They appear as fresh and new as they did 125 years ago – die-cut portraits of some of the most famous names who dotted professional rosters in a relatively new game called baseball. It would be newsworthy if a fresh discovery of these rare 19th-century baseball cards had surfaced in any condition. However, on Nov. 30, Memory Lane will begin taking bids on several lots of 1888 Scrapps Tobacco cards that are not only in pristine condition but feature never-before-seen groups of uncut pairs as they were originally distributed.
The rare items were consigned to the auction company by a family in central California.
The origin of the embossed chromolithographic cards has never been pinned down, but it’s believed they were issued for placement in a collector’s book or scrapbook. Players from the National League’s Detroit Wolverines and the American Association St. Louis Browns are featured on the approximately 2-by-3-inch cards. There were a total of 18 known baseball players issued as well as other notable figures of the day. Colorful and eye-catching, they picture artist’s depictions of players in bust-type cutouts. Players are shown in the old style striped caps and tie-up jerseys used at the time.
What makes this find unique is that three of the lots consist of dual player uncut panels: Ed Hanlon/Sam Thompson, Robert Caruthers/Curtis Welch and William Robinson/William Gleason. A fourth features president Grover Cleveland and three members of his cabinet. Scrapps cards have rarely been seen in uncut form, with tabs attached and the three lots shed a little more light on how the cards were distributed. “H&S” is printed on one of the tabs.
Several single Scrapps cards are also in this find, including examples of Charles Comiskey and Doc Bushong. There are a total of 18 cards in the lots.
Bidding opens Nov. 30 and will close Dec. 15. For a free auction catalog and to register for bidding, visit MemoryLaneInc.com or call (877) 606-5263.