Vintage Baseball Card Finds Still Happening

Talk to those who search for old, forgotten cards and memorabilia at flea markets, garage sales and the like and you’ll often hear them say "there’s nothing left to find".

That’s been proven wrong…again.

One collector had the good fortune of acquiring some long-forgotten cards and perhaps shed more light on the distribution of some early 20th century issues.

Like a true vintage collector, he’s more interested in sorting through the history of the cards than about whatever monetary benefits he’ll get. Here’s the first-person story from a long-time hobbyist in the Vintage Baseball Forum:

"I recently had the opportunity to become involved in a vintage card find. Without going into specifics that might invade the privacy of others involved, I was invited into a transaction in progress between a friend and the nephew of a homeowner who found a box of vintage tobacco cards in her attic. Since I was in at the ground level and was able to see and purchase most of the find, I was able to deduce quite a bit about how a card collection was composed nearly 100 years ago, information that is lost the moment a virgin lot of cards is broken down and distributed into the Hobby. It is that information that I wanted to share.

The cards included in the find broke down into two categories, baseball and boxing. The group included two T202s, six T205s, five T207s, approximately 40 T219s, and ten T227s. The most interesting thing I realized on viewing the lot was something that should be obvious but that we often forget: T card distribution was entirely dependent on the smoking habits of the tobacco customers. Every card represents another pack of coffin nails purchased, ostensibly by an adult who either saved the cards or gave them to a child. In this case, it was obvious that the smoker in the house was an Honest Long Cut loyalist. All of the T219s and T227s were Honest Long Cut branded, as were 5 of the 6 T205s. The sole other T205 was a Sovereign. One of the T207s was a Recruit, one a Napoleon, and three were Broad Leaf backs (how I wish that the smoker had been loyal to that brand!). The three Broad Leaf cards included Alex McCarthy (one of the rarest cards), Phelan and Otto Miller (Brooklyn), while the Napoleon was Golden and the Recruit was Germany Schaefer. The T205s included Ed Walsh (2 cards), Wiltse right ear showing variation, Moriarty, Tinker (the Sovereign back), and Ford (dark cap). From T227 we found one baseball player, Rube Marquard, three boxers (Johnson, Attell and Coulon), wrestler Zybsko and a few of the miscellaneous sports and pseudo-sports subjects.

I assume that the collection was put together by a boy because the subjects were all sports-related. The conditions varied widely, which tells me that some of the cards were more played with than others. A majority of the cards showed evidence of handling, typically creases or corner wear, but a considerable number were in very high grade, with the exception of bits of tobacco leaf that speckled a few of their fronts. A few cards were affected by moisture, including the Tinker which had one corner tarnished from moisture.

One of the things that struck me about the T205s was how golden the borders really were. I would say that nearly every T205 I have ever seen exhibits some degree of tarnishing manifesting in dulling of the metallic edges, which would be expected in any metal-based material (other than pure gold) exposed to 100 years of air. These cards, however, were locked away in a dark airless place for over 90 years and their borders were truly golden. I was just astounded at how they “popped”. The heart-breaker of the lot was the T202 Cobb-Moriarty card. In otherwise nice shape except for a crease that did not affect the center panel, it appeared to have been doused in oil or some other petroleum-based product. Since it was completely covered in oil yet was the only card in the lot in that condition, I have to assume that the oil was intentionally applied, perhaps by the boy looking to preserve the card. The card stock is grayed as a result but the images are still nice.

Given the untouched nature of the find and the distribution of cards in it, I can make some conclusions about the manner and timing of their issuance. It looks to me that the child in question collected all the cards in 1912. We know that the T202s and T227s are 1912 issues. The lot supports Tim Newcomb’s analysis of the T207 set in Vintage & Classic Baseball Collector #38 in which he concluded that the set was made and distributed in series in 1912. I think it may well be that the variations in T205 also were 1912 insertions into the set and that the issue was available into 1912. Among the T205s I found was the Wiltse right ear showing card, which is tougher to find than the both ears showing variety. I had always thought that the T219 was a later issue than the 1911 T218 on which it is based. This lot supports that theory also since the T219s were found with quite a few obviously 1912-issued cards.

I’ve sent in the better T227s, T219s and some of the baseball cards to SGC. So far it appears that the T219s are grading between 50 and 80, and I expect similar grades from the balance."

And here’s another…

"Just recently, I flew down to North Carolina for an estate auction which advertised tobacco cards. When we arrived at this little auction house in a run down shopping center we walked in and asked about the tobacco cards. It was the day before the auction and they were just starting to set up tables with all of the items and their lot numbers. The owner of the place went into his office and came out with seven plastic baggies and kinda slapped them down on a table in front of us. Each baggy had a post it note on it saying what each bag contained. In total there were 7 bags, 6 of which had a baseball player in them. They were all cards given out with Allen and Ginter and most were nonsports. There were N28s, N29s, N43s, N41s, etc. I slowly opened the first bag to reveal an ex N43 Ewing and held it completely raw in my hand. All of the cards were in great condition. The cards, when auctioned the next day, got way more attention then we would have though but we still managed two baggies. Once of which contained 4 N43s and an N28 Cap Anson. The other, a few N28s and an ex-mt N36 Red Cloud."