Flip through any auction catalog these days, and you’ll notice no shortage of 1910-era Ty Cobb cards available for sale at any given time, but one card hitting the block later this month is sure to garner some extra special attention. The story behind it will also answer a question that has been stumping collectors for nearly 30 years while also pouring some fuel on the fire for scholars looking to unlock the mystery of one of the era’s most enigmatic sets.
Robert Edward Auctions will offer in its summer auction starting July 26 a 1916 Tango Eggs Ty Cobb graded GOOD 2 by PSA. Of special note is that the offered card features Cobb in a batting pose, making this card a previously uncataloged pose variation from this set.
REA recently submitted the card for authentication on behalf of an old-time collector who decided the time was right to part with his collection of nearly 50 years. Beginning in the 1970s, the consignor focused on cards from the nineteenth century through the 1950s with a special focus on Hall of Famers and obscure type cards.
In 1993, when Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen announced a substantial find of Tango Eggs cards in the pages of Sports Collectors Digest, this collector feverishly reached out hoping to snag a few for his collection. He ended up buying a few dozen from the Rosen offering, mostly of the subjects found in quantity, like Hugh Jennings and Bob Bescher. Two years later, when the family enlisted the help of another dealer to sell the balance of the cards withheld from the initial offering, this collector again jumped at the opportunity, stocking up on as many as he could afford, which resulted in an incredibly substantial grouping totaling more than 200 Tango Eggs cards.
What differed this time was that the family released a letter outlining the approximate quantities of each player, including a line at the bottom that appeared almost as an afterthought: “Unique – only one card: Ty Cobb.”
Knowing that he had not been given an opportunity to purchase the Cobb, or even heard that he lost out on it, the collector reached out to the two dealers involved with the family in hopes of getting closure on the whereabouts of the Cobb. According to the collector, Alan Rosen was told by the family that they’d offered the Cobb in lieu of payment to a professional who had assisted them with the legal and financial ramifications associated with the find. With a little digging, Rosen and the collector were able to locate the new owner, make an offer to purchase the card, and bring it home to rest with scores of other cards from the massive find.
From the time the letter was made public until right up to the present day, collectors have doubted the family’s recollection of the contents of the find since no Cobb had ever surfaced as the one associated with the original group. In 2011, a severely worn Tango Eggs Ty Cobb was offered at auction and said to have originated from a fresh-to-the-hobby find from Louisiana that contained other 1910-era tobacco cards and Cracker Jacks. That card, featuring Cobb leaning on a bat, shared an image with one of the two cards of Cobb from the E106 American Caramel set issued a year earlier.
Many collectors have speculated that the Tango Eggs checklist may mirror that of the E106 set, which would mean that the set is much larger than currently known and more subjects may be discovered in the future. With the REA example featuring the other known pose of Cobb from the E106 set, researchers will likely go into overdrive trying to unlock the mysteries of these two sets.
“It is a great privilege for us to be able to finally bring this card to auction and in the process answer some longstanding questions about this remarkable hobby find,” said REA President Brian Dwyer. While Dwyer would not hazard a guess as to what the card would sell for, he did express confidence that there would be no shortage of interest. “This card is so incredibly significant that nothing would surprise me about how high the bidding goes, but I do know that it will be a hotly contested item right up until the auction ends.”
REA’s July auction will feature a dozen additional lots of Tango Eggs from the same collection, all recently graded by PSA for the first time. Several are now the highest-graded examples on record. The balance of the consignor’s Tango Eggs collection is on hold for the time being according to REA. Whether he holds onto them to remember his role in one of the hobby’s most interesting finds or sells them in the future remains to be seen.
Other highlights from the collection include a rare T208 Cullivan’s Fireside, numerous high-grade T206 Hall of Famers and rare backs, a selection of high-grade T204 Ramly’s, and dozens of high grade Cracker Jacks.
Bidding opens July 26, and the auction ends August 18. For more information, visit www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com. Highlights from this collection and the entire auction will be on display at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago at booths 445, 544, and 546.