Distributed from 1909-11, the E90-1 American Caramel set is one of the more popular early candy releases. With 121 cards and numerous shortprints, it is an incredibly difficult build. But the card that makes ultimate completion tough is the famous rookie card of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Jackson is a cult figure among collectors for his role in the 1919 World Series fix. His cards, along with those of the other banned players from the Chicago White Sox team conspiring to throw the series, are heavily desired and that is driven in large part to the scandal.
Today, Jackson’s card in that set is easily the most valuable. Even in low-grade condition, it usually still tops $10,000, putting it out of the range of many collectors. But the set is much more than that one card. With apologies to other important cards that could be noted, here some of the other keys in the important release.
Wagner, like a few other players, actually has two cards in this set. One features the Hall of Famer in a batting pose and the other depicts him as a shortstop in the field.
Both Wagner cards are valuable and are among the more expensive cards in the set. But it’s his fielding pose that is the rarer of the two and, in fact, there is even an argument to be made that it is the rarest card in the entire set. To date, PSA has graded only a grand total of 16 of the throwing variation.
Today, it is difficult to find the batting under $1,000 and the throwing card usually starts closer to $2,000.
As is the case in other sets, Ty Cobb’s card is one of the more important cards in this set.
Cobb has only one card in the set and it’s a picture that was seen in some other early sets. On it, he is featured as a batter and, even though the artwork on it leaves a little to be desired, it’s still an incredibly popular caramel card.
In contrast with the two rare Wagner cards, the Cobb card from the set is quite plentiful. To date, PSA has graded nearly 200 of them, as a point of comparison. Anyone that wants one and has the resources can find it relatively easily. It is not abundantly common but is often able to be found on eBay.
Despite the fact that it is not a difficult card to obtain, it is not an inexpensive card. Low-grade examples typically start in the $800-$1,000 range.
Fred Clarke — Pittsburgh Variation
Most players with more than one card in the set have different poses. But Hall of Famer Fred Clarke has two cards and the distinguishing characteristic is in the caption.
The majority of Clarke’s cards show him as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Others indicate that he is a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So, what gives? Well, the Philadelphia designation is clearly a mistake. While some collectors might think this was due to a team change, the reality is that Clarke did not actually play for Philadelphia. We know a few things from the card. First, it’s clear that the cards with the Philadelphia designation were printed first because the corrected Pittsburgh cards have the Pittsburgh abbreviation over top of the Philadelphia name. And because the Pittsburgh cards are much rarer than the Philadelphia version, it appears to have been a mistake that came late in the printing process.
While decent copies of Clarke’s Philadelphia card start in the $100-$200 range, the Pittsburgh variation is more than double that price.
The card of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker is one of those cards that doesn’t get a lot of attention outside of collectors that are very familiar with the set. However, it is one of the true rarities of the set and one of its most expensive cards.
The card is attractive because it is sometimes considered to be a rookie issue of Speaker (even though he technically has some postcards from slightly earlier issues). But the real allure here is its rarity in comparison to other big names in the set. To date, PSA has only graded 25 of Speaker’s cards and those assembling the set can tell you just how difficult it is to find.
Even in lower grades, it is usually difficult to find this card for much under $1,000.
Dots Miller Sunset
One of the more intriguing cards on the list is a variation for Dots Miller.
Most of Miller’s cards are seen without a red sunset in the background. However, a select few are known with a splash of red ink, which depicts a sunset.
It is difficult to get a handle on just how many of these cards exist as the variation was really only publicly known in recent years. Grading companies are just now catching on to them so pop reports don’t help much. However, it is easy to see that the cards with the red sunset are much rarer than their counterpart. They rarely appear for sale on eBay and are undoubtedly among the tougher cards in the set.
Even in low-grade condition, the sunset variation is usually several hundred dollars.
Like Fred Clarke, Cy Young has two cards in the set related to differing team captions. But Young’s variation actually makes sense.
The majority of Young cards picture him as a member of Boston but a much smaller amount show him with Cleveland. The cards are different poses, too, with one (Boston) being a portrait and the other (Cleveland) a side action image.
Young played with Boston from 1901 through 1908. In 1909, he joined the Cleveland Naps, staying there through part of 1911. Since this set ran through 1909-11, it would seem that there should be more cards of him with Cleveland instead of Boston, but that isn’t the case. That tells us that a large quantity of the Boston cards were likely printed early on and then only changed to Cleveland late in the process.
Despite the fact that the Cleveland card is much rarer (only 26 graded by PSA as opposed to a little more than 100 Boston cards graded), the prices are generally about the same — usually starting in the $500-$700 range for low-grade cards.
The No-Name Rarities
No-Name is probably a little harsh but the set includes numerous shortprint cards (or, at the very least, cards known to be very difficult to find by comparison) of otherwise common players.
To name a few, this list includes the likes of Peaches Graham, George Gibson’s Back View variation, Harry Howell’s wind up variation, Ed Karger, Tommy Leach’s throwing variation, Hans Lobert, Johnny Seigle, Dave Shean, Jake Stahl, George Stone’s one hand showing variation, Bill Sweeney, Jerry Upp, and several others that can be mentioned here. But the biggest of them all is certainly the Mike Mitchell card, which is one of the keys to the entire set.
Mitchell’s card may not technically be rarer than some of those others. But with only 23 graded despite the fact that it is known as a valuable card, it is certainly perceived as the biggest name among this list. Even in low-grade condition, the card usually starts in the $700-$800 range.
You can check out E90-1 American Caramel cards on eBay here.