Recently, a remarkable discovery has generated considerable amount of buzz in the vintage community. For nearly a century, forty-nine examples from one of the rarest and most desirable tobacco sets in the hobby have remained unknown in an East Coast private collection. Now, for the first time, these amazing cards have been graded by a third party and are poised to steal the show at this month’s offering from Hunt Auctions.
The cards in question are from a set issued in 1911 and were designated as ‘T5’ in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. However, they are more commonly known as Pinkerton Cabinets. Produced by the company that would ultimately become Red Man tobacco, consumers would send in ten coupons (essentially the equivalent of today’s UPC) and receive their choice of one of 376 available cards.
Measuring 4-¾” by 7-¾” the cards are similar in size and shape to the more well known ‘T3’ (or Turkey Red) cabinet cards that were recently the model for many Topps modern era sets. However, the Pinkertons feature black and white photos as opposed to full color artwork.
Due to the fact that the cards had to be requested via mail they were the 1911 equivalent of a redemption. This, coupled with the fact that it required ten purchased for one card, have created the scarcity we see in today’s secondary market. Moreover, since the large cabinet cards were mailed three quarters of a century before the introduction of card protectors, they were shipped in the equivalent of a ‘PWE’ without so much of a penny sleeve condition causing serious condition issues. Cards were often glued to mounts or pinned up like posters, causing further condition issues.
These factors combine to make the selection in the upcoming Hunt auction incredible. The cards were recently graded by Sportscard Guaranty (SGC) in Parsippany, New Jersey. When I spoke with Brian Dwyer, Business Development for SGC, about the find, he commented “This find is definitely one of the more amazing ones that I can recall. Working at SGC, I am lucky enough to see some of the most amazing cards come in each and every week. It’s rare anymore that something makes you stop and say ‘Wow’. This batch did just that.” Hunt Auctions simply used the word ‘unprecedented’ and I have to agree.
Some of the highlights include Hughie Jennings SGC 84, Addie Joss SGC 84, Bobby Byrne SGC 80, Art Devlin SGC 80), Napoleon Lajoie SGC 80, Eddie Collins SGC 70, Sam Crawford SGC 70, Christy Mathewson SGC 50, Cy Young SGC 40, Eddie Plank SGC 30, and Chief Bender SGC 20. Standing out from the pack is Honus Wagner SGC 50, with a conservative estimate in the neighborhood of $15,000.
However, they, and every other card in the catalog, must step aside and bow in reverence to Joe Jackson SGC 40. Only a handful exist in the world, and none grade near this example. They conservatively estimate it will fetch $40,000. ‘Command’ is a more appropriate term.
I, and the majority of vintage collectors, will watch the results of this listing carefully. It is expected to be an early gauge of the 2010 vintage market. Happy bidding!