It takes two to Tango. The 1916 regional issue may be the most mysterious pre-War baseball card set in existence. But are the checklists that show the set having 18 cards off by two? One auction company is offering a six-figure reward to prove they’re right about the checklists being wrong.
It’s one of the most legendary ‘finds’ in hobby history. A stash of somewhere between 500 and 700 old baseball cards, discovered in New Orleans back in the early 1990s by a family whose grandparents had been involved in business during the time period. Little did they know just how rare those little pieces of cardboard really were.
No one has yet determined what the cards were produced for but they are genuine. Issued in 1916 and very similar to the more common 1915 E106 American Caramel cards, these carry an ad for L. Frank & Company’s ‘Tango Eggs’. The family spent the next few years selling them off to collectors and dealers who were willing to pay a steep price for previously unknown rarities.
The distribution wasn’t exactly uniform. There were well over 100 cards of Hughie Jennings and Bob Bescher. Yet others were found in quantities of one to four. Cards of Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb are listed on checklists but none have surfaced publicly. Just one card of Hap Felsch and Ray Morgan have been found despite reports that a total of three each exist.
The Felsch and Morgan are both included in a group of 16 cards consigned to Robert Edward Auctions for their sale next month. Checklists would indicate the group is two cards short of a complete set but Rob Lifson of REA is so sure the Wagner and Tinker cards don’t exist–and that the Felsch and Morgan cards in the group are one of a kind–he’s offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who can find the six cards
The family in New Orleans actually documented the players and quantity of cards in a letter signed by all four members. Lifson believes the existence of more cards may be a collecting version of the ‘urban myth’.
"There is always the possibility that the family was in error, but if this was the case, then all four family members were mistaken when specifically and very formally documenting in writing the players and quantities of each found," Lifson believes. "It is also the case that the undocumented cards are now in hidden collections, unable to be verified. We acknowledge that this is a possibility, but think this is less likely than collectors remembering cards in error, or repeating mistaken accounts of the existence of cards that do not exist. If these cards exist, we ought to be able to find them, especially after our considerable efforts – even just one card."
If someone out there can produce those six cards, and have them authenticated by PSA prior to the close of his company’s auction next month, Lifson promises to deliver on his $100,000 reward.
"We’re taking a risk, but a small one, we think. At the very least, we have highlighted that what cards actually exist in some rare card issues, and are even listed in guides, are sometimes clouded by uncertainty."
The Tango Eggs Checklist had it’s share of problems with errors too. Here’s the checklist:
- Bob Bescher
- Eddie Collins
- Red Dooin
- Hughie Jennings
- Billy Meyer (photo actually Fred Jacklitsch)
- Danny Murphy
- Buck Weaver (actually Joe Tinker)
- Hal Chase
- George McQuillen
- Ray Morgan (actually Mike Doolan)
- Roger Bresnahan
- Al Bridwell
- Hap Felsch (actually Ray Demmitt)
- Heinie Zimmerman
- Sam Crawford
- Johnny Evers