In the Mail (October 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.

After a hiatus in September, I wanted to get back to the In the Mail segment. Here’s a look at some of the pickups I had from the past two months.

One of my favorite baseball pickups was a postcard that I wrote about here recently — the 1910 Chicago White Sox Gorge Postcard.

As I said then, these postcards were created picturing the White Sox on a cross country trip for spring training. The postcard pictures the team, including Hall of Famers Ed Walsh, Hugh Duffy, and owner Charles Comiskey.

There are a few different variations of this postcard. The one that I managed to pick up was the larger, more square-like card. It’s a fantastic image picturing a pre-war baseball club traveling by train.

What’s not to like?

That card, however, pales in comparison to this 1941 Play Ball card of Joe DiMaggio.

A couple of years ago, I began working on the war-time 1941 Play Ball set. It was easy enough at first. Many of the commons I bought were only about $5-$10 and even the bigger names were not too expensive. I was able to get the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Pee Wee Reese (rookie card), and others, without paying a ton.

But as I got closer to completion, I’d mostly been ignoring the really big cards — namely the cards of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. I initially passed on a very low-grade pair available on eBay that ended up selling for $400 total. That turned out to be a mistake.

We all knew what happened in 2020. Card prices soared with the Pandemic and while prices of modern cards have come back to earth a little, the majority of pre-war stuff, particularly cards of the biggest Hall of Famers, have held firm.

I did, fortunately, pick up the Williams card but kept passing on the more expensive DiMaggio. DiMaggio’s card is not only expensive because he was a fantastic player, but also because it is one of the rarer high number cards in the set. And the longer I waited, the more it climbed in value.

I finally bit the bullet, finding this trimmed one, and picking it up to close out my set. I’m missing only the Williams rookie in the 1939 set and then can focus more efforts on the 1940 set, where I’m about halfway complete or so.

That’s the life of a set builder. Sometimes, you make the right move in picking up a card at a reasonable price and other times, you pass and end up paying more in the end.

Speaking of baseball sets I’m working on, another one of those is the 1939-46 Salutations Exhibit set.

I love these cards, not only for their affordability, but also for some of the great images on them. It’s loaded with big names and Hall of Famers, and is a nice challenge, too, with many shortprints.

There are many minute variations, which I’m not personally chasing. Without those, there’s a set of roughly 65 cards and I’m missing only about ten.

Recently, I stumbled across a big lot of them. And while it only included a couple that I needed, the price was too good to pass on. So what to do now other than work on a second set? I’ve now got about 2/3 of a second set and that suits me fine. I don’t build a ton of ‘second’ sets but I hate passing up on large lots of card like these if they’re good buys.

Ah, yes, second sets. Here’s another example of that.

I’m really close on another set — the 1908-09 Ogden’s Pugilists and Wrestlers set, missing only 5-6 cards. 

Stumbled upon this lot of about 40 cards (more than half of the 75-card set) that was also too good to pass up. I don’t believe any in the lot were cards I needed but it was just another really great buy.

Often times you can do much better when buying large lots like these as opposed to picking up individual singles. There are exceptions where buying a lot doesn’t save much money but most of the time, it does.

I’m a big fan of the plain white backgrounds on these cards. It’s a set that consists of portraits but some of the images are really great. Combining these with a few duplicates I already had, I’m also about 2/3 of the way on a second set of these.

MOAR SETS? More sets.

Another lot of cards I picked up was a 19th century non-sports issue — N353 Consolidated Cigarettes Ladies of the White House.

I’ve always been intrigued by this set since I learned about it a few years ago. While there are plenty of pre-war sets featuring presidents, there are far fewer focused on their spouses. This set is one of those.

The set includes Martha Washington and the other wives of presidents up to the present time. It’s typically dated as a late 1890s set. It only includes a total of 25 cards but because they’re somewhat rare, it’s a nice challenge. I picked up nearly half the set in one shot.

Sticking with the non-sports theme, I wrapped up a set of 1928-29 Stevens-Davis Men of America cards.

These ‘cards’ are actually miniature booklets. There are 52 in a set, clearly designed to be read once a week. The booklets focused on famous Americans and while a few sports subjects are included (Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Walter Camp, and Bobby Jones/Rogers Hornsby), it’s decidedly a non-sports set.

They are somewhat rare but not scarce. A surprisingly high amount of them seem to have survived. Part of the reason for that is likely because they were designed to be kept. The booklets were initially given as motivational tools to company employees (and, perhaps, even customers of certain businesses) and presented in keepsake boxes. A good number of folks have held onto these — so much so that it is not too uncommon to find them with the original collector box. I’ve corresponded with some people that have had them in their family for years.

The set includes all sorts of notable figures, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Orville Wright, and many, many more from a variety of backgrounds, including politicians, military men, and businessmen.

Pictured here is my original box with the original announcement flyer that was given with the set.

Back to sports — sort of.

I’ve been getting more into aviation stuff in the past year. And while flying is rarely seen as a sport today, in the pre-war era, it certainly was.

I picked up a bunch of the 1937 Donut Corporation of America Thrilling Moments cards last month. This set is a rare issue featuring hand cut cards that were printed on boxes of donuts. Because they were printed on those, the majority were certainly discarded. That explains why you rarely see them today.

There were a few specific cards I wanted in the lot and two of them were aviators Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. The Earhart card, pictured on the right, is cut poorly, in particular. But it’s such a rare card that those looking for them will take them in practically any condition.

The last card I wanted to highlight was one that had been on my radar for about three years or so.

This is a card picturing Hall of Famer Tris Speaker from an international multi-sport set — 1934 R&J Hill Sports.

As I wrote here, the picture for the Speaker card is one that was used about 20 years earlier in another international multi-sport series, for the Obsequio de Susini set out of Cuba.

1930s international tobacco card — those are supposed to be easy to find, right? Well, while many international tobacco cards from the 1930s are indeed not terribly rare, that is not the case here. This is a pretty tough set to find and while I had seen a few Speaker cards for sale since I was looking for them, prices were always quite high. I managed to score this lower-end one at a good price and am happy to have it.

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