2012 might just go down as the 'Year of the Big Find' in sports collectibles. Another discovery of forgotten baseball cards is about to enter the hobby when Saco River Auction offers a newly discovered group of 1888-89 N-173 Old Judge cabinet cards including an ultra scarce King Kelly street clothes variation.
The group was recently graded and includes:
All of the players, some Hall of Famers, were members of the 1888 Boston Beaneaters, a franchise that eventually became the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves.
Cabinet versions of the Old Judge issues are especially difficult to find as they required the submission of proofs of purchase from cigarette packs; sort of a 19th century version of today's card company redemption programs.
The N173 Kelly card, showing the 19th century star in his Sunday best, is exceptionally scarce and popular. Another version, showing him in uniform and graded EX/MT, sold via Robert Edward Auctions, sold for $16,450 last spring via Robert Edward Auctions. By contrast, the smaller N172 Old Judge cards distributed in cigarette packs, are more common, with more than 600 currently on eBay.