a great place to look if you want some cheaper stuff.

Let’s take a look at a few more sets.

One pickup that I was grateful to find was this near complete 1901 Ogden’s Leading Athletes set.

Yes, I’ve been working on the similar-looking 1901-02 Ogden’s Tabs General Interest series for some time. But the smaller Leading Athletes set is one that had mostly eluded me. Those cards are a bit tougher to find and I’ve been kicking myself ever since missing out on a complete set a while back on eBay.

The athletes in it are not big names for the most part. The series includes a mix of track and field, rowing, and long distance running champions. The biggest name in it may be that o Alvin Kraenzlein, one of the biggest track and field stars of his time after winning four gold medals in the 1900 Olympics. Still, it’s a great little set and a nice companion to the larger General Interest set I’m working on.

Another set I’m working on is the 1910 C60 Imperial Lacrosse set. Well, make that the C59, C60, and C61 Imperial Lacrosse sets now.

I was fortunate enough to find another group of these cards in individual auctions.

I’d previously been building the C60 set but after picking up some of the C59 and C61 cards, I figured why not just work on all three?

Completing any will not be that easy. The cards printed in Canada exist in much fewer quantities than many of the American Tobacco Company cards do. But with 92 of the 248 cards across the three series’, I’m at nearly 40% of the way there.

Challenge accepted.

One set that I was able to complete recently was one that had been a thorn in my side — the 1912 Gallaher Sports set.

That set includes 100 cards, some featuring real athletes and others featuring generic subjects. The most valuable cards tend to be the ten cards featuring Hall of Fame golfer James Braid or of the cricketers. Some of the tennis cards feature rookies of early stars and are certainly overlooked. But I had been piecing this set together for about two years and had been down to the last card for some time — cricketer C.B. Fry.

A friend visiting the house recently brought along some cards to show. He had a handful of these cards — including the Fry, which he generously gifted to me.

I had been looking for the card for some time and had mostly come up empty. I had seen it on eBay once as part of a lot but did not want to pay for all of the other cards I didn’t really need.

Always great to complete a set.

Few other odds and ends here. Among those were three of Jesse Owens’ cards from the 1936 Reemtsma Cigarettes Olympia set.

These cards pictured subjects and events in the 1936 Olympics. While several notable athletes are found in it, I’m not sure that any is bigger than the iconic Owens.

Owens, as I wrote here, is pictured on no fewer than seven cards.

I’ve been picking up more of Owens’ stuff. Admittedly, I’ve missed the boat a little. I did pick up some of his cards when they were cheaper but now, with a few of his cards having skyrocketed in value, I wish I had gotten more. Missed opportunity, so to speak.

Some that remain affordable include these. These paper thin cards were really produced to be stuck into an accompanying album. But they are somewhat plentiful in Germany where they were produced and, thanks to eBay, many have made their way over to the states. Cards with other subjects included are usually a bit cheaper, but even the single-shot cards of Owens start around $30-$50.

A final pickup I wanted to mention was an interesting Ogden’s card.

Finding American tobacco cards with back stamps on them is not terribly hard. Many of those stamps included the name of a collector or even a business that may have been using those cards to advertise. However, back stamps on cards from the UK are seen much less frequently. I’ve got probably 20,000 cards or so from the UK and have come across only a few.

Most of the few UK cards with back stamps I have seen have usually included a collector’s name. But this one, shown here, is a bit different. This card from Series F of the General Interest set that I stumbled upon includes some sort of tobacco stamp.

I haven’t yet determined exactly what this stamp is just yet. But the word ‘Tobacco’ is on it along with parts of a few other words.

Like the other unknowns in my collection, I’d love to find out more about this.

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