Love of the Blog

Communication, Commercialism, and Commentary

Babe Ruth at the St. Albans Golf Club

Ruth CheckPresented is a fantastic cancelled payment voucher/check signed by Babe Ruth on March 13, 1940.  Ruth’s love of golf has been well documented, and the St. Albans Golf Course in Queens was one of his frequent haunts, particularly after his retirement.  This check, in the amount of $20.92 and drawn on Chemical Bank of New York, was signed in bold, black ink by Ruth.  The dark, bold signature, which has been authenticated and encapsulated by PSA/DNA, is completely unaffected by the bank cancellations and stamps.

A Babe Ruth signature is a centerpiece of any collection.  One that serves as a piece of memorabilia from an important part of Ruth’s life is even more so.  This is a fantastic example, in apparent EX/MT condition with an incredible signature.

1933 Goudey Sport Kings Babe Ruth

1933 SK Ruth SGC 88 FrontIn the entire sports collectibles hobby, there is not a name as popular or enduring as that of Babe Ruth.  His image is still recognizable by youngsters more than sixty years after his passing, and his memorabilia and cards continue to scale new heights, with each major sale setting a new bar for his collectibles.

Presented is a splendid example of one of Ruth’s most beautiful cards, from one of the most attractive sportscard sets ever produced: his 1933 Goudey Sport Kings issue.  The card boasts exceptional centering, vivid color and clean, fresh borders, with sharp, NM-MT corners.

The Sport Kings set is the hobby’s most popular multi-sport issue, with a wide variety of names that rank among the most popular of all-time in each respective sport.  None, however, even approaches the popularity of Babe Ruth, undoubtedly the key card in the set.  While MINT examples have eclipsed $100,000, the SMR value of a NM-MT card still remains “affordable” at $27,000.  However, as the value of Ruth collectibles and cards continues to skyrocket, and the popularity of the Sport Kings set continues to grow, the availability of high-grade examples of Ruth’s colorful Goudey cards will continue to dwindle.  With just eight examples graded higher by either PSA or SGC, and just one true NM-MT example having sold publicly since 2011, this is a superb example of one of the most popular issues to feature the hobby’s greatest and most widely-recognized name and face.

Charles Conlon’s 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie

1933 Goudey Lajoie FrontOne of the greatest and most desirable cards in the entire hobby, the 1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie is the result of one of the Goudey Gum Company’s many marketing gimmicks.  Their wildly popular card set of 1933 was issued without a card #106, meaning that regardless of how many packs were purchased by kids looking to complete their set, it was an impossible task.  Kids bought pack after pack, looking for that elusive card #106 to complete their sets, to no avail.  

A small number of hardcore collectors were undaunted, eventually writing the company to complain.  For those collectors, Goudey in 1934 produced a special card of Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie, fulfilling their requests for a card #106 to complete their 1933 sets.  The Lajoie was only distributed in this fashion, resulting in extraordinary scarcity in relation to its counterparts.  Today, the card is considered one of the hobby’s most important, valuable, and highly sought-after cards, with an intense demand that will likely never exceed the supply.

This particular example has additional hobby significance in that it was once part of the collection of noted hobbyist Charles Conlon.  Conlon, a well-known collector and dealer who passed away in 2008, was known as the “hoarder” of 1975 Topps Mini cards in Michigan.  After Conlon passed in 2008, his substantial collection was sold at auction, with all proceeds going to a variety of charities.  This example of the 1933 #106 Lajoie, one of the finest in the hobby, was part of Conlon’s collection.  Initially submitted for grading in 2008, the card was resubmitted after SGC established half-grades at the upper end of the grading register, receiving the lofty grade of 82, along with the Conlon pedigree on the card label.

This is an extraordinary card, bright and clean with a bold, beautiful image and a remarkable lack of overall wear.  The incredible rarity of this card, coupled with its difficulty in high grade, make this one of the most important and desirable cards in the hobby.  Often considered one of the three or four most significant cards in collecting, this is one of the finest examples of one of the hobby’s truly great cards.

The Monster

T206 5There are many popular card sets in the hobby, but few carry the mystique of T206 – the card issue nicknamed “The Monster” because of its difficulty to complete, and due as well as to its all-consuming nature.  Starting a T206 set is an easy proposition – many, many collectors have started sets – the cards are easy to find (particularly in collector grades), and bargains on individual cards are common.  Completing a T206 set, however, is a different story – 70 Hall of Famers add considerable expense, while multiple player poses and variations, tough Southern Leaguers and difficult-to locate scarcities within the set create collecting challenges that eventually frustrate all but the most patient and passionate collectors to the point of abandonment.  Certainly, the number of collectors who have completed a T206 set is just a fraction of the number who have started.

Presented here is the end of result of such an exercise in patience and diligence – a complete (save for the “big four” of Wagner and Plank, along with Magie and Doyle variations) set.  Featuring 520 cards, all in collector grades, this is an exceptional collecting achievement, including the remaining tough variations, all the Hall of Famers, and the difficult Southern Leaguers.

T206 3While the great majority of the cards are ungraded (which, face it, is the best way to build this set), the set does contain 29 graded keys, from a mixture of grading companies.  While there are a number of back varieties represented, the total number of cards with “tough” backs is just 59, with none more scarce than Cycle 460, as the collector of this set was more focused on completing the task than getting sidetracked by such things as difficult backs.

It is often stated that the greatest value in purchasing a complete T206 sit lies in its breakup value; acquiring 70 prewar Hall of Famers plus all the difficult Southern Leaguers, variations, and tough poses in one shot represents an excellent opportunity for a dealer to help multiple collectors with their own pursuits.  However, it is our opinion that acquiring a complete set such as this affords the collector with an outstanding foundation on which to upgrade and improve, without the additional challenge of having to find all those tough variations.

The overwhelming majority of the cards in this collection reside at the lower end of the grading scale, with the graded examples representative of the set in its entirety.  A condition breakdown of the graded cards is as follows:

SCD Authentic (1 card): EX 5: Kid Elberfeld (Washington); PSA VG-EX 4 (1 card): JJ Clarke (Cleveland); PSA VG 3 (1 card): George Mullin (Throwing) SGC VG 40 (4 cards): Frank Chance (Red Background), Willie Keeler (Portrait), Heinie Wagner (Bat On Right Shoulder); PSA VG 3 (MC): Joe Tinker (Bat On Shoulder); PSA GOOD 2 (4 cards): Walter Johnson (Hands at Chest), Nap Lajoie (Portrait), Rube Marquard (Hands at Thighs), Christy Mathewson (Dark Cap); SGC GOOD 30 (3 cards): George Brown (Washington), Christy Mathewson (Portrait), Shag Shaughnessy; SGC FAIR 20 (4 cards): Home Run Baker, Ray Demmitt (St. Louis), Hugh Duffy, Cy Young (Portrait); PSA PR 1 (5 cards): Ty Cobb (Red Background), Joe Doyle (NY), Christy Mathewson (White Cap), Joe Tinker (Portrait), Joe Tinker (Bat Off Shoulder); SGC POOR 10 (5 cards): Ty Cobb (Green Background), Walter Johnson (Portrait); Bill O’Hara (St. Louis), Cy Young (Bare Hand Shows); Cy Young (Glove Hand Shows) PSA PR-FR 1 (MK): Red Kleinow (Boston).

T206 6An overall breakdown of the set’s condition would be 8% VG or better; 18% GOOD; 30% FAIR; and 44% POOR with a few likely trimmed, as the cards do fall heavily on the “collector grade” end of the condition spectrum.  As is frequent with cards of this era, many cards exhibit back damage from scrapbook removal in the form of glue and paper loss, and approximately 50 of the cards have small pencil notations on the card fronts, noting each player’s defensive position.  

The set is presented lovingly in two binders; one containing four-pocket sheets for the graded cards and the other containing 15-pocket sheets for the ungraded cards.  Many of the ungraded cards once resided in grading company holders; the original grading company “flip” has been carefully placed behind each card in its binder page.  Spaces for the graded cards have been noted with paper inserts, and four blank spaces have been left in the binder for when the winning bidder acquires his Wagner, Doyle, Magie and Plank cards to complete the set.

1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson

Z1950 Toleteros Gibson FrontThe rarity and value of Carribbean baseball cards is well-documented through years of auction results; issues like Billiken Cigars, Propagandas Montiel, and Caramelo Deportivo have become highly desirable due to their rarity and their representation of the great players from the Negro Leagues.  It is the 1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson, however, that has ascended to the top of hobby lore as the most popular and highly sought-after Negro Leagues card.

Despite the fact that Gibson actually passed away three years before the card was issued, this card is widely recognized as the only standard card of the great slugger, and due to its extreme rarity has taken its place at the pinnacle of the hobby, becoming one of its most desirable cards.  Gibson is unquestionably the biggest name in Negro Leagues history, considered by many to rank among the greatest power hitters in the game and perhaps baseball’s greatest catcher.  Gibson passed away from a stroke just a few months before Jackie Robinson broke in with the Dodgers in 1947; he was just 35 years old but did not get to experience the major leagues.  His election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, however, positions him among the game’s greats.  

While the greatest name in major league history is unquestionably Babe Ruth, there are dozens of different Ruth cards available to hobbyists.  The 1950-51 Toleteros Puerto Rican winter league card is the only card of Josh Gibson issued commercially in even remote proximity to his playing career.  Much like the 1948 Leaf card of Babe Ruth has long been considered a standard-issue Ruth card despite being issued 13 years after the conclusion of his great career, the 1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson merits similar status despite having been issued four years after his final at bat.

The card’s rarity is unquestionable.  While current population data indicates 27 examples have been graded, we believe the actual number of graded examples to be fewer than that, due to cards being crossed back and forth between grading companies.  Regardless, the card is impossibly rare and extremely desirable among advanced collectors.  The condition sensitive nature of Cuban cards in general makes a card of this grade an extreme rarity; just eight examples have graded higher but again, we are of the belief that the population reports are skewed due to collectors crossing cards back and forth.

Regardless, a 1950-51 Toleteros Josh Gibson is one of the hobby’s greatest cards; certainly one of its most rare and desirable, and unquestionably the pinnacle of Negro League collecting.

Famous and Barr Jim Thorpe

1916 Famous & Barr Thorpe Front

Produced by Felix Mendelsohn and featuring back advertising from a number of different businesses, the M101-4 and M101-5 cards of 1916 are experiencing explosive growth in popularity as collectors begin seeking out different prewar issues with a variety of back advertisements.  The Famous and Barr stores are among the more popular of the different backs, due in part to their overall scarcity but plentiful nature in relation to many of the other M101 backs.  

This example, featuring the immensely popular athlete Jim Thorpe, is one of the set’s key cards and one that does not make itself available very often in any back variety.  Nicknamed the “World’s Greatest Athlete,” Thorpe won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, and played professional football, baseball, and basketball.  Thorpe played parts of six seasons with the Giants, Reds, and Braves, neither distinguishing himself nor hurting his reputation as one of America’s great athletes.  His greatest baseball achievement was an anecdotal one; in a semipro game on the Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas border, Thorpe hit three home runs into three different states!  

As a football player, Thorpe played 52 professional games, passing for four touchdowns and running for six more.  He was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, and routinely appears on lists of the country’s greatest athletes.

This example, graded GOOD 2 (MK) by PSA, is generally attractive, with mild creasing across the bottom of the card.  A visible surface stain does not detract significantly fron the image, and some pencil writing on the reverse noting Thorpe’s retirement is responsible for the qualifier assigned by PSA. 

An exceptional card, one of the issue’s keys, which does not often make itself available for sale.

 

1954 Red Heart Dog Food Ultra High-Grade Set – #1 on the SGC Registry

Red Heart 1

The 1950s ushered in the Golden Age of baseball cards, and along with it came a host of regional issues that captured the interest of collectors and have never let go.  Even today, 1950s regional and non-mainstream issues – particularly those from 1954, for whatever reason – remain immensely popular among collectors.

The Red Heart Dog Food set of 1954 is among the most popular, due to its beautiful, simplistic design, its colorful cards, and its incredible player selection.  With ten tough single printed cards and 11 Hall of Famers, this 33-card set boasts something that neither the Topps nor Bowman issues of that year can: a card of Hall of Famer Stan Musial.  One of the more difficult red-background cards (the cards were issued in three colored series: blue, green and red, with the red being the most scarce), the single printed card of the popular Cardinals Hall of Famer is easily the set’s key card.  The issue’s desirability factor is further elevated by the presence of a beautiful portrait card of Mickey Mantle, a tough, single-printed #1 card of Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, and a very popular card of Dodgers centerfielder Duke Snider.

Presented here is an exquisite high-grade complete set of 33 cards, none of which have been graded lower than NM-MT 88, and an astonishing two-thirds of which have graded MINT 9.  The set currently ranks #1 on the SGC Registry with an incredible 94.03 GPA; very few sets on the much larger PSA Registry have attained a GPA this high.  

Red Heart 2This is easily one of the four or five finest graded 1954 Red Heart Dog Food sets in the entire hobby.  Most importantly, the set’s two key cards, of Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle, have both attained a grade of MINT 95, each with virtually perfect centering.  The SMR value of those two cards alone eclipses $10,000!  

A condition breakdown of the set’s cards is as follows:

SGC MINT 96 (22 cards): #2, 4, 5, 10 Jim Gilliam, 13 Ted Kluszewski, 14 Ralph Kiner, 15, 17, 18 Mickey Mantle, 19 Billy Martin, 20 Gil McDougald, 21, 22 Minnie Minoso, 23 Stan Musial, 24, 25, 26, 27 Red Schoendienst, 28 Enos Slaughter, 31, 32, 33 Gus Zernial; SGC NM-MT+ 92 (6 cards): #1 Richie Ashburn, 6 Carl Erskine, 8, 11, 12 George Kell, 30 Warren Spahn;  SGC NM-MT 88 (5 cards): #3, 7, 9 Nellie Fox, 16 Bob Lemon, 29 Duke Snider.

When a set’s lowest grade is NM-MT and fewer than 20% of the cards in the set grade that low, you’re looking at a spectacular set. Many collectors feel the Red Heart Dog Food set is the most attractive of all the “oddball” sets ever issued, and one of the most beautiful card issues of the 1950s in general.  This is an extraordinary example, one of the very finest sets known in the hobby.

T206 Magie Error

T206 Magee FrontThe most popular and widely-collected prewar card issue is undoubtedly T206.  While the player selection is large and includes a great number of Hall of Famers and scarce backs to challenge collectors, the issue also includes a number of rarities that represent some of the set’s toughest and most desirable cards.

The Sherry Magee “Magie” error is one of them.  Known as the fourth of the set’s “Big Four” rarities (the other three being the famous Honus Wagner, the underrated Eddie Plank and the impossible “Slow Joe” Doyle [NY National] cards), the Magie error is, of the four, perhaps the most popular due to its affordability in relation to the others.  The reason for the rarity is simple: Magee’s name was initially misspelled, and corrected during the initial Piedmont 150 printing.

Despite the variation only being known with the Piedmont 150 (Factory 25) back, it is still considered by most collectors to be a necessary card for completion of the T206 set.  It is for this reason that it remains one of the set’s most sought-after cards, and why its value continues to rise.  One of the hobby’s most important rarities, it is thought that merely 150-200 examples of the card exist, the demand far exceeding the supply.

Graded VG 3 by PSA, this example boasts strong, bold color along with some minor surface wear and creasing along the bottom-right corner.  With corner wear consistent with the grade, the card remains a striking example.  With an extremely high percentage of the hobby’s known Magies existing at the lower end of the grade spectrum, an example as attractive as this one is highly desirable.  An extremely attractive example of one of the hobby’s most important cards.

T206 Magee Front

High-Grade 1910 Tip Top Bread Honus Wagner

1910 Tip Top Wagner Front

A mere three examples of the D322 Tip Top Bread Honus Wagner have been graded higher than this wonderful card, by either SGC or PSA.  Featuring the Flying Dutchman in the fabled pose immortalized by legendary photographer Carl Horner, the card was issued as part of a 25-card set by the Ward-Mackey company to help promote its Tip Top Bread brand.  Comprised of members of the 1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, the attractive and unusual set is relatively scarce today, with the Wagner unquestionably being the set’s key card.

This is a particularly exceptional and important example, having been the card once owned by hobby pioneer Lionel Carter.  Carter begin collecting in the 1930s and continued to do so until his extraordinary collection was auctioned in early 2009.  Known for his penchant for high-grade cards, Carter amassed an incredible collection over the years while giving back to the hobby by sharing his considerable knowledge with other collectors.  The length of time during which Carter built his collection meant that he acquired many cards before the hobby was as condition-sensitive as it is today; his cards were carefully affixed in scrapbooks where they remained protected for decades.  The result has been an increased level of confidence among contemporary collectors that cards bearing the Carter pedigree are fresh, unaltered and not subjected to the rigors to which many prewar cards have been exposed over the years.

This is one of the finest examples of this card extant, and is the key card in a scarce, desirable and unique issue.  In addition, it was one of the more valuable individual cards in the famed Lionel Carter Collection, fetching the highest price out of all the items in the auction where it initially appeared.  The winning bidder has held the card for nearly five years, during which time just two other examples in similar grades have sold at public auction, both in 2010.

Suffice to say this is a scarce and extremely valuable card of one of the hobby’s most widely collected players, once owned by a beloved hobby pioneer, one of the highest-grade examples known to exist.

High-grade 1952 Red Man Tobacco Complete Set

1952 Red Man 1The first and arguably most popular of the four Red Man Tobacco issues, the 1952 set is one of the premier card issues of the hobby’s Golden Age.  Featuring large, full-color illustrations of 52 of the era’s most coveted players along with some brief biographical information, the oversized nature of the cards coupled with their method of distribution (tucked outside a package of tobacco, protected only by a thin layer of cellophane) make the issue particularly condition sensitive.  In addition, each card featured a coupon that could be redeemed for a free baseball cap; as a result, cards with the coupons still attached are more scarce and valuable than those without.  A total of 20 Hall of Famers including very popular cards of Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Stan Musial make this one of the most coveted card issues of the 1950s.

Presented is a gorgeous, high-grade complete set that, with a set score approaching 85 ranks #4 on the SGC Registry with a total GPA that would rank it #3 on the current PSA Registry.  As a result, this is the #6 graded and registered 1952 Red Man set in the hobby.  Each card in the collection grades SGC NM 84 or 86, with particularly close attention paid not only to the cards’ technical grades but also to overall color and image quality.  Rarely, if ever, does a Red Man set of this quality become available for sale, and due to lower populations and higher demand for high-grade cards from this issue, assembling a set in this condition would be a long and time-consuming process.

1952 Red Man 2A condition breakdown of the cards in the set are as follows:  SGC NM+ 86 (20 cards): #2N (Richie Ashburn); 2A; 5A; 7A; 8N; 10N; 11A; 12N (Ralph Kiner); 15N (Willie Mays); 16A; 17N (Pee Wee Reese); 18A; 19N (Red Schoendienst); 19A; 20A; 21N (Duke Snider); 21A; 22A; 23N; and 26N.  SGC NM 84 (30 cards): #1A (Casey Stengel); 1N (Leo Durocher); 3N; 3A (Yogi Berra); 4N; 4A; 5A; 6A (Larry Doby); 6N; 7N; 8A (Bob Feller); 9N (Monte Irvin); 9A (Nellie Fox); 10A; 12A; 13A (George Kell); 13N; 14A; 14N; 15A; 16N (Stan Musial); 17A; 18N (Robin Roberts); 20N (Enos Slaughter); 22N (Warren Spahn); 23A (Ted Williams); 24N; 24A (Early Wynn); 25N; 25A; 26A.

This is a remarkably consistent set, with no card graded below NM. Easily one of the top graded 1952 Red Man sets in the entire hobby, with only five current sets graded higher on either the SGC or PSA registries.  52 cards total.

1952 Red Man 2

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