A rare and complete uncut sheet of 1916 M101-5 baseball cards discovered last fall is now on the auction block. Packed with subjects that would fetch thousands by themselves including some of the game’s greatest icons, the never before seen sheet generated a tremendous amount of interest among vintage card collectors when the find became public.
The framed sheet of 200 cards is the only one known to exist and carries a previously unknown sponsorship by the Chicago Examiner newspaper. It spent about 50 years hanging inside a small town bar in Bascom, Ohio and the last several decades in a private residence. Rosenberg landed the sheet thanks to a random call from a non-collector who had gotten it in a trade from an older gentleman some 30 years ago and kept it in a dry basement.
"When the Chicago Examiner uncut uncut sheet was first offered to me, I could not figure out what was being described, since nothing to compare it to was known within the hobby yet," Rosenberg recalled to Sports Collectors Daily.
"Per my request, the uncut sheet was carefully removed from the frame and several digital images taken. Upon reviewing the email with front and reverse images, I did a double take and could hardly believe what I was viewing. The only comparisons were three M101-4 uncut sheets, in inferior condition, offered over the years via Robert Edward Auctions. Within just a couple days of the initial phone call, my aggressive offer was accepted and I was on a plane headed to Ohio to complete the deal in person, easing any reservations. Upon viewing it in person, the authenticity was confirmed."
A pencil notation on the back connected the sheet to the now-defunct newspaper and the Chicago Public Library helped identify the Examiner’s sponsorship of the cards when it produced microfilm copies of ads for the cards and stories that linked the newspaper to the series.
He also received some help from collectors with whom he shared the story of the find.
"During the initial stages of the find, Leon Luckey and Scott Brockelman were both instrumental in confirming my gut feeling; this was indeed authentic and the find of a lifetime," Rosenberg stated. "I have received several emails from collectors offering congratulations and inquiring about the details of the find, including the asking price."
The sheet measures 27-1/2 by 43 inches and features black and white images of the greatest stars of the era including Joe Jackson, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Casey Stengel, Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie and even legendary football star Jim Thorpe, who had a short career in the major leagues. A total of 30 Hall of Famers are represented.
By themselves, the M101-5 cards are extremely valuable, with the Ruth card often selling for tens of thousands of dollars in reasonably good condition.
The sheet remains in remarkably good condition thanks to the protection of the glass frame with only a couple of areas exhibiting creases and some staining around the edges. The sheet is titled “Baseball’s Hall of Fame”, even though the sport wouldn’t actually open a physical Hall for 23 more years.
"The reactions among vintage pre-War card and memorabilia collectors have been amazement," Rosenberg relayed. "Everyone agrees this is one of the finest uncut sheets in existence and makes for a jaw dropping display piece or cut up would have tremendous breakup value. However, I plan to leave it intact. If it is still available this Summer, I plan to display it at at the upcoming Chicago National Sports Collectors Convention."
During March and April of 1916, the Examiner ran several ads promoting its baseball card set, known in the hobby today as set M101-5. They were offered as either a complete set of 200 individual cards or as an uncut sheet. In either format, the cost was 15 cents.
In a bit of irony, Paul Maloy, who was from Bascom, pitched two games for the Boston Red Sox in 1913, almost three years before the M101-5 set was produced. When Maloy was let go, it opened a spot on the pitching staff that was filled the next year by Babe Ruth, whose first mainstream big league card shows up in the M101-5 set. The Ruth rookie card often sells for thousands of dollars in reasonably good condition. Several cards in the M101-5 set are short printed in what is probably a very early run. The cards on the uncut sheet feature the cards that are more commonly found.
The M101-5 and its ‘brother', the M101-4 set, were produced by Chicago-based publishing and printing executive Felix Mendelsohn. Other businesses bought advertising on the back of the cards and about twenty different sponsor names can be found with cards from the two series that Mendelsohn printed. They often served as incentives to customers who were encouraged to buy newspaper subscriptions or other products associated with the sponsor.
The Sporting News is probably the best known of the sponsors and the company promoted the M101-4 set heavily throughout the 1916 season. Thousands of cards were distributed to die-hard fans and with so many found featuring their ad on the back, many refer to the series as the “Sporting News set”. However, the St. Louis publisher sponsored only the M101-4 cards. Three uncut M101-4 sets are known and were sold in major sports memorabilia auctions in recent years.
The eBay listing for the M101-5 sheet closes March 27. Click here to see it.