A collection of 11 rare and valuable baseball advertising pieces chased down by a single collector over the last 20 years will cross the auction block next month.
SCP Auctions will offer them individually in its Spring Premier Catalog sale. Their total combined value is well into six figures. Among them are a 1930s Babe Ruth Old Gold Cigarettes tri-fold display, a 1910 Tuxedo Tobacco Walter Johnson sign and a 1912 Boston Garter ad featuring Eddie Collins and Hal Chase.
Baseball and tobacco marketing were inextricably linked during the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century, as evidenced by the vast array of baseball cards issued in conjunction with tobacco products. While plenty of tobacco trading cards survive today, a relatively miniscule number of baseball related tobacco advertising signs exist within the hobby. Limited production runs, exposure to elements and damage from public display, and their basic disposable nature have all contributed to their scarcity. All but a very small number of the hobby’s most coveted early baseball advertising signs have been lost forever to the junk heap of time.
The owner of the ad pieces offered next month spent countless hours and significant resources chasing down the best examples of the most desirable early baseball advertising pieces available.
The three prime pieces will open at $7,500 but auction officials believe each could sell for $30,000 or more.
Babe Ruth for Old Gold Cigarettes
Capitalizing on the unrivaled popularity of Babe Ruth in the 1930’s, Old Gold produced the rare tri-fold advertising display featuring Ruth. It features a full-body pose of Ruth in his New York Yankees uniform with his testimonial statement and facsimile signature to the side. It’s one of the most important early advertising pieces known.
The three panels – once separated – have been reattached with archival tape. Ensuing damage from long-ago contact with water – centering about the middle and right-side panels – has been professionally improved by recoloring.
Auction officials say the primary design components retain generally original, vibrant quality on their own, without typical fading from exposure to light, and that color work was applied almost wholly to background fields.
An all-original, 4″ x 6″ paper label (stating, “This display installed —- / Property of P. Lorillard Co.,” and confirming the advertisement’s company-sanctioned, factory origin) remains attached to the item’s back.
1910 Tuxedo Tobacco Walter Johnson
Even the most advanced collections have rarely included more than one of the three Tuxedo baseball advertising signs (Mathewson, McGraw and Johnson). While all three Tuxedos are scarce, the Johnson sign is particularly rare, with only a handful of examples known to exist.
Also restored, the Johnson piece includes a photographic head shot of the “Big Train,” as well as a quote, “Tuxedo is the one tobacco that contains every desired element. It is the best tobacco I have ever smoked.”
Experts have done color touch up and minor in-painting work. The 11×21” sign has been mounted to an archival backing for preservation.
1912 Boston Garter Collins/Chase
Boston Garter advertising signs, not surprisingly, are even rarer than Boston Garter cards with hobby estimates of such poster at fewer than ten. Auction officials say the poster displays a few minor creases and some other minor wear.
It appears that the same printing plates were used to produce both the card images on the poster and the cards themselves.
Bidding for the posters and hundreds of other lots offered in the auction will begin April 6 at SCPAuctions.com.