Editor’s Blog: Scouring eBay Pays Off with Pinkerton Cabinet Find

Today, I’m turning the Editor’s Blog over to Leon Luckey, moderator of the Net54 vintage baseball card forum, who has some new cards for his collection thanks to a good eye and a willingness to be aggressive.  As a collector of vintage baseball cards and a guy who also buys and sells them, he’s always on the lookout for pre-World War II cards he needs.  

He introduces us to a new find of 1911 T-5 Pinkerton Cabinets, a series of premiums that were given out by Pinkerton Tobacco to users who sent in ten coupons from the packages of cigarettes through a mail-in offer.  Making the deal wasn’t quite so simple, though.


As an avid eBay user, I scour the pages of sports collectibles, sifting through all of the reprints, fakes, scams, fraud—and the good items too– in hopes of finding small nuggets of gold. It is a minefield out there!   Recently, I had one those days that makes the hours of endless clicking all worthwhile.

I’m an avid Pre-WWII baseball type card collector (someone who collects one from each series) and for the past 17-18 years, I have been fortunate to obtain at least one of most sets (with a focus up to, but stopping at 1949) and have had a lot of fun doing it.

There is one scarce set with the Catalog designation of “T5”, Pinkerton Cabinets, which had eluded me. They aren’t so scarce that I couldn’t have ever found one but I have never found one that I liked for the price I wanted to pay… and it is true they are indeed quite scarce.  Few quality cards of Hall of Fame players come up for sale each year and that’s really what I was after.

Recently, though, my eyes grew big when I found three T5’s listed on eBay by someone in the Indianapolis area who sells often (3000+ feedback) but doesn’t specialize in sports collectibles. He had a common player and two Hall of Famers– Fred Clarke and Ty Cobb. They were all in nice condition though the scans were a bit blurry.

Ty Cobb Fred Clarke Pinkerton Cabinet 1911


The common player had a starting bid of around $200, the Clarke $300 and a Ty Cobb was at somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000.  Since I am consistently “cash poor” I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford the Cobb if the listing went the distance.  One sold for $19,000 earlier this year in a public auction.  So as I often do, I emailed the seller asking if he would listen to an offer before there were any bids, in hopes of landing it at a reasonable price.

After a few days he emailed back and asked what I was thinking.  He also told me he had a few more. Wow. I asked him who he had and he responded that he planned to sell a Christy Mathewson and a Honus Wagner he had been holding onto.  Here’s the best part:  He got them all at a yard sale.

Honus Wagner Pinkerton 1911

We spoke on the phone and I made a very nice but wholesale type offer on the Cobb, Wagner and Mathewson.  I don’t care to give specifics but we are talking in the neighborhood of $20,000.    He came back with a counter offer of around a thousand more and a deal was struck.  Now the hard part:  actually bringing the deal completion. The seller only wanted to do a cash-only deal, in person and despite living in Texas, I had to make it happen.

I posted on a baseball card and memorabilia chat board I help run, Net54baseball.com, to see if there was anyone in the Indianapolis area that could help me.  I got several quick replies. It seems there are many of the board members in every large city in the US, making it quite convenient to find someone to help with in-person deals that are out-of-state (to where you live).

1911 Christy Mathewson Pinkerton card

The seller also told me he was going out of town that very day for an entire week, so it would have to be finalized after he got back. I said fine but was a bit nervous. I knew when he took the Cobb card off of eBay that there might be a few watchers emailing him. I was right. He told me he got bombarded with emails. But he kept to our deal.

My Indianapolis friend met him the following week and did the transaction at a Denny’s over brunch. Then my friend went to the post office and sent them to me via Express Mail.

I ended up selling the Wagner and Mathewson and kept the Cobb and Clarke (I won it through the seller’s eBay auction) for my efforts.  Not a bad gig if you can get it but those kinds of deals are rare in our day and age. The seller took the cash option and was happy.  So was I.

-Leon Luckey