One of perhaps fewer than 15-20 of the hobby’s scarcest football cards is on the auction block. The N302 1894 Mayo’s Cut Plug “Anonymous” John Dunlop was issued long before the pro game launched. The rarest subject in a relatively obscure 35-card set, the card has a starting bid of $14,999 but you can buy it outright for a little more. The card has been consigned to New Jersey-based Just Collect, which is offering it among its weekly eBay listings.
Issued with tins of tobacco, Mayo’s is the only 19th century trading card set that was devoted exclusively to football. The set features Ivy League college football players from Yale, Harvard and Princeton. For some reason, the company couldn’t identify Dunlop when the cards were printed so it listed him as “Anonymous”. In actuality, Dunlop was a well-regarded four-year letterman for the Crimson who later became a coach.
Much like the baseball series that features early big leaguers from the same era, Mayo’s cards are exceptionally hard to find in good shape for a variety of reasons including their thin stock and black borders. The best Dunlop card ever graded ranks only VG-EX.
Population reports compiled by PSA and SGC show 14 Dunlop cards encapsulated but some of those have been crossed over from one company to the other so there are likely no more than 10-12 known to exist, making it more scarce than cards like baseball’s T206 Honus Wagner. Roughly half of those have been deemed “Poor” or “Authentic”. The card being offered by Just Collect rates SGC 20 (Fair).
Another Dunlop card was discovered in a Michigan farmhouse earlier this year and consigned to Robert Edward Auctions. Graded Authentic by SGC, it sold for $11,258. Another, graded VG 3 by PSA with an “MK” qualifier because of hand-written identification on the back, sold for more than $9,000 at REA in 2009.
Considering the 1894 Mayo’s place in collecting history as the first tobacco set devoted exclusively to football cards, it’s not a stretch to say the Dunlop card—and some of the other scarcities in the could be undervalued. Only five complete sets have ever been pieced together and placed in either grading company’s registry.
The auction for the Dunlop card closes Sunday evening.