A small hoard of 19th century Old Judge cards turn up in Indiana..the second big find of it’s kind for an LA dealer.
Los Angeles dealer and collector Dave Levin lives for calls like the one he got this spring.
"A man in Indianapolis contacted me and said he had a large collection of Old Judge cards that he was planning on selling. He said he’d get back to me but I didn’t hear anything for awhile and I kind of forgot about it.
For Levin, who specializes in turn of the century material, it was disappointing but not unusual. Collectors or those who inherit collections don’t always follow through.
"Then not long ago, I’m in the drug store of all places, and my cell phone rings. It’s this guy. I asked him to send a note with exactly what he had. Not long after, I got a list from him with 217 cards on it."
The best part was yet to come. "The original collector had been a boy growing up in Chicago so there were a were a lot of the really key, rare scarce cards from players on teams like Milwaukee, Kansas City and St. Paul," Levin told Sports Collectors Daily as he manned his booth at the National Convention in California. "Cards that if you lived on the east coast, you probably never saw. So as I go down this list, I’m just floored. He follows that with some scans and about that point I was ready to jump on a plane right away."
Levin did make the trip to Indiana almost immediately, but not after getting an assurance that the buyer was serious this time. "We negotiated a price on the phone and it was significantly higher than what I’d told him I’d pay when he first contacted me. But he talked about taking them to an auction house and about a brother who was interested. Finally, they gave me a number and I said ‘if I agree to that price and get on a plane, do we have a deal?’ and they said yes."
Once Levin looked through the stack of cards, he knew he’d made a great buy for a price in the high five figures. "The contrast and color of the cards is absolutely brilliant which tells me they have been in this box for many years. One of the best cards, which is really just a common, is a player from Milwaukee by the name of Davin. It’s a card on the want list of most of the advanced collectors," he explained. And there were a nice run of Hall of Famers too. "There’s a Bid McPhee, a Dummy Hoy, a Pud Galvin and some other players from teams that are fairly scarce." There was also a rare Yum Yum card of Cap Anson in the collection.
Since Levin handles so many Old Judge cards (N172) on his web site, http://www.gfg.com/ his name often surfaces when anyone does a Google search for the very desirable tobacco cards so he’s been fortunate enough to actually not consider the "Indy find" as his best. In 2004, he purchased a group of over 1400 Old Judge cards up the coast in Oregon for just under $400,000.
"A 93 year-old woman’s father had this childhood collection. No one in the family had ever seen them. She moved out of her home and the family began going through her belongings when they found these cards in a cigar box. They started doing some research and knew they’d had some good cards with some of the Hall of Famers but there were also some scarce cards of lesser known players in there as well."
Levin had already sold several dozen cards by the weekend. Some were snapped up in direct sales almost immediately while others began drifting off to new homes as the National show opened. Michigan collector Joe Gonsowski stopped by to try and pick up two cards he’d been
searching for for a long time.
"For the past several years, I’ve been after nothing but Detroit Old Judges. I’d been collecting Detroit players on baseball cards since the 1980s and kept working my way back through the years which was very cool. But it doesn’t get any cooler than Old Judges."
Old Judge cards on eBay