The population of one of the hobby’s rarest and pre-War minor league sets has grown by one—but the set itself is bigger than previously thought after the additional discovery of three previously unknown players.
The fresh find of 1921 White’s Bakery Tip-Top Baltimore Orioles cards is among the highlights in Memory Lane’s newly-launched catalog. The set, collected by the grandfather of the east coast consignor’s father, includes the earliest baseball card of Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove, an exceptionally scarce and important issue.
Previously thought to contain 19 cards, the set consigned to Memory Lane included 22 players. The cards of Joe Boley, Nigel Marlette and Tommy Thomas are the first ever to appear in the hobby.
“It’s just an incredible find,” Memory Lane’s Joe Tomasulo. “The Grove securely stands as one of the four most significant pre-rookie cards in the hobby behind only the 1933 Baltimore News Babe Ruth, the 1933 Zeenut Joe DiMaggio and the 1910 Old Mill Joe Jackson. You can put the Grove right next to those cards.”
The Tip Top Bread Orioles set is extremely rare with only 39 examples previously existed on the combined PSA and SGC population reports, with all 22 cards from this find the first subjects to ever be encapsulated by PSA. They have not traded hands since their original White’s Bread distribution back in 1921.
One of only four graded examples in existence, the Grove is graded 1.5 by PSA while the 21 other cards have an overall average GPA of 1.74. It’s actually somewhat impressive considering the subjects were oversized (3 ¼” x 5 ½”) and printed on thin stock. None of the 39 previously graded examples have been rated higher than VG (3).
The cards were issued as a promotion, with newspaper ads of the time indicating one different card was issued with loaves of bread each day, apparently for about three weeks.
In addition to Grove, the set includes a card of Orioles owner/manager Jack Dunn, a former player who had signed Babe Ruth to a pro contract several years earlier. The Grove card includes the famous misspelling of the young pitcher’s last name as “Groves.”
The Orioles were immensely popular in Baltimore during the era and the card set was one of several promotions issued during their run as one of the greatest minor league teams ever assembled. They won seven consecutive International League titles in the late 1910s and 20s. Led in part by Groves’ pitching, the 1921 team finished 119-47, winning 70 of 88 home games and establishing a 27-game winning streak that stood as a minor league record until 1987.
The Grove card alone is expected to easily reach five figures, based on prior sales. Bidding on both lots will continue through January 11 at MemoryLaneInc.com.