Considering their scarcity and cost, collecting a small stack of sharp looking 1914 Cracker Jack cards is quite an accomplishment. A full set? All 144 cards? None of them creased, soiled, spotted or stained? Carefully curated to appeal to even the most discerning eyes?
That’s worthy of a lifetime achievement award.
Not many have attempted it. Fewer still have succeeded. Usually, collectors have to settle for a few favorite cards or try to snare one of the true icons on the checklist as a sort of personal holy grail.
As the hobby kicks off a new year, though, one of the hobby’s top sets of the original Cracker Jack baseball card promotion is up for grabs. Heritage Auctions is offering the third rated set on PSA’s Set Registry in its Winter Sports Card Auction. The entire collection of 144 pre-War gems is expected to sell for a total that will stretch into seven figures.
The set carries a GPA of over 5 (EX), remarkable considering that fewer than 500 cards in PSA’s entire population report rate above that line.
The 1914 Cracker Jack set was the first of two produced by the company in back to back years, but unlike the 1915 offering, wasn’t available as a full set via mail order. Baseball fans literally had to piece it together one by one. Unless you were willing to spend a good chunk of your weekly earnings on caramel corn and peanuts or knew a lot of people who ate a ton of it, the odds of chasing down a complete set even then were long. It’s why the set has become one of the most legendary and valuable issues ever created.
“This is easily one of the most handsome and historic sets of cards we have offered in recent memory,” says Chris Ivy, Heritage Sports’ co-founder and president. “The 1914 Cracker Jack cards are far rarer than the set that followed in 1915, and the fact these cards survived this long and in this condition is just staggering, considering that most were often stained even before they were pulled from boxes by kids with fingers made sticky by the caramel coating.
The set is led by a trio of icons: the Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson cards are the crown jewels. The Cobb is one of only a few rated PSA 8 (NM/MT) and rocketed to $240,000 within the first few days of bidding. The Jackson and Mathewson each rate 5 (EX). The Jackson is considered by most collectors to rank as perhaps his greatest card. The Mathewson is known for being exceptionally tough to find. PSA has examined only 31 with just one ranking higher than the 5 in the auction.
The owner of the collection wasn’t just focused on the number on the label, though. According to Heritage, “this set was built over many years with a meticulous regard for ‘eye appeal’ over technical grade. In many cases, higher grade cards were sacrificed or passed over for examples of equal or lesser grade possessing superior visual qualities.”
That’s why the cards in the set do vary quite a bit in terms of technical grade.
Other highlights from the collection include Walter Johnson (PSA 5); Tris Speaker (PSA 8); the rare Del Pratt (PSA 4–just one ranks higher); Honus Wagner (PSA 3), Eddie Plank (PSA 7) and Connie Mack (PSA 7).
Bidding is underway with the auction set to close January 27.