Top Pre-War Cards Finds of 2022 (No. 1 – 5)

Recapping a year of pre-war collecting highlights

Here’s the conclusion of the recap of my favorite pickup so 2022.

If you missed it, here were the honorary mentions of six cards that didn’t quite make my top 12 as well as No. 6 through No. 12. Now, moving onto my five favorite pickups of the year.

5. Babe Ruth 1928 George Ruth Candy Card

I’d made a reference in the last article to seeking some cards of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb in less popular sets. One of my favorite pickups from last year was exactly that.

Here is a Babe Ruth card from the slugger’s own candy card set issued in 1928. A relatively obscure seller offering few cards surfaced on eBay a bit out of nowhere last year. The seller had a strong reputation but was not known for offering baseball cards. They listed several of these cards in varying grades — all of which lasted a little longer than they probably should have initially. But they were soon gone and this one showed up in my mailbox shortly after.

I’m commonly asked how to buy more expensive cards on eBay. Things have somewhat been made easier for collectors with the company’s authenticity program, which gives buyers a lot more protection. However, a big factor I use is a seller’s history and while this one had a good track record, he/she did not sell many cards. In hindsight, I wish I had scooped up all of the Ruth cards offered since they were all sold at low prices.

While a good buy, I actually moved this card recently. Nevertheless, it was one of the better buys I had in the year.

4. Cy Young 1909-11 E90-1 American Caramel

As my E90-1 American Caramel set inches closer to completion, I added a big card from the set near the end of the year in this low-grade Cy Young portrait card.

In 2021, I picked up Young’s rarer Cleveland variation card in this set (shown left). The Boston portrait is one that is more commonly seen but that I had avoided buying many times. In hindsight, that was a poor decision as the card has dramatically risen in price. Even in bad shape, you don’t really see this card for under $1,000 — more than double what you could buy it for just a couple of years ago.

Here’s a picture of both of the Young cards in the set.

I’m now down to needing only seven cards left in the set and while all of the ones left are bigger names or rare shortprints, I’m hoping to knock a few of them out this year if I can’t finish the set.

3. Joe DiMaggio 1939 Play Ball and 1941 Play Ball

Yep, going ahead and just grouping these two together.

Both cards feature the legendary Joe DiMaggio and both were important pickups for the popular Play Ball gum card sets.

The 1941 DiMaggio is a shortprinted high number card and completed that set for me. The 1939 card didn’t quite finish off that set but, needing only the Ted Williams rookie in that one, has me at the edge of completion there.

Neither card is what you’d call attractive. The two also share condition flaws in that both are trimmed. But gum card sets don’t carry quite the same importance in my collection and, while I’m almost always willing to overlook flaws, that’s particularly true there.

Really hoping to find a Williams 1939 Play Ball this year so that I can make some progress on the 1940 set to complete the trio.

2. 1908 E91A American Caramel Near Complete Set

In many years, this would be good enough to be considered my best pickup of the year.

The E91 American Caramel card series is made of three sets from 1908, 1909, and 1910. All of the cards are fairly tough but the inaugural 1908 set, known as E91A, is the rarest.

I’ve been working on all three sets for a few years now, at about 85% complete. But even though I had 28 of the 33 cards in that E91A set, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pickup a second nearly complete set.

The reason? The second set did have a few cards I needed but there were two other important factors here. For one thing, almost all of the cards were upgrades over the ones I previously had (including replacing a rough Christy Mathewson with one that is much nicer). For another, the set was affordably priced after swinging a pretty good deal on it. It was really a win for me, even if I haven’t decided whether to try to finish both sets or eventually move the lower-graded one.

Decisions, decisions.

1. William Smith 1886 Memorial Game Ticket Card

When I landed this card, I was pretty confident that it would be my favorite pickup of the year. So I guess today, that’s formally happening.

I’ve already covered this card in a separate article, so I won’t go into all of the details here. If you want, you can read that article. But the tl;dr version is that, these ticket cards were given to those attending one of two memorial games for baseball players that had died in 1885 and 1886.

The cards were not even really known to collectors until this century when an original pair became available in an REA auction in 2004. Since then, that same pair has come up for sale a few times. However, this is the only other known card (of either player) that is graded by PSA. Additionally, I have not seen or heard of any other raw examples, either.

It’s an extraordinarily special card with a fantastic backstory. And it easily claims the top spot in my list of favorite pickups of 2022.

Now, onto 2023.

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