Finding even a small 19th century tobacco collection is a notable discovery. But when that collection includes hundreds of cards, it’s a haul rarely seen.
That was the case, however, with a collection recently acquired by Dave Hobson of BaseballCardBuyer.com, who was approached by the owner of approximately 800 19th century cards including both sports and non-sports issues.
Typically, such a find includes mostly low-grade examples. After all, we’re talking about cards that can be more than 125 years old. But Hobson says, that wasn’t the case here.
“Some of the non-sports were 1 of 1 (highest-graded examples),” recalled Hobson. “Multiple nice condition Indian Chiefs, N28’s … N29’s etc. There is a bit of everything like a 1888 N48 A & G Virginia Brights First Base Girl Baseball Players (Type 2) which was 1 of 3 examples ever graded by PSA.”
That card sold for over $300.
Additionally, many of the key baseball cards received solid mid grades after they were submitted to third-party graders.
Details of the Find
The cards were passed down through a family to a man who recently inherited them from his uncle. The uncle, who was also in the military, had a vast collection of trading cards, coins, and other collectibles, taking them with him across the country to the various locations he was stationed.
The deal came together over the winter. To the seller, based in snowy Albany, NY, the lure of a free trip on Hobson to the much warmer climate of his South Carolina office in January was enough of a lure for the two to discuss prices in person and the seller accepted Hobson’s offer.
The massive collection, as mentioned, includes non-sports cards. However, it has its fair share heavy hitters from the baseball world, too. Included were a total of 20 N28 and N29 Allen & Ginter baseball cards, including two Cap Ansons, two Charles Comiskeys, as well as Hall of Famers John Clarkson and Tim Keefe.
Nearly complete baseball card subsets from those issues were present in the find. The N28 set was missing only King Kelly for completion. Half of the N29 Allen & Ginter baseball subset was there and while Hall of Famer Buck Ewing was not, a total of five N29s were found, including a pair of George Millers, a pair of James Ryans, and one card of Charles ‘Pretzels’ Getzien. These were graded by SGC and generally received mid grades of Very Good through Excellent-Near Mint.
One of the hidden keys to the collection is a rare spotted tie Old Judge card. These are heavily desired by collectors and the owner did not even realize it was a baseball card. “He thought it was a non-sport type card (as that was the bulk of the collection),” Hobson stated. “Perhaps a card of a barber he later said. He was thoroughly thrilled when I told him that one Old Judge card was worth a few grand.”
The spotted tie card featuring Stephen Brady was ultimately graded a 2.5 by SGC. These are dubbed ‘spotted tie’ variations because of the polka dot ties worn by the players in their pictures. Heritage placed an estimate of $2,500 on the card and it could do even better than that. Not many sales of the card have occurred but an Authentic graded one in much worse condition fetched nearly $1,100 in a Clean Sweep auction last year.
Another key find was an N175 Gypsy Queen card of Watch Burnham, also graded a 2.5 by SGC. Burnham was a manager and an umpire, who was involved in a legendary story with Hall of Famer King Kelly. According to Heritage Auctions, he ejected Kelly during a game and informed him he had one minute to leave the field, timing him with a watch. In a fit of anger, Kelly destroyed the watch, which was actually his as it was presented to him before the game as a gift. Burnham happened to be holding onto it for him with Kelly apparently either unaware or forgetful. Heritage has placed a $3,000 estimate on the Burnham card, which will be sold in the company’s July auction.
The collection also included some boxing cards. Among the find were several 1887 N174 Gypsy Queen boxing cards, including one of early champion John Sullivan and several high-grade N29 Allen & Ginter cards. Two of the N29 boxing cards, for example, received PSA 7 grades (Billy Edwards and Jack Havlin). Several cards from the Allen & Ginter and Duke Tobacco non-sports sets also did quite well, scoring PSA 7s and 8s with a few being the highest-graded by PSA.
So what’s next for the unique collection? Hobson has split it up. Some have already been sold on eBay but hundreds more remain. Many of the cards have been graded by PSA and SGC, and will appear in this summer’s Heritage auction. As Hobson expected, several received strong grades.
Here’s a look at some more of the Allen & Ginter cards that have been graded and are currently set for auction in July.