While much of the focus in early 20th century card collecting is often on tobacco and caramel cards, another type of card was all the rage at the same time — postcards. Many postcard sets (as well as a slew of individual postcards) were produced in the early 1900s. Even though many of those are generic issues not featuring actual players, a good many did include pictures of real baseball stars. One of those sets was the 1908 Brush Automobile postcards set.
Here’s a closer look at this rare issue that featured the Detroit Tigers.
About the Brush Automobile Postcards
The Detroit Tigers were one team that was featured on numerous postcard sets. From around 1907 through 1910, the Tigers were one of those teams that you’ll find was the focal point of many postcards. And the great news for collectors is that Ty Cobb is front and center of most of those.
The Brush Automobile set was a promotional type of postcard for Brush automobiles. Some have claimed this is a 1908 issue while others have pointed to 1910. Brush (more specifically, the Brush Motor Car Company) was an early manufacturer of automobiles. Based in Michigan, the company lasted only a few years. This website on the company’s cars states that only a total of 13,250 were produced with the car selling for, at one point, as little as $350.
Like many companies, Brush used postcards to help spread their message. In 1908, they issued a set of ten postcards featuring the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The link to the Tigers was obvious as Brush was a Michigan company.
The postcards had a thick white border and included black and white images of the Tigers. Some of the players were pictured in uniform and others were shown in suits. Most of the postcards featured only one person but one pictured two of them (Germany Schaefer and Charley O’Leary). Each card also included a player-specific slogan on the front.
Backs of the postcards had a simple divider format with half dedicated to the sender’s message and the other half allowing space for the recipient’s address.
Brush Automobile Postcards Checklist
In all, a total of ten postcards are included in the set. All players are featured only once and manager Hughie Jennings was featured twice.
While there are some notable names in the set, include the Hall of Famer Jennings, the key to the release is a card of Ty Cobb. Cobb’s card in and of itself would already be the most important one, of course. But an added bonus is that this is one of the Hall of Famer’s earliest collectibles.
Cobb’s career began in 1905 at the age of only 18. However, he didn’t start to appear on cards until 1907. That year, he led the majors in hits (212), batting average (.350), and runs batted in (119), firmly establishing himself as one of baseball’s best players.
Below is the checklist of postcards in the set:
- Ty Cobb – Ty Cobb’s the man who kills the ball, he won a pennant for us last fall
- Bill Coughlin – Bill Coughlin is a captain brave, he makes the Tiger cubs behave
- Bill Donovan – Bill Donovan’s smile is good to see, when he goes in we’re a victory
- Hughie Jennings – Wee-A-Ah Jennings we all know well, the Tigers play when he starts to yell
- Hughie Jennings – Here’s Hughey Jennings who never quits, he gives a cheer when a Tiger hits
- Matty McIntyre – Here’s Matty McIntyre fielder great, he nails the runner at the plate
- George Mullin – George Mullin’s a pitcher with a lot of nerve, a strong right arm and a deadly curve
- Boss Schmidt – When Charlie Schmidt’s behind the bat, attempts to steal all tumble flat
- Germany Schaefer and Charley O’Leary – These are the twins that never go weary, we all like Schaefer and Charlie O’Leary
- Ira Thomas – Here’s Ira Thomas, you know his face, he throws ’em out at second base
The notable player missing from the checklist is Hall of Famer Sam Crawford.
The postcards, like many from the era, are not easy to find. They are rarely seen on eBay and most dealers will not have them available. Only a few dozen to date were graded by PSA and SGC combined. They do occasionally surface in auctions, however. Commons generally start in the $200-$300 range. A PSA 5.5 Bill Coughlin sold in a 2018 Love of the Game auction for $330.
Cobb is, of course, a different story. A PSA 5 Cobb, the finest known example, sold in 2019 for $7,800 through Heritage.