Max Stein was a noted book dealer in Chicago and had his store on South State Street at the edge of the Loop for many years. In addition to his books, he tried his hand at publishing post cards, with a number of Chicago views to his credit.
Collectors know him best for his series advertised as “Photo-Finish Post Cards of Noted People”, featuring such diverse subjects as presidents, flyers, prizefighters, baseball players and even a few dancing girls to add a little spice. An ad printed on the back on one of the cards illustrates how varied his offerings were. And the price was right – 35 cents for 100, only $2.75 for 1,000!
The baseball part of this series totals 25 known cards, issued over a period of several years (1909-1916). Printing is in a dark brown color. The legend, consisting of the player’s name and team, is usually hand-lettered. Stein’s copyright mark of “Max Stein Chi.” is placed on the picture side of most of the cards that I have seen. However, at least two, those of Heine Zimmerman and Rube Marquard, have a printed legend and were published under the “United State Publishing House, Chicago” label that is printed on the back side of the card.
Most pictures are excellent full length action shots and at lease some of them are by Francis P. Burke, one of the foremost photographers of the day. The pictures of Cobb, Mathewson, Wagner and Zimmerman, attributed to Burke, can also be seen in the book “That Old Ball Game” by David R. Phillips, published in 1975. Most unusual are two cards that show groups of Chicago Cubs players. One had Manager Johnny Evers posing with his four catchers, while the five Cubs outfielders stand in a row on the other. Shown with their new teams are two of the great Cubs who left Chicago after the 1912 season – Frank Chance as a New York American and Joe Tinker as a Cincinnati Red.
A Chicago post card collector purchased an accumulation of remainders from Stein’s daughter many years ago, including the original printing plates for some this series.
This article was written by the late Elwood Scharf and originally appeared in The Trader Speaks, a noted hobby publication in the 1970s and 80s.
(Ed. Note: Max Stein and Company postcards remain fairly inexpensive, with an SGC 40 John McGraw recently selling at auction for $307).