Top Pre-War Cards Finds of 2022 (Honorable Mention)

Recapping a year of pre-war collecting highlights

With a new year upon us (hard to believe, right?), I wanted to again try to recap some of the collecting highlights I’ve had this past year.

I’m always amazed when I do these recaps that sort of force me to look back. Like many of you, I’m sure, there’s always more than I seem to remember buying throughout the year. And even beyond that, trying to decide between my favorite pickups is always difficult.

I’m giving myself a bit of leeway this year and helping to make the decisions a little easier, anyway. Instead of two posts, I’ll be breaking this into three, with the first being the honorable mentions.

These are the cards, in no particular order, that didn’t quite make my top 12.

Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic Card Lot

Any one of these cards on their own wouldn’t make the cut here. But I considered this pickup because it was a group of fantastic 1936 Jesse Owens cards.

The Reemtsma Olympia cards (the larger, black and white ones in the back) aren’t too rare, of course. But I was interested in this lot for the sheer amount of them. And in addition to those, there were some of Owens’ slightly rarer cards, too, including the 1936 Pet Cremers and Muhlen Francks.

In all, there were nearly 40 of Owens’ cards in this lot. Another reason this group made it as an honorable mention? Because several of the cards were high-grade and will be eventually on their way to be graded.

Underwood and Underwood Glass Plate Negative of German Baseball Scene

I factor in several things when I make these lists. Price isn’t a complete non-factor, I guess, but it plays a very small part in things. Some of my bigger purchases are not even found on this list. But rarity, how long I’ve been trying to find a particular card, the story of its find, and the ‘cool factor’ are all more important determinants.

This wasn’t an expensive item, though in my estimation, it is significantly more valuable than what I paid for it, as it was buried in an auction. And it wasn’t one I was looking for because, frankly, I didn’t know it existed. However, the coolness factor is through the roof.

Pictured on this glass negative is a baseball game that is titled as the first such game held in Berlin. That, of course, is notable. But also notable is the umpire dressed in a full suit of armor. I don’t know if that was a publicity stunt or genuinely the best way to protect himself from the action — but it’s one of the coolest finds of the year, in my opinion.

1936 Goudey Wide Pens Half Set

While I started getting a bit more into pre-war gum card collecting this year, one of my goals for last year, one set that I always kind of avoided was the 1936-37 Goudey Wide Pens (along with its ‘cousin’, the National Chicle Fine Pens).

There are reasons to collect these, including the fact that they contain legitimate rookie issues of icon Joe DiMaggio. Most are also not that expensive and the series includes some big names.

However, it’s also a fairly large set and they are not really cards. Instead, they are miniature photos roughly the size of a postcard, printed on thinner card stock.

They are widely collected, in part because they are a legitimate American Card Catalog issue and they were produced by the popular Goudey company. But the prospect of trying to build the set never really fascinated me much.

But this year, I picked up more than half of the 120-card Type 1 series (the largest and, generally, the most collected/common type) in a single lot, giving me a good chunk of the set. Safe to say, I’ll be looking out for these a bit more now as I try to build the Type 1 set.

1909 James Jeffries Playing Cards Set

This one came later in the year — a find of a complete 1909 James Jeffries Playing Cards set. These cards all featured Jeffries on the back and different fighters on the front.

There are all sorts of great highlights about this set. For one thing, it contains a rookie card (I believe the only American rookie card) of the legendary Jack Johnson. There are also plenty of other early stars and Hall of Famers. The cards aren’t rare, per se — but they are slightly tough … particularly when talking about complete sets.

The best thing about it, however, was the find. I located this set almost by accident on a non-card site that included all sorts of items for sale. Those are the best finds, sometimes — finding something completely out of the blue like that. I quickly purchased it and thought it was a great pickup.

Bobby Jones 1926 Lambert & Butler Rookie Card

This is one of those cards that I should have picked up prior to this year, to be honest. With the price increase of 2020, it was one that has really shot up in value.

Cards for sports originating across the pond, including golf, soccer, and cricket, have been on the move in the past year. And the rookie card for one of the greatest players of all time, Bobby Jones, is found in a UK set from Lambert and Butler cigarettes.

The set is a multi-sport series called Who’s Who in Sport. While an intriguing series, American collectors are not typically drawn to it much beyond the Jones rookie card. The majority of the athletes featured are not U.S. stars and many of the sports are minor by nature. There are no baseball, basketball, football, or hockey players found. And while the set does include some recognizable names, such as heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, tennis stars Suzanne Lenglen and Rene Lacoste, and famous cricketer Jack Hobbs, many of the subjects featured are virtual unknowns to American collectors.

The card is not terribly rare, mind you. Its value is driven solely by the fact that it is the rookie card of perhaps the greatest pre-war era golfer. I picked up this clean copy at what was a very good price.

1908-09 Stollwerck Series 10 Complete Set

One of the massive series of cards that I’ve been collecting are the Stollwerck cards from Germany. This set primarily ran, on and off, from the late 19th century through the 1930s (though a few later cards were issued).

With more than 5,000 cards, I don’t really consider this to be a series I’m working on. But I do pick up new cards (particularly in lots) when I can find them and I’ve got roughly 1,400 or so different ones.

The best Stollwerck pickup I made this year was a complete Series 10 set with 288 cards. Issued in 1908-09, this series is one of the more well-known ones in the Stollwerck set as it features so many cards of key subjects. Among the many big names are the likes of George Washington, Ben Franklin, Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton, Julius Caesar, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Cleopatra, Rembrandt, Darwin, Napoleon, several Bible figures, and many more.

While this one doesn’t include any of the popular sports cards, it is likely the series with the most recognizable names in it.

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