In February of this past year a collector known by the username ‘Theo_450’ appeared on the Full Count Forum looking for information about his collection. He knew that he had special Crack Jack cards including Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, and Christy Mathewson, but what neither he, nor most casual collectors, knew that the true gem in the collection might be St. Louis Browns second baseman Del Pratt.
And why would they? While Del Pratt was a respectable middle infielder in the second decade of the twentieth century, he is forgotten to most fans of the game. A lifetime .292 hitter, Pratt played during the era when the game was transitioning from the deadball era to the modern game ushered in by his 1920 teammate Babe Ruth. His peers considered him to be among the top players at his position, and modern sabermetrics show he was in the top ten of all position players in five of his thirteen seasons.
When Pratt walked away from baseball he managed in the minor leagues, but due partially to a short career in which he played for three franchises, he never quite established the legacy on the level of the many Hall of Famers he shared the diamond with like George Sisler, Ty Cobb, and the aforementioned Ruth.
The world of advanced cardboard collectors has not forgotten the fleet-footed Mr. Pratt, however, as his card issued in the 1914 Cracker Jack set has been passed down through hobby lore as a heralded short print. There is no mythical tale of Pratt objective caramel coated popcorn, nor is there any evidence of a broken printing plate. What is known is that early collectors noted the scarcity of Pratt akin to that of Louis Lowdermilk in the T207 set and Mike Mitchell in the E90-1 set. Some theories put forward over the years include lower printing rates of the higher number cards in the set and note that Pratt, like Christy Mathewson, had their pose changed for the 1915 issue of the Cracker Jack set.
With the advent of population report data several hobby conceits concerning scarcity have been shattered, by Pratt’s number 93 card in the 1914 Cracker Jack issue remains the stuff of legend totaling only some eighteen graded examples on the combined reports of PSA and SGC. The fact that recent sales such as Legendary’s August 2012 (SGC 30 – $16,730), Goodwin & Co.’s December 2012 (SGC 80 – $24,659.18), and Mile High’s June 2013 (PSA 4 – $17,625.09) illustrate the status Pratt holds in the hobby.
Now, 99 years after the Cracker Jack set hit boxes of delicious caramel goodness, Del Pratt finds himself at bat once more in Love of the Game’s August 2013 auction. This Pratt has received a technically accurate grade of 1.5 (Fair) from PSA, but the player image remains largely unaffected.
Based on recent sales and the fact only four 1914 Cracket Jack sets on the PSA registry include Pratt, this example should exceed $10,000 with the buyer’s premium. While most observers will flock to onetime teammate Ty Cobb and American League rival Shoeless Joe Jackson, the eyes of the keen observers will rightly be focused on Del Pratt. A true case where one’s cardboard legacy has overshadowed their on the field career.