Rare 1921 Herpolsheimer Baseball Cards Unveiled in Auction

In the world of sports memorabilia collecting, a remarkable discovery has recently emerged—a collection of 39 cards from the elusive 1921 Herpolsheimer set. What makes this find even more exciting is the fact that nine of these cards were previously unknown to collectors. Tucked away in a Band-Aid box for nearly a century, these cards have now been unveiled in Love of the Game Auctions’ ongoing event.

The Herpolsheimer cards, issued in 1921, have long been regarded as some of the rarest in the baseball card collecting world. Only 105 cards from this set had been authenticated and graded across both PSA and SGC population reports before this discovery. This new find not only expands the known universe of these cards but also introduces new faces to the mix.

Al Crisafulli, the auction director at Love of the Game, couldn’t contain his excitement about the discovery. “I’ve been captivated by these for years,” he shared, echoing the sentiments of serious collectors who understand the rarity and historical value of the Herpolsheimer issue.

The story behind this find is as intriguing as the cards themselves. In 2019, at an estate sale near Grand Rapids, Michigan, these valuable cards were found hidden inside a Band-Aid box—a humble container that held a small fortune in paper treasures. Crisafulli had been in contact with the card’s owner for four years, finally securing these gems for auction. Each card has been graded by PSA and will be auctioned off individually.

Among the collection is a card featuring Babe Ruth, only the second of its kind known to exist. Given the scarcity and legendary status of the Great Bambino, this card alone is expected to fetch a high price at the auction. Other Hall of Famers such as Tris Speaker, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rabbit Maranville, John McGraw, Red Faber, and Sam Rice are also part of this newfound collection, adding to its significance.

The backs of these cards are as interesting as their fronts, as they advertise the Grand Rapids retail store’s Boy’s Fashion Shop. The discovery of additional cards not listed in the original checklist, such as Dave Bancroft, Johnny Evers, Harry Hooper, Stuffy McInnis, Art Nehf, Wally Schang, George Sisler, Casey Stengel, and Fred Toney, suggests that the set may be larger than previously believed. It is now thought to potentially comprise 78 or 79 cards instead of the originally assumed 69 or 70.

Crisafulli’s first encounter with these cards occurred in 2019 when the owner discreetly inquired about them on the Net54 sports card forum. The post caught the attention of both forum members and Crisafulli himself, prompting him to reach out and maintain contact until the auction consignment was secured.

The history of the Herpolsheimer Company, the store behind these cards, is just as intriguing as the cards themselves. Founded in 1870 as a dry goods store by William Godlove Herpolsheimer and Charles G.A. Voigt, the company became a significant presence in Grand Rapids and beyond. Henry Herpolsheimer eventually took over, followed by his son Arthur, who guided the company through a merger and expanded into furniture sales. Unfortunately, Arthur’s life ended prematurely, adding a somber note to the family’s history.

The store also played a role in national history when Betty Bloomer, later known as the First Lady as the wife of President Gerald R. Ford, worked there as a fashion coordinator in 1942.

The discovery of this second batch of Herpolsheimer cards reshapes the story of their distribution and significance, suggesting a more widespread release than previously thought. It reveals a department store that cleverly leveraged the allure of baseball’s most celebrated figures to attract its customers.

The Band-Aid box that housed these cards, a relic from the 1930s, serves as a poignant reminder of the journey these cards have undertaken—from promotional tools in a local store to coveted historical artifacts in the world of collectibles.

As the auction date approaches, these cards are poised to captivate the collecting community, offering a rare glimpse into the early days of baseball card collecting. Each card, with its faint pencil markings and signs of wear from handling, tells a unique story—a story that collectors will soon have the opportunity to continue as they become the new guardians of these pieces of baseball history.