Rare baseball cards continue to be discovered and sometimes, those cards are old and valuable. Such is the case from a new find of 19th Century cards that includes a Hall of Famer from the 1888 Yum Yum Tobacco set.
About the Find and the Keefe Yum Yum Card
Dave Hobson of BaseballCardBuyer.com recently found a small collection of raw 19th Century cards, including both baseball and non-sports issues.
The cards had been in the hands of a dealer in antiques and precious metals located in upstate New York. They had resided in the possession of a single family for generations, apparently just as keepsakes.
After exchanging emails, a representative of Hobson’s company made a trip to see the cards in person and ultimately purchased them.
Six of the baseball cards will be offered in Heritage Auctions’ Fall Sports Card catalog, including the key to the find, an 1888 Yum Yum Tobacco card of Hall of Famer Tim Keefe.
“At first we spoke and I was not sure if the person had authentic ‘old tobacco cards’, as he claimed,” Hobson recounted.
“He said he had a list.”
That list would ultimately include a total of 37 cards — 27 of which were baseball cards.
Hobson, who generally receives several calls a day regarding potential cards, was skeptical at first. But that didn’t last long.
“When I saw the pictures, I knew they all were obviously 100 percent legit,” Hobson added. “Even though I had never seen that Yum Yum card.”
That Yum Yum Keefe card is incredibly rare and in fine shape, really, and has been graded a PSA 3.5 (VG+). It is Keefe’s pitching pose variation and was the only Yum Yum issue in the collection. While it had been known to exist, Hobson could not find any record of it being publicly sold before.
It includes a quality image that remains relatively unfaded – something that is heavily desired in this set.
About Yum Yum Cards
Yum Yum Tobacco cards are, in a word, rare. There are about 60 in the known checklist and they are seldom seen.
Similar to the N172 Old Judge cards and many other 19th Century tobacco issues, they feature sepia images with mostly blank backs. Some have been discovered with ads on the back. Yum Yum produced other sets but this one featuring baseball players is the most discussed. It is cataloged as N403 in the American Card Catalog. Several players, including Keefe, have more than one card in the elusive set.
Just how tough are the Yum Yum cards to find? To date, PSA has graded only three, and that includes this newly-slabbed Keefe. Now, they are not quite that elusive. SGC has graded 110 of them. Still, with only a little more than 100 graded issues between the two companies, it is easy to see that these are notoriously difficult cards.
Other Notable Cards in the Collection
While the Keefe is the big gun from the collection BCB purchased, there were plenty of other goodies that will be in the Heritage auction. They will likely not sell for as much as the Keefe, but are all still highly valuable.
Other 19th Century cards that will be up for grabs include N172 Old Judge cards of Cap Anson (suit) and Jim O’Rourke, N28 Allen & Ginter cards of Keefe and Charles Comiskey, and an N162 Goodwin card of Keefe.
Besides the Anson (a PSA 2), all of the others can be considered mid-grade cards as they’ve received grades from PSA between 3 and 4.
These cards are all from around the same time period – the late 1880s. All six of the players to be featured in the auction are also Hall of Famers.
The name ‘Keefe’, you might notice, shows up quite a bit in that list. But that makes sense given his popularity in the state. Keefe played most of his career in New York before playing his last three season in Philadelphia. He was almost certainly collected a bit in that state and, given the cards were found in New York, the number of Keefe’s discovered here makes sense.
In addition to the baseball cards, a small mix of non-sports cards were in the collection, too. The non-sports issues were Civil War cards featuring the likes of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses Grant, among others.
The six aforementioned baseball cards will be available in Heritage’s upcoming auction while the rest are destined to be sold via eBay.
What will the Keefe Yum Yum card earn at auction? It’s tough to say just because there are so few sales of Yum Yum cards – let alone Hall of Famers. But even low-grade Yum Yum cards sell for more than $1,000.
Heritage has placed a $10,000+ pre-auction estimate on the Keefe card. For the scarcity of the set, the player, and the grade, it wouldn’t be a shock to see that figure surpassed.
Collectors will have a chance to bid on the Keefe Yum Yum card and also participate in the rest of the auction with bidding expected to open on Wednesday, October 24 and conclude November 15 and 16.