Twelve Immortals.

Presented here is an outstanding artifact from a nearly forgotten episode in the history of wartime America: the War Bonds Jubilee event, presented on August 26 of 1943.  This is an original gelatin silver news service photograph documenting that event, with seven of the 12 living Hall of Famers as of 1943, plus three who would eventually be enshrined.
By August of 1943, the Allied war effort in the Pacific was intensifying, and the United States was preparing to enter the European theater.  At home, Americans were helping raise funds by purchasing war bonds.  With a median income of $2,000 a year, asking Americans to dig deep and purchase bonds to help fund the war effort was no easy task, and the War Finance Committee enlisted the support of famous celebrities to help encourage people.
In 1943, New York Journal-American reporters Max Case and Bill Corum had the idea of assembling a team of All-Stars from the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants to play against a team of All-Stars from the US Army.  Hosted at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan, the “War Bonds Jubilee” became a massive event, featuring actors, singers, comedians and dance bands, and was capped by an exhibition of baseball’s all-time greats.
After the New York All-Stars beat the Army’s New Cumberland Reception Center team (a team that featured future Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Enos Slaughter) 5-2, the all-time All-Stars took the field.  Sid Feder of the Associated Press chronicled the event as follows:
“There were still 35,000 lumps in 35,000 throats around the village Friday, all because a dozen old men walked out on a ball field.  As they spread out on their regular spots on the field, the lump you got in your throat and the moisture in the eyes of some of the most blasé baseball writers in the press coop were more than enough to prove that the baseball fan is at least part elephant.  He never forgets.
“It didn’t matter that in fielding some of Babe’s “practice shots” Murray fell down, Speaker was practically decapitated and Collins was all but carried into right field by a line drive.  The folks had a look at ’em, and the Babe finally parked one.  That was the icing on the cake.”
That home run, which the mighty Ruth served up against the great Walter Johnson, would be the last home run Babe Ruth ever hit in a major league ballpark.  
The Jubilee would help sell a staggering $800 million in war bonds to help fund the American war effort.
The photo, taken in front of a full stadium, is one of the only remaining documents of the game, long lost to history.  Featuring seven of the 12 living Hall of Famers at the time (missing are Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Cy Young, Pete Alexander, and Rogers Hornsby) and three future Hall of Famers, this is, perhaps, the greatest group of baseball players ever assembled.  Featuring Duffy Lewis, Eddie Collins (HOF), Roger Bresnahan (HOF), Connie Mack (HOF), Bill Klem (HOF), Red Murray, George Sisler (HOF), Honus Wagner (HOF), Frankie Frisch (HOF), Babe Ruth (HOF), Walter Johnson (HOF), and Tris Speaker (HOF).
We’re thrilled to be offering such an important document of American history in our auction.

1911-14 D304 Ty Cobb

The key card in one of the hobby’s most rare and desirable vintage bakery issues, this is a spectacular card from the very rare D304 General Baking Company series.  Issued between 1911 and 1914 by the Buffalo, NY company and featuring one of five different back varieties, the issue today known as D304 and commonly called “Brunners Bread” cards is one of the most unique issues of the era.

Unlike other baseball issues of the day, where images or poses were often shared across multiple sets, the poses and illustrations of the D304 set are unique to this issue. The D304 issue is also much more rare than the popular tobacco issues of the day, with key cards rarely becoming available for sale in the card collecting hobby.  The 25 cards from this issue are a rarity, and we’re proud to offer a large assortment of cards from the set in our inaugural auction, highlighted by this Cobb.

The Cobb is an extremely difficult card to obtain in any condition.  Indeed, despite being one of the top two or three subjects of prewar collecting, with his cards being extremely popular and widely-collected, only 28 graded examples of the Brunners Bread Cobb have been counted in the PSA and SGC population reports.  Compare this, for example, with his “scarce” green-background T206, of which hundreds of graded examples are available.  This is a rare card of one of the greatest players ever to set foot on the diamond!

1949 Leaf Premium

Gum card manufacturers of the 1930s popularized the practice of producing “premiums,” larger-format cards redeemable with the exchange of a given number of baseball cards or wrappers at the point of sale. Carrying on this tradition in 1948-49 was the Leaf Gum Company of Chicago, which offered a larger-format, pinup-sized premium to young chewers of their All-Star Baseball Gum, in exchange for ten wrappers.

The known subjects, currently counted at eight, included some of the greats of the game’s history, including Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Ed Walsh, Grover Alexander, John McGraw, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Cochrane and Walter Johnson – in some cases, a curious selection, with others conspicuous in their absence. The premiums themselves, printed on lightweight paper, were difficult to maintain in any reasonable condition, and very few survived.

Today, the premiums are very, very scarce. Due to the relative recency of large-format grading company holders, population reports may not be the best gauge for scarcity, but with fewer than 60 graded copies available (and none graded above a 6.5), there is no question that these premiums are very difficult to obtain.

This particular example of Christy Mathewson refers to him as “one of baseball’s most beloved pitchers,” a statement that holds true even today. With just 7 graded copies on the combined census of PSA and SGC, none have graded higher than VG with the exception of one PSA copy graded 5 with a qualifier (we speculate that the qualifier must be an MK, since so many pinups are found with writing.

I happened to be with the owner of this item when he discovered it at a card show several years ago.  I was fascinated by it; the image is flawless and it comes from an issue I had never seen before.  I was thrilled when he elected to offer it for sale in a Love of the Game Auction – it’s exactly the kind of piece we want to feature: unique, special, old, attractive.  We’re glad to have it.

Drum back T206.

We’re proud to be offering an excellent example of a T206 Hall of Famer with an extraordinarily rare back.  This card features one of the rarest of all the different T206 back varieties.  Indeed, as of this writing, PSA has only graded 82 T206s with Drum Cigarettes backs, and between PSA and SGC only five Vic Willis cards with a Drum back have been graded.

The overwhelming majority of Drum backed T206 cards are low-grade, with just one copy achieving a grade higher than EX 5.  This Willis is no exception – besides the obvious top edge trim there is back damage consistent with scrapbook removal.  The purple “Drum Cigarettes” ad remains easily identifiable, however, and the card obverse, aside from exhibiting visible surface wear, is an excellent representation of Willis.

The excellent research provided by the folks at indicates that the Drum Cigarettes back is the fifth most rare of all the T206 backs, behind only the impossible Ty Cobb back, the brown Old Mill and Lenox back, and the ultra-rare Broad Leaf 460 variety.  There’s no question that a T206 with a Drum Cigarettes back is a very rare card.  What adds even another level of rarity to the equation, however, is Willis’ status as a Hall of Famer.  According to T206Resource, there are just 21 Hall of Famers in the theoretical Drum 350 checklist.  Recognizing that many prewar collectors choose not to get their cards graded (and thus grading company population reports clearly do not reflect the entire population of a given card by any means), and also recognizing that PSA only recently began recognizing the back varieties on the T206 cards that they grade, the grading company population reports still reflect the extreme rarity of a Drum-backed T206 Hall of Famer: only 25 such cards are recognized on the PSA and SGC grading census combined!

With a set as common as T206, that may seem almost impossible, but it is not.  SGC, who have been categorizing back varieties since the beginning, has graded more than 81,000 T206 cards.  Of those, just thirteen examples are Hall of Famers with the Drum Cigarettes ad on the back.  This is a truly, truly rare and important card, a quality addition to any collection, and one we are thrilled to offer in our inaugural auction next month.

The Iron Horse.

In the hobby of baseball autograph collecting, few signatures are more desirable or instantly recognizable than that of “The Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig.  In the hobby of baseball card collecting, few cards are more iconic than Gehrig’s #92 card from the 1993 Goudey set.  Here is an item that combines both: Gehrig’s classic ’33 Goudey card, signed legibly by the Yankee captain in pencil across his uniform and certified authentic by PSA/DNA.

One of the most beloved figures in all of baseball history, Gehrig played 17 seasons with the Bronx Bombers beginning in 1923, setting the then-record for most consecutive games played with 2,130.  A prodigious home run hitter and RBI man, Gehrig topped 40 homers five times in his career, and topped 150 RBI seven times, finishing with a .340 batting average.  His rapid career decline in 1938 and 39 became national news, and his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and subsequent “Luckiest Man” speech on July 4 of 1939 captured the country’s attention in ways that very few athletes (aside from his counterpart, Babe Ruth) could.  Gehrig passed away at home in 1941, a casualty of what would forever become known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  Even today, Gehrig’s legacy remains strong, as he received the most votes of any baseball player on the MLB All-Century Team in 1999 – more even than Babe Ruth.

Gehrig signed with his trademark beautiful penmanship, carefully and lightly across the face of this card, so as not to obscure the image and disrupt the card’s presentation.  Certainly one of Gehrig’s two or three most popular baseball cards, an autographed copy is a scarce and desirable card from one of the country’s most beloved celebrities and one of baseball’s greatest players.

We’re proud to offer this autographed 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig as a Featured Item in our Inaugural auction this October.