A baseball time capsule recently entered the hobby, courtesy of a Northern California resident who finally let it go.
The owners of Granite Bay-based Auction Monthly received a call in late September from a man who told them he had a tin box full of old cards he was looking to sell. They arranged to meet not long afterward. Inside the rusty Pedro Cut Plug Tobacco box was his father’s collection of strip, caramel and tobacco cards dating back more than 100 years.
The story was that “Ed” had been born in 1909, grew up in Oakland and died in 1994. He’d never let go of his baseball heroes.
“Like many of those who grew up in the Depression, my father and the members of his family did not discard anything,” Ed’s son told us. “The plug tobacco box was probably given to him by one of his uncles. When I was young, elementary school age, I remember my father showing me the cards and the tin they were in. I rediscovered the tin when going through the family home in Tracy (CA) after his death in 1994 and found the tin in one of the closets.”
Twenty-nine years after it was discovered, the box was finally entering a hobby that’s changed enormously since the 1920s but still fascinates.
The tin held more than 600 cards that are 1926 and older. The condition was far from perfect as is often the case with strip cards that were typically ripped apart or cut by young hands and then carried around in pockets. The cards had clearly been well loved by Ed’s father, who must have been a fan of Babe Ruth because he had accumulated no less than 20 cards of The Bambino.
Single card highlights in the collection included:
- 1919-21 W514 Shoeless Joe Jackson
- 1921 E220 National Caramel Ruth
- 1922 American Caramel E121 Ruth
- At least one card of almost every 1919 Black Sox player
- 1919-21 Ruth W514
- Three 1920 W519 Ruth cards
- 1922 American Caramel E121 Ty Cobb
- 1921 W516 Cobb
- 1920 W519 George Sisler
There were cards from a multitude of pre-War sets including a variety of strip cards from 1919-1923, when Ed would have been 10-14 years old and some 1924-26 Zeenuts cards from the series that was issued on the west coast.
The number of Ruth cards was startling to the owners of the auction company, which bought the collection and immediately began culling some of the better cards for grading. Others have already been sold in their original condition.