In a small town in Northern California, a phone call to an auction house would lead to an extraordinary find for baseball memorabilia enthusiasts. A man had stumbled upon an old tin box filled with baseball cards and sought to sell it. Little did he know that he was about to uncover a remarkable piece of history.
The tin, a rusted Pedro Cut Plug Tobacco tin, held within it a carefully preserved collection of strip, caramel, and tobacco baseball cards. These cards were a tangible link to the sport’s storied past, with their origins dating back over a century.
Belonging to a man named Ed, who was born in 1909 and spent his childhood in Oakland, this collection of baseball cards was a lifelong passion for him. Like many of his generation who lived through the Great Depression, Ed never threw anything away. The tin, given to him as a gift by an uncle, became a treasure chest of memories from his childhood. It was passed down to his son, who rediscovered it in a closet after Ed’s passing in 1994.
Nearly three decades later, the collection made its way into the world of modern collecting hobbyists. The tin held over 600 cards, all from 1926 or earlier. The cards showed their age and the love they once received, with strip cards being torn or cut, carried in pockets, and cherished as prized possessions. Among the treasure trove of cards, it was Babe Ruth who stood out, with no less than 20 cards depicting the legendary “Bambino.”
The collection featured several highlights, including a 1919-21 W514 Shoeless Joe Jackson card, a 1921 E220 National Caramel Ruth card, a 1922 American Caramel E121 Ruth card, and several cards representing players from the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal. The collection also boasted multiple Ruth cards from the W514 series dating from 1919 to 1921, three 1920 W519 Ruth cards, a 1922 American Caramel E121 Ty Cobb card, a 1921 W516 Ty Cobb card, and a 1920 W519 George Sisler card.
Spanning several pre-War sets, the collection encompassed a wide range of strip cards from 1919 to 1923, reflecting Ed’s childhood, as well as several 1924-26 Zeenuts cards, a series distributed on the west coast.
The auction company that acquired the collection was astounded by the number of Ruth cards. Recognizing the significance of this find, they promptly selected the finest cards for grading, while others were sold in their original state. This discovery was not merely a transaction or an addition to their inventory; it was a poignant reminder of the deep-rooted love for baseball that transcends generations.
Each worn card, tattered at the edges not just by the passage of time but also by the eager fingers of a young fan, tells a story. It tells the story of a boy who idolized figures like Ruth, Jackson, Cobb, and Sisler. Through these cards, he could hold a piece of his heroes in his hands. This story resonates with collectors who value the emotional connection, nostalgia, and love of the game, rather than just the monetary value.
As this century-old collection enters the public sphere, it ignites excitement and awe among collectors, historians, and baseball aficionados. Uncovering such a cache of memorabilia is like finding a hidden gem that, once polished, shines a light on a bygone era of sports history. It links the past’s tangible artifacts with the present’s passion for collecting.
Each card from this remarkable find serves as a bridge across time, connecting the dots of baseball’s evolution. As the auction house processes the collection, each piece will find its way into the hands of those who appreciate not only its rarity but also the journey these cards have undergone. From the pocket of a young baseball fan in the early 20th century to a revered position in the collections of modern enthusiasts, these cards carry with them the essence of America’s pastime, an enduring legacy that continues to captivate and inspire.