If the T206 set is too much of a “monster” and the Old Judge set simply too overwhelming to consider, collectors of vintage baseball card collectors might consider a set that celebrates its 117th birthday this summer. Unless a miraculous find is discovered, you’ll never get a mint condition set—or anything close to it—but the 1895 N300 Mayo’s Cut Plug issue is a little pile of American sports history.
Featuring some of baseball’s first true superstars, but limited to just 48 cards, the Mayo’s set has room to grow in value, too, which is good news for those who like to mix a little investment with their collection.
Issued between the ever-growing Old Judge set of the 1880s and the tobacco cards of the early 1900s, the Mayo’s Cut Plug issue sort of stands on its own as the most important card set of the last decade of the 19th century.
Forty different players are in the set, including the likes of Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Kid Nichols and other ancient stars. Eight are pictured in different poses. The set used pictures of players in their uniforms as well as their street clothes. Who can resist Ed Delahanty, who plunged to his death after being kicked off a train late in his career?
A lower end paper was used to print the Mayo’s cards and when you combine that with how they were distributed, it’s little wonder that even mid-grade examples are rare.
Blank backed, the cards were inserted into large tins full of plug tobacco or cloth by P.H. Mayo and Brother, a tobacco firm based in Richmond, Va.
SGC’s population report shows just 1,140 graded N300 cards in existence, while PSA has graded only 419. Just 64 of the 1,559 total graded examples have been graded EX-MT or better by the two companies. Hence, low grade cards sell for hundreds of dollars, still a bargain it seems, considering their overall scarcity.
An SGC 30 Kid Nichols sold via Just Collect’s eBay auctions last weekend for $1,141. Cards with enough damage to render only an ‘Authentic’ grade included John Montgomery Ward ($455), Buck Ewing ($688). A PSA 3 Wilbert Robinson—the highest graded card of its kind on the PSA report—sold for $810. Again, significant numbers, but when you consider the prices paid for much more common issues of recent vintage, it’s difficult to believe these will move anywhere but up in value.
The Amos Rusie card has a variation that shows his name misspelled “Russie”, one of eight variations that exist in the set. The Authentic graded error card sold for $461 in the auction.
Currently on eBay, there are more cards from the set, including a rare high grade Ed Delahanty.
The demand for Mayo’s cards continues to grow among collectors who like a challenge and are realizing just how scarce these nuggets from pro baseball’s infancy really are.