1903 E107 Ollie Pickering

The Breisch Williams E107 set of 1903 is important because it was the first major baseball card set of the 20th Century.  Featuring sharp, black-and-white photographic images, the E107 set contains 147 subjects and has become a popular set among advanced collectors due to the number of rookie cards of Hall of Famers, along with its scarcity.

High-grade E107s are virtually nonexistent.  With a current graded population of 713 between PSA and SGC, just 38 have graded EX or better, with a scant two cards grading above an unqualified NM.  E107s are frequently damaged and torn, with front and back images suffering from wrinkling, staining, paper loss, and scrapbook damage.  In fact, more than half the graded population of E107s have been assessed at a grade of 2 or lower.

Given that, this example of Ollie Pickering is virtually pristine for the issue; well-centered with a crisp, clear image and only rounded corners and some mild staining along the top left border taking away from what is an otherwise beautiful specimen.  Indeed, this is the highest-graded Pickering available in an SGC holder, with only a PSA 5Q achieving a higher numeric grade, with the aforementioned qualifier.  The card is of the blank-backed variety.

It’s really, really difficult for me to objectively look at certain cards without letting hyperbole creep into my description.  When I first held this card, my eyes widened over just how perfect and unblemished the image appears, as E107s are so frequently damaged.  This is a gorgeous example of a very scarce card, one that any type collector would be thrilled to have in his/her collection.  We’re pleased to be able to offer this in our inaugural auction.

1933 George C. Miller Dizzy Dean

Many prewar baseball card collectors consider the early 1930s to be the “golden age” of card collecting; notably 1933, when several of the most popular and lasting sets of cards were issued.

In 1933, George C. Miller & Co. of Boston produced a 32-card set of the day’s stars, which received limited distribution at the time of issue.  Youngsters purchasing the candy (and thus the cards) could complete the 32-card set, and then redeem the cards for a “Fielder’s Mit, regulation American or National League Baseball or 1 Grandstand Seat to any American or National League Game (except World’s Series) at any Park.”  The cards would be returned, cancelled, with the prize the redeemer selected.

Cards were cancelled by the company in one of two ways – a series of hole punches (I’ve seen them in small, circular punches, or multiple punches forming the shape of a diamond), or by slicing off the bottom of the card with a scissor or blade.  As a result, many of the surviving R300 George C Miller cards are damaged with such hole punches, adding a level of scarcity to an already difficult set.  Indeed, only a half dozen or so complete sets have been assembled, most auctioned off in their entirety over the past few years.

Dizzy Dean was one of the great baseball heroes of the 1930s, leading the famed St. Louis Cardinals “Gas House Gang” to the 1934 championship with near-superhuman pitching (he pitched in 50 regular-season games, going 30-7 with a 2.66 ERA across 311 innings, and then pitched 26 innings in three World Series games against the Tigers).  His George C. Miller card is among his most desirable, and is one of the earliest cards featuring Dean.

This uncancelled card is well-centered with strong color and surface quality.  The back is clean but is slightly marred by the ink transfer that is common to this colorful issue, as wet sheets stacked atop each other occasionally bled ink onto the backs of the adjacent sheets.  The top right corner has a very feint crease, more visible on the back than the front, keeping the card out of an EX holder.

SGC has graded this card VG-EX condition, making it the highest-graded example of 16 R300 Deans graded by that company.  Their competitor, PSA, has graded 17, including three at the EX level, two at the EX-MT level, and one at the NMT level, putting this card in the 73rd percentile of all graded Deans.  Over the past several years, similar examples routinely sell in the $2,000 range.

This is one of the cleanest, highest-graded examples of one of the most popular Hall of Famers in a scarce and desirable set.  We’re pleased to feature the 1933 R300 Dizzy Dean in our inaugural auction this fall.

And we’re off.

The first consignment to make it in the door was this lovely 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bat card of Joseph Mulvey.

I can’t imagine there’s a card that better describes the type of auction that we’re trying to deliver to collectors.  The phrase “scarce and desirable” is used often in this hobby, but among prewar card collectors, there are few sets to which that phrase is better applied.  Issued between 1886 and 1887, the “K-Bats” are CDV-sized photographic cards on heavy cardboard.  While some have advertising printed on the back, this particular K-Bat is of the blank backed variety.

Tough 19th Century cards are often the passion of advanced, long-time collectors that prefer their cards ungraded in their collection.  However, we acknowledge that grading company population reports, while never accurate enough with issues like this to be “bible,” are an excellent barometer of relative scarcity.  As such, we’ll report that between PSA and SGC, only 201 cards have been graded in total, with Mulvey represented by a total of 10 different graded examples.

Of the graded examples of the Mulvey card, only one of the 10 cards has graded higher – a PSA 5 (the only Mulvey graded by PSA).  This particular Mulvey is the highest-graded example encapsulated by SGC, though there are two others at this level as well.

The scarcity of Kalamazoo Bats cards, coupled with their desirability among advanced collectors, means that they don’t trade hands very often.  Assembling a complete set is nearly impossible, with just one registered set between the PSA and SGC registries combined (an SGC-registered set that is just 51% complete).  As such, even lower grade examples routinely sell for several thousand dollars.

Beyond all those stats, though, this is just a beautiful, beautiful card.  The image, as you can see, is a crisp, clean image of the Philadelphia third baseman, posed in his defensive position, glove on hand, as if awaiting a ground ball.  The photograph itself is in fantastic shape, with a hint of staining on the image adjacent to Mulvey’s right shoulder.  The cardboard mount is clean, and the blank back is undamaged.

We are proud and excited to offer such an excellent piece of baseball history in the inaugural Love of the Game Auction.

An early start to the National

Some collectors and I spent Tuesday night in Hoboken, NJ – the birthplace of baseball.  Sort of an early start to the National, I guess – and definitely a baseball-themed night.

We began the night at an establishment along the Hudson River, as we shared some stories (and beverages) with one eye on the MLB trading deadline.  Eventually becoming hungry for dinner, we walked along the river to 13th street, and encountered this:

Wait, what?!

As a kid I watched Sparky Lyle chauffeured to the mound in the late innings of tight games, in a car just like this one.  Each year a local Toyota dealer would provide the Yankees with a slick, new bullpen car, tricked out with pinstripes and the famous interlocking NY on the hood, and each year the Yankees would hold a contest to give away the old one (at least it seemed like they did this each year).  And I remember hoping I’d win, imagining myself driven to school every morning with the pinstriped car, proudly proclaiming my die-hard fandom. Continue reading “An early start to the National”

Ze National.

The National is always a fun thing.

Sports collectors and dealers from all over the country get together in one place to find that elusive “white whale,” complete their sets, swing big trades and sell their inventory.  Guys from the hobby message boards meet each other in person – sometimes for the first time.  It’s a time of friendship, camaraderie, and fun for everyone.

This year, the National will be a little different for me.  Instead of going to socialize, or meet up with clients, I will be launching a business.  I’ll be walking the floor, and will also have a small presence in my friend Ryan’s booth (he runs the awesome Cuban Baseball Card Auctions), which is booth #803.  I’ll have a laptop there so that you can register to bid in the auction.  I’ll also be thrilled to discuss the possibility of consigning your material to the first auction.  And of course I’ll be attending a lot of the post-show collector functions, meeting up with people and trying to spread the word about Love of the Game Auctions.

But despite the business-centric nature of my Baltimore visit, I can’t attend a National without trying to have fun.  I’ll have a lot of friends there, and I’m looking forward to seeing them.  The National is fun, because the hobby (and the people in it) are also fun.

The past several years, there’s been sort of a dark cloud that hangs over the National.  Scary words like Federal InvestigationSubpoena, and Grand Jury seem to have become the big National buzzwords.  With good reason, for sure, as we all want a clean hobby.  But I think it also makes it difficult sometimes to remember what a great pastime it can be to immerse yourself in the history of the game you love.

So, in addition to setting up at the National, registering bidders and begging for consignments, I’ll also be tweeting, blogging, and taking pictures of the sights and sounds of The National.  Watch this space, and also follow us on Twitter at @LOTGAuctions, to keep tabs on what’s happening, what we’re doing, and whatever interesting stuff we see at the big show.

We leave Wednesday, but the festivities begin even earlier, as a few New York-area collectors will be getting together between now and then for dinners and general fun.  Keep an eye on this space – it’s bound to be an interesting week.

So. Why?

Last I checked, there were something like 20 auction houses in the sports hobby that I would call “regular” – legitimate companies that conducted regular auctions of sports cards and memorabilia.  There were probably another dozen or so “occasional” auctions.  And then there’s the one monstrous auction website that has items closing every minute of every day – eBay.

Continue reading “So. Why?”