New Cuban Discoveries

Seems as though the surprises never stop coming from Cuba's pre-Castro sports cards. Turquino, a new [to me] brand of Cuban tobacco cards with boxing content yielded two big and familiar names: Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. The pair are from a general subjects set that had not been fully checklisted and was not known to contain boxing cards. Here is Dempsey:

T220 Silver Borders: I need your help

I am starting the arduous process of preparing the 2008 book. Part of my work is revising checklists. As many of you know, T220 is checklisted at present at 26 cards. I am having grave doubts about the existence of one of them, however. Jack Goodman. Although he is referenced in earlier guides and checklists as having a silver bordered card, no one I know has one and no one has been able to show me one. And I know a lot of boxing collectors and have seen very advanced collectors with the card missing from their sets. In fact, all of the top PSA registered T220 silver borders sets are incomplete and of the four I was able to access online at PSA's site, all are missing the Goodman. I've checked with every advanced collector I know and none of them have the card. So, I throw it out there for the wider audience: can anyone substantiate the existence of this card? If no one can come forward with a copy by the time I go to publish the 2008 guide, I am dropping the Goodman from the checklist.

1946 M-Uncatalogued "Ring" Champions
Exhibit Checklist Additions

From time to time I like to expand on the checklists in the guide as new variations come to light. This week I am highlighting some recent variations in the post-1930 Exhibit issues.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s ESCO issued cards with the fighters' home towns listed. These became know, unsurprisingly, as the "Hometown" series. An undetermined number of the Hometown cards were also issued featuring just the fighters' names. As these variations are nit-picky they have not garnered much attention but they do go into making a master set. I try to catalog them when I become aware of them. Many of the changed cards also feature cropping or image size variations. Here are some of the recent discoveries of fighters whose cards are known with and without their home towns listed:

  • Billy Conn (side view)
  • Lem Franklin
  • Gus Lesnevich
  • Leo Rodak
  • Billy Soose
  • Roscoe Toles
  • Tony Zale

Two other interesting variations are worth mentioning:

  1. Fritzie Zivic exists with "Pittsburg" or "American"; I suspect this was due to the card being issued first with the very tough nationalities issue and later with the Hometown series.
  2. Sammy Angott/Tommy Yarosz: ESCO issued two cards of Sammy Angott, one with his home town and one without. They also mistakenly issued a third Angott card, this one with a picture of Tommy Yarosz instead. I believe that this error was quickly corrected and is an extreme short print since I have seen it only once.
H815 Adam Hats Stores, Inc.

For years in the 1930s and 1940s a New York hat company sponsored boxing broadcasts on NBC radio. The Adam Hats Stores sold...hats. They enlisted celebrities to endorse and sell their products. In the early 1930s they issued 8 x 10 colorized photos of (at least) three baseball players, and also issued some later images of boxers and other celebrities. All were men, as Adam made mens' hats. The boxing issue is listed in the American Card Catalog as H815 with no details or specifics.

I recently got lucky and acquired several of the boxing "cards". All are real photo on matte finish heavy photographic stock, similar to a real photo postcard, although much larger. They are very tough to find; I had not even seen them before this group and cannot find any prior sales histories or price points on them. 

Two basic styles of cards appear: showing the fighter nattily attired in the product with an inset showing him in trunks, and showing him in trunks with an inset showing him wearing the hat. Some, though not all, have the Cosmopolitan Studio cartouche on them. Fighters discovered to date are:

  • Lou Ambers
  • Melio Bettina (i card misspelled "Bettino")
  • Harry Jeffra
  • Bob Pastor
  • Fritzie Zivic

Also found is an announcers card showing Sam Taub and Bill Stern calling the fights on NBC. This card dates the issue to no earlier than late 1937, as Stern did not move to NBC and start calling fights with Taub unti October 1937. The fighter selection also would suggest a 1938-1939 time frame since all were near their peaks at that point. Lou Ambers had his historic title fights with Henry Armstrong in 1938-1939, losing a split decision in 1938 and winning a decision in 1939. Bettina was recognized as light heavy champ in February 1939 but lost his first title defense to Billy Conn. Jeffra was in the title mix in two divisions at the time. Pastor fought Joe Louis in September 1939. Zivic was a top contender at that time.

Update: A second variety of the announcers' card has been discovered. This one shows the announcers over a silhouette of a ring with fighters in it, while the first one I reported on shows them over a group of sports announcers (see below).

Also discovered was a back variation from the Blue Boxers set. Joe Tiplitz had been known only in a funky variation with a postcard banner and nothing else on the card back. We now have a full postcard back to add to the checklist. The Tiplitz has the "This Side For Correspondence" legend rather than the typical "Not For Use In Exhibit Machines" legend, indicating a 1925-26 printing date.

H815 Adam Hats Postcards

A few of these cards have surfaced from two independent sources. They appear to be Canadian-printed real photo postcards created from the Adam Hats full size photos. Boxers seen thus far are Billy Conn, announcers Sam Taub and Bill Stern, and Canadian lightweight champion Dave Castilloux. The cards were printed in Montreal by Associated Screen News Limited and are first generation (from negatives) real photos, so I assume that they are legitimate Adam Hats promotional items.

E282 Goudey Oh Boy Gum Card Jack Dempsey Surfaces

OK, it ain't a 1948 Leaf Graziano, but it is just as rare, with only two specimens having surfaced in the last several years. An E282 Dempsey appeared on Ebay in October 2007 and sold for quite a bit less than $27,600 (around $27,475 less). Here is an image of this very elusive card from one of Goudey's first ventures into card manufacturing:

Help With Odds and Ends:

So I am digging through the AGBC images library the other day and I came across some cards that I cannot ID. If anyone can help pin down these issues, please contact me:

--I have images of three of these cards. The one shown here is a Benny Leonard. Blank backs, very likely hand-cut on one or two sides. They surfaced once on Ebay and I haven't seen them again:

La Salle Hats Mystery Resolved?

The La Salle Hat Company issued a set of cards in the late 1930s that has long baffled collectors. They are unattractive, on thin stock, rare and obscure, which is never a good combination, and featured no discernable fighter selection criteria, advertising or other explanations of the issue. At the recent National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland, we finally got some answers.

A full set of La Salle Hats surfaced in its original envelope. It turns out that there were only 8 cards issues and they were only of lightweight champions; Joe Gans was the final card missing from the checklist in my book. The envelope reads "A picture collection of famous lightweight champs furnished with the compliments of La Salle Hat Company, Philadelphia and [there is a box to fill in a name]".

The set was a late 1936 or early 1937 issue; the last fighter in it, chronologically, was Lou Ambers, who beat Tony Canzoneri for the title on September 3, 1936. Oddly, the set runs from the 1890s to 1936 yet is missing Jimmy Britt (1904-1905), Battling Nelson (1905-1906, 1908-1910), Willie Ritchie (1912-1914), Freddie Welsh (1914-1917), Benny Leonard (1917 to 1/15/1925, retires), Jimmy Goodrich (1925), Al Singer (1930), and Barney Ross (1933). Why these boxers were omitted from the set is unknown. Leonard, who held tthe title 7 years during the greatest run of lightweights in history, is the most puzzling omission.

Here is a picture of a card from the set:

Anyone who can establish what these are will receive credit in the next edition of the guide and the resulting everlasting Hobby fame.

Got Some Fun Ones For You

Well, fun for boxing card geeks like us anyway...

First up, we have an expansion of the known Coney Island arcade cards. This very obscure issue was so scarce and had been stuck for so long that I actually inadvertently omitted it from my catalog this year! It was a mistake, folks, one I picked up on only because two new cards from the issue surfaced. Georges Carpentier is now joined by George Courtney and Charlie Mitchell, shown below on a two-card strip. And yes, the Courtney card is a re-screen of his 1928 Exhibit. The card that I had cataloged before was a re-screen of Georges Carpentier from the Blue Boxers set. Also known is a John L. Sullivan, similar to the Mitchell. I had it about a dozen years ago but I sent it back to the seller because it was sold as an Exhibit card and I was ticked off that it wasn't. Stupid mistake on my part. The Mitchell appears to be a rip-off of an ad piece since it has "Block Brothers" printed on the image's lower left edge. The Mitchell is a Wood image famously used in Billy Edwards' 1895 Pugilistic Portrait Gallery.

--Finally, this Gibbons card:

Final mystery for the day: This Joe Louis piece is printed and was trimmed down from a larger piece that is about 11 x 14; I saw one in a museum collection but could not get any data from the curators.

Topps Hocus Focus Discovered!

The 1955-1956 Topps Hocus Focus issue is certainly the rarest regular Topps issues and has not been fully cataloged. Recently, the 2nd boxing card from the set was discovered. It features IBHOFer Archie Moore. Here is a picture:

--This Bob Fitzsimmons also surfaced once. I have no idea on it, except that it does resemble a series of ca. 1910s baseball cards but those are black and white, not blue:

New Cuban Premiums

​I love oddball prewar cards. The more of a story they tell about the local culture or commercial life the more interesting I find them. II recently came across a few more Cuban items to add to the burgeoning base of Cuban boxing issues. These are the only copies I've ever seen of these items and given the general scarcity of prewar Cuban cards I would not be surprised if no others are discovered:

--1920s Trinidad y Hnos. Jack Dempsey Premium: Trinidad y Hermanos, makers of Cigarros Exquisitos, is known for a pair of cards of Paolino Uzcudun, the Spanish Basque contender from the 1920s. One is a normal insert card that is considerably more difficult to find than some of the other Cuban issues, the other a 4 x 5 premium. Both are shown in the guide. Recently I came across another TyH premium piece, this one an 8 x 10 of Jack Dempsey. Although trimmed on two sides, the company cartouche is clearly visible on the lower right side of the image:

Next up we have a very interesting card for the hard-core Exhibit collectors. A bit of background to put things in context. The first few years of Exhibit baseball cards (1921-24) did not have designations of origin printed on them. Great for domestic sales, not so good for foreign sales. In 1922 the company employed an inked back stamp to label some card Made In USA so that they could be vended into Canada. 1922 baseball cards with this back stamp are known and will draw a premium from Exhibit specialists aware of it. I had never seen a boxer from 1921-24 with a blank back or a Made In USA stamp. Until now. Below is an Al McCoy, a 1921 card, with a blank back and the export stamp. I also have two 1922 cards with this format--Dave Shade and Jack Lawler--and a 1923 card of Fred Fulton with it. My suspicion has been for some time that the 1921 and 1922 issues were updated with new and replacement cards and issued into 1924. The discovery of three different years of cards with the export format at once seems to reinforce that theory.

E211 York Caramel and Cigarrera Bigott

​Yeah, I'm excited about these. Yorkies are notoriously rare, with a checklist that was only a bit more than 2/3 done. Then out of the blue 18 of them show up on Ebay, including several new ones. Only they weren't Yorkies, they were Venezuelan tobacco cards by Bigott with the brand Diana.

What, you ask? Never heard of them? I'm not surprised. These have never been seen before. The Bigott company is known to have put out a series of Venezuelan baseball players from 1931, rare but obscure, catalogued in the ACC as "N"561 ("N" was the designation for Central and South American cards; the Sports Collectors Bible took the N and added it to the 19th century issues, and so we have a confusing situation now as to how to label these cards). There were no known Venezuelan "N" boxing issues but it would be logical to have some surface given the 1-2 popularity of baseball and boxing in Latin America and the many Latin American boxing issues from other countries.

Needless to say, I was dubious of the cards but I recognized them as E211 fronts and owing to the large images provided was 100% certain that they were not creations from existing scans; the half-tone screens were too clear for that. Plus, I have a library of virtually every York scan that's hit the sales floor since I started cataloguing these cards years ago and there is just no way to use them to make counterfeits as clear as the cards posted appeared to be. Best of all, because E211s are numbered on their fronts, I was able to correlate the numbers with the known checklist and of course they matched in all respects. Given that the vast majority of known E211s are in lower grade, these also did not match the conditions of the known pool, at least of the ones I've hunted down and logged.

The cards were sold on Ebay starting at $49.99 on up. Most went for the minimum bids, likely because no one had ever seen them before and because of the economy, though there was spirited battle over Tunney and Dempsey.

Best of all, I contacted the seller in Venezuela to inquire as to whether he might have more than the 18 listed. He did have more: 29 more. Adding those into the mix took the York Caramel checklist to 57 of 60 cards (missing #s 26, 27 and 38). When I have the chance I will post the "new" cards' images on the images section of the site. For now, here are the additions to the E211 checklist:

5.    Young Corbett
6.    Jack Dempsey
8.    Joe Gans
9.    Jimmy Slattery
10.  Joey Sangor
13.  Tod Morgan
20.  Bud Taylor
23.  Tommy Loughran
24.  Maxie Rosenbloom
35.  Bombardier Wells
36.  Georges Carpentier
47.  Jack Dillon
60.  Johnny Risko

America's Great Boxing Cards

Does Anyone Recognize These?

A group of these cards, measuring about 9 x 12, popped up on Ebay recently. I have no idea what they are, who issued them, etc. However, there are at least fifty of them and they were printed on cardboard apparently in the 1920s.

Jack Dempsey Training Camp Set Dated To 1923

In the last edition of the catalog I reported on a set of 12 small photographic cards issued in a cardboard clamshell box that appeared to be souvenirs of Jack Dempsey's training camp. Owing to the research of my friend collector Arthur Rich, we can now definitively pin down the issue as circa 1923. Arthur found a letter with original canceled envelope from June 1923 recounting a visit to the training camp and enclosing four of the cards. Here is an image of one of the cards from the set:

1946 M-Unc "Ring" Champions; We Have Answers At Last!

I went to the World Boxing Hall of Fame show here in Los Angeles on November 15th to promote this site and the guide. Some of my readers were in attendance as well. One of my readers, whose name I unfortunately did not write down, has been collecting boxing materials since he was a boy in New York City. He told me that he purchased his set of these cards at Stillman's Gym, and that they were for sale at newsstands and at the gym. Apparently, Kid Herman had some involvement in their production and distribution, which would account for his image on the back of the packaging. That is something I always wondered about.

This information places the set in a new light. We basically agreed it was a late 1940s initial issue, but it is not a Ring product (although I am not entirely convinced that the cards weren't manufactured by Ring; the images and the write ups are the same style and typeface as Ring often used, and wRing did the same work for Everlast when it was producing its yearbooks). At least some of the reissues would thus appear to be genuine as well. It would also explain why the set appeared on so many disparate stocks and seemed to have been reissued at least in the 1960s; Herman died in the 1970s. The issue got worse and worse in terms of quality over the years. Later cards were obvious second generation prints and some weren't even cut properly.

In light of the foregoing, it is clear that the set should be treated as an ongoing series similar to the Exhibit cards, with the first series consisting of the heavyweight champs from Sullivan through Louis and any later fighters being part of subsequent re-issues. The heavier colored stock and white glossy stock cards would be from later years.

I haven't quite figured out how to classify the set yet; I will have to decide whether the newsstand connection makes it an "M" card or merits a different designation (likely a "W"). I'll figure it out by next edition.

Speaking of which, I picked up a Dempsey at the WBHOF show in trade and it was one of the colored stock cards. When I got home I noticed that it had a different pose than the one in the initial set. Here it is:

I Hate When This Happens--Well, Not Really

So I launch the latest version of the book on January 10th. Shortly thereafter a card surfaces that isn't in the book and that confirms the theory I have on a set but that I had not articulated in the bok owing to lack of the final piece of the puzzle. The Eagle Hall of Fame set was listed in the book as John L. Sullivan, Jim Jeffries, Jack Dempsey and Max Baer. I checked on the web site of the FOE and found that their Hall of Fame for sports inducted five boxers in the 1950s: Sullivan, Dempsey, Jeffries and Tommy Gibbons in 1955 and Baer in 1959. The Gibbons card surfaced and can now be added to the checklist. I am also nearly certain that the issue date was 1959 given the presence of the 1959 inductee Baer in an identical printing and format to the other four cards. Of course there could have been an initial issue in 1955 and an additional issue in 1959. No one knows for sure. I am absolutely certain that the Fitzsimmons reported in other sources does not exist--Ruby Robert was not ever inducted into the Eagle HOF. There were a number of other boxers inducted over the years starting in 1964 but no cards for them have surfaced. Yet.

A Few New Exhibit Card Variations

Some new variations on some exhibit cards have surfaced:

1926 Georges Carpentier: As some who follow this set know, there is a scarce variation on Harry Greb's card that has his champion status whited out. A similar variation has been discovered for the Carpentier card with his status as "Heavweight Champion of France" whited out. Side by side views of the regular and variation card are below.

1934-35 Quaker Oats Max Baer Premium

On June 14, 1934 Max Baer won the title from Primo Carnera; a year later he lost it to Jim Braddock. Somewhere in that year Quaker made a deal for him to sponsor its cereals and issued this handsome premium.

Analyzing The T220 Silver Borders

One set that has intrigued me for years is the silver bordered variation of T220 Mecca Cigarettes. At this point it is generally accepted that the set consists of 25 cards (half the white bordered T220 issue) and is much scarcer than the white bordered set. In reviewing registry sets and seeing individual collections of these cards, one thing I’ve noticed anecdotally is that certain cards appear to be short prints, as most collectors need them. I also noticed that some recent near set auctions had the same 22 or 23 of 25 cards from the set (missing Mike Donovan and Jim Corbett). I decided, therefore, to attempt an analysis of the set using set populations from the two major grading services (PSA and SGC). My hypothesis was that if Donovan and Corbett were true short prints, they would have very low populations relative to the other cards in the set.

A few words on methodology first. Third party grading service (“TPG”) population reports are only partially accurate gauges of rarity due to a few factors. The decision of whether to send in a card for grading is a voluntary one, the ramification being that people do not spend money slabbing undesirable cards. In many sets, therefore, it is common to see a very high population of star cards as compared to commons, even in the absence of short prints, because submitters tend to send in the most valuable cards, which tend to be those depicting stars. At least in the case of SGC, there are known errors in the T220 reporting that underreport the silver bordered graded cards, undoubtedly the result of listing them with the white borders when the pop report was first created. I’ve corrected this where known. Finally, and obviously, the cards sent in to the grading service do not reflect all of the cards out there, meaning that any analysis of pop reports has to be undertaken with the understanding that there are cards out there not reflected in the numbers. Despite these limitations, over the decade plus since TPGs came into vogue, they have increased their samples in the pop reports to the point where they are useful rough tools for comparing the relative scarcity of different issues and the relative scarcity of different cards within any given issue.

With those provisos in mind, I obtained the pop reports from PSA and SGC for the silver bordered T220 set. The following are the results, broken down by scarcity:

Name
PSA
SGC
Totals
Donovan
0
1
1
Corbett Jas. J.
2
1
3
Corbett Young
5
1
6
Moore
7
1
8
Driscoll & Glover
8
1
9
Mcgovern8
1
9
Goldman
7
3
10
Jackson
4
6
10
Mccoy
6
4
10
Coburn
6
5
11
Gans
7
4
11
Ryan
8
3
11
Carney
8
5
13
Choynski
8
5
13
Mcauliffe
7
6
13
Frayne
11
314
Lavigne
12
2
14
Beecher
11
4
15
Burke
10
5
15
Wilson
13
2
15
Edwards
10
6
16
Erne
10
6
16
Jordan
11
5
16
Randall & Belasco
11
6
17
Dempsey
11
7
18
1924 Flying Fists Benny Leonard Stand-Up

I am really excited about this one. Benny Leonard starred in a series of short films in 1924. The stand-up shown below is a promotional item from that series. It does not appear to be popped out of a card but rather is a stand-alone die-cut like an E125. I'm guessing that the delicate nature of the item (the head and arm are vulnerable to tearing) is part of why I've never seen anything like it before. Here is what I learned about the films:

Flying Fists (1924)
A series of six two-reel boxing dramas, each story complete in itself. The episode titles are: #1: Breaking In; #2: Hitting Hard; #3: Soft Muscles; #4: The Comeback; #5: The Surprise Fight; #6: The Jazz Fight.

Writer: Sam Hellman

Cast
Benny Leonard       ...             Benny Lane
Diana Allen            ...             Helen
Frank Evans           ...             Helen's Father
Billy Mitchell          ...             Cream-Cheese

Since Leonard and a lot of the film business were based in New York I am willing to bet that the films were shot there.

The stand-up represents the only memorabilia I've ever seen relating to Benny Leonard's silent film career.

New 19th Century Cards Discovered

One of the most obscure and difficult 19th century sets is the one designated N60 in the ACC, Allen & Ginter's Little Beauties Cigarettes. The set is basically an actresses set but had two known boxers, Edward McGlinchy and James (Jem) Mace. I warned in my book that more might be discovered. Well, it took several years but another surfaced. Jim Heffron, the lucky devil, managed to snag one that flew under the radar on Ebay and was kind enough to share it with me at the National. Add Joe Goss to the checklist.

Another big discovery is the existence of three more N174 cards with the large "Gypsy Queen" captions at the their tops. Here are Patsey Cardiff, Jack McAuliffe and Jack Burke.

Exhibit Blank Backs and Made In USA Ink Stamps​

As you undoubtedly know from reading my book, Exhibit boxing cards from 1921-1928 have back copy and dated copyright notices. Until recently, only a few cards were known to violate this rule. A 1922 Frankie Schmalzer was known blank backed and with a 1922 copyright back and some of the 1928 cards were known in blank backed format. I recently found some others from some other years. Now, these may be error cards where the back printing was simply omitted; I don't know. But they do exist.

The ink stamps are a bit easier to explain. ESCO sent some of its product to Canada, which required a designation of origins on the cards. Rather than redoing all the art, the company used a rubber stamp to ink a small origins notice on some card backs. This stamp appears in baseball cards as well and should not be considered to be damage to the card. SGC will take factory stamps into account when slabbing cards.

N386 Has A New Brand: Canada Chop

Every so often a new brand of tobacco will be found in an existing set. Usually, the set itself is quite rare. N386 contains John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain cards issued with Echo and Plowboy branding. They are rare. Three backs are known for the cards, ads for the two brands and a blank back with a D in a diamond, which appears to be a stamp advertising diamond brand matches. Recently, an N386 Sullivan with the blank/stamped back surfaced with a front ad saying "Smoke Canada Chop" instead of Echo or Plow Boy. The card sold for $4,650.00 on Ebay.

Matchbooks

A long-acknowledged adjunct of card collecting is matchbook collecting. Several Sets of matchbooks are cataloged in the American Card Catalog, including the U1-U4 Diamond Match baseball matchbooks. In boxing, the most common form of matchbook is associated with a boxer's restaurant or bar. Many fighters became owners (in name or in fact) of restaurants and bars. The most famous were Jack Dempsey's, a New York restaurant and bar near Madison Square Garden into the 1970s, and Slapsie Maxie's, a nightclub in Hollywood. Dempsey was the actual owner and often host at his restaurant and all sorts of paper ephemera exists, including many different matchbooks. Slapsie Maxie's was nominally owned and hosted by Maxie Rosenbloom but it was quite likely that gangster Mickey Cohen actually controlled the club. Many other fighters tried their hands in the trade, with varying results. Some, like Abe Attell and Benny Leonard, had little success, and their matchbooks are quite difficult to find. Others, like Lew Tendler, did quite well and have relatively easy to find matchbooks spanning decades. Sugar Ray Robinson owned a restaurant and nightclub in Harlem. Matchbooks from his establishment are not easy to find and command decent prices. Overall, though, most matchbooks can be obtained for $100 or less, often around $10 each. As with cards, condition is important. Full books of matches with strikers attached command premiums. Here are a few of my favorites, illustrating the nice variety of matchbooks out there:

As noted in my book, this rare set was issued in the late 1940s and reprinted from time to time, either with or without authorization, into the 1970s. I have since found a few variations and differences in the subjects and have gotten a better understanding of how the set was composed. I will share some of that information here.

The original set was printed on stock very similar to strip card stock and illustrated the heavyweight champs from Sullivan to Louis. I can verify three colors of printing: black, blue and red. At least two cards were changed from the first printing to a subsequent printing: Jack Sharkey (see above) can be found in either a full length pose or in a mid-thighs up pose, and Max Baer's card has different spacing and font in its legend. It appears that in a subsequent printing some different, nicer, but still thin stock was used. I discovered this when I purchased a pristine set, new to the hobby, from a seller who thought they were Exhibit cards. At some point, in the 1950s or even 1960s, the set was reprinted on thicker stock in various colors. I can verify that the set is a reprint rather than a reissue because the cards are later generation pictures of the original cards. What I do not know is whether they were made by the same manufacturer. You would expect that the original maker would have the original half-tone screens and would not need to re-shoot and re-screen the cards, but I can't say for certain. I am able to attribute the date because later fighters are included in the reprints. The last wave of these cards seems to be a 1970s issue, again based on the fighters shown. That set, at least the one I saw, was printed on thin, slick stock.

Rare 4 On 1 Exhibit Cards Discovered

​In the book I catalogued one card from this set, featuring Dave Shade and Eugene Criqui with baseball players Ty Cobb and Joe Judge. Well, this year the known set dramatically expanded. First, a previously unknown card featuring Jack Dempsey, Rocky Kansas, Stanley Harris (HOF baseball player) and Heinie Groh (baseball) surfaced on ebay from a vintage collection being sold off by a Texas dealer. This card was particularly exciting for me because it was the extremely rare postcard back with the "not to be used in exhibit machines" legend and an exhibit back coupon. This is only the third card I've ever seen with that particular back. The other two, a Blue Boxers card of Tony Canzoneri and a baseball card of Roger Peckinpaugh, surfaced in dealer lots some time ago and now reside in private hands (not mine, unfortunately).

One weird thing: the Dempsey-Kansas card has the boxers and baseball players facing opposite directions and is the only card not printed in black. There is a 4 on 1 of Cobb, Judge and two entertainers that follows this format too. It is blank backed, has two toned front ink (red for the entertainers and blue for the ballplayers) and may even predate these four cards. I hope to post an image shortly.

In late June, an even more impressive lot of four of these cards surfaced in an estate in the Los Angeles area. All four were postcard backed but without coupons. The cards included the Dempsey-Kansas and Shade-Criqui cards referenced above, plustwo previously uncatalogued cards of Babe Ruth-Rogers Hornsby-Mickey Walker-Georges Carpentier and Walter Johnson-Al Simmons-Benny Leonard-Gene Tunney.

Obviously, the expansion of this set is major news for exhibit collectors, baseball collectors and boxing collectors. The discovery of new cards of Ruth and Johnson, who are widely considered to be the greatest baseball field player and pitcher, respectively, is very exciting for baseball collectors, as it adds new cards of these iconic figures to the "must have" lists of their fans.

One interesting aspect of the finds are how they further tie the rare 4 on 1 issue into the Blue Boxers. The boxers' images selected are all from the first run of the Blue Boxers, the 1925 stats back set. The Kansas and Tunney images are not repeated in the postcard backed Blue Boxers of later print runs. In conjunction with the team designations of ballplayers Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby, the use of the older images strongly suggests that the art from the 1925 Blue Boxer and first run of the 1925-31 PC back baseball sets were used to create these cards. The discovery of the coupon backed Dempsey-Kansas card does raise a chronological dilemma, however, one that I admit I cannot answer as of yet. As far as I can tell, ESCO began experimenting with coupons in late 1927, when it added a rubber stamped coupon to the backs of a scant few of its baseball cards. These extremely rare variations were followed in early 1928 with the use of coupons on the backs of the 1928 Pacific Coast League baseball set (itself a very rare set), on some of the 1928 baseball cards, on many entertainment cards, and on some of the 1928 boxing cards. The coupon on the Peckinpaugh PC back card has to be a late 1927 or early 1928 printing because Peckinpaugh is shown with Cleveland, where was hired to manage after the 1927 season. There is also the issue of 4 on 1 mainstream cards, which first appeared in the mid to late 1920s for entertainment cards and in 1929 for baseball cards. I suspect that the 4 on 1 cards shown below are first attempts by ESCO to create 4 on 1 cards and were printed only very briefly before being discarded for the aesthetically nicer format of the later 4 on 1 efforts. The labels in particular look slapdash and unfinished as compared to the later cards with their clean front legends. We will likely never know anything more than that about when these cards were issued but one thing is for certain: they are extremely rare.

H815 Adam Hats Update

We can add Fred Apostoli to the checklist for the issue. Here is an image:

1969 Afro American History Mystery

Following the Watts riots of 1965 a lot of home-grown businesses were formed in LA around the idea of black pride and self-sufficiency. One of them, Shindana Toys, specialized in ethnic dolls and other materials. They have some really neat dolls of Dr. J and OJ Simpson, as well as Redd Foxx, Jimmy (Dynamite) Walker) and some others. One of the toys was a set of "Afro American History Mystery" cards that included this Joe Louis.

The next Cuban item I came across is a premium for a Cuban clothier featuring Kid Chocolate (Eliginio Sardinas Montalvo) in a promo piece for El Sol, a haberdashery in Manzanillo, Cuba. Probably dates to the late 1920s or early 1930s when the Kid was rising to the top of the jr. lightweight and lightweight divisions:

A New Adam Hats Card

​The Legendary Auctions lot 1397 in its March 2011 auction featured a group of five Adam Hats cards from the first (ca. 1933) group of premium ad pieces that the company made. They have softly pastel tinted fronts and an Adam Hats stamp on their backs, and are approximately 8 x 10. The Legendary group sold for $1,912.00. Three of the cards were all the known baseball players, which certainly is what drove the sale but also included was a card for Maxie Rosenbloom. So, we can add him to the list of Adam Hats boxer endorsers with cards to chase. For more info, visit Legendary's site at www.legendaryauctions.com.

The Site For Boxing Card Knowledge

Here is a close-up of the cartouche, which is printed with the photo, not added afterwards:

Catalog Updates

1925 Exhibit Set Ad Piece

A friend, Paul Holstein (hi Paul) sent me a scan of a 1925 Pancho Villa with an advertisement on the back listing the set as 96 cards. The image is below. The problem is, I have a checklist of 100 cards. Now, two of the cards are blank-backed (Izzard and Bonillas), so perhaps we take them out. It still leaves 98 cards. There are four confirmed Dempsey cards with 1925 copyright backs, though. If we count them as one card, that takes the count to 95 cards. So is there a 96th back out there? Did ESCO advertise 96 cards but make some changes as the print run went on? I suppose we will never know.

Note that PSA does not even list the Donovan; it doesn’t exist per PSA (an idiotic state of affairs I cover on the Soapbox page; read if you enjoy Orwell).

Two more notes: The pop on the Young Corbett overstates its rarity. There have been three recent auctions of near sets; all included raw Young Corbett cards. Of the card collectors who’ve shared their raw sets with me, they have both Corbetts but no Donovans. I would thus put the known population count of Young Corbett at 9 or 10 cards and the Jas. J. Corbett pop at 5 or more.

The numbers support my observations. The set can be divided into three tiers; Donovan, Corbett and all the rest. Why Donovan is so rare (and Corbett is difficult as well) is something I cannot explain. I know it wasn’t a case of Donovan being withdrawn a la Honus Wagner from T206 due to permission issues because he is in the white bordered set. In fact, Donovan is the only boxer in the white bordered set with two solo (not in fight scenes) cards, one showing him as champion 30 years earlier and one showing him as the gray but fit boxing instructor of the New York Athletic Club (the pose used in the silver bordered set). I know that the silver set was prepared before the white set because the silver card of Joe Coburn has a strange little man on its left side while the white bordered card has the man removed, though his silhouette still remains, meaning the white card used a reworked version of the silver card’s artwork.

Why there would be two cards of Donovan but not of any of the other greats? My hunch is that the silver bordered Donovan was a chase card of some sort. I have to wonder if there wasn’t a prize associated with this set, one that is lost in history.

Another Call For Help

​After conferring with some sage minds in the boxing card field, we have another "does this exist" to be answered. In the book I have catalogued the Fancy Script Blue Boxers as a set of 15 cards. No one can seem to find cards of Mushy Callahan, Leo Lomski, Tommy Loughran, Sammy Mandell, Johnny Risko, Jack Sharkey and Billy Wallace. Since no one can show one of these seven cards and I don't have them either, unless someone comes forward before the next edition, they will be deleted. Just so you can see what the cards in question would look like, below is a fancy script Al Singer. Note the ornate handwritten legend, hence the fancy script name:

Bonnie Dog Food

Max Baer was no stranger to publicity during or after his ring career. This premium likely dates to the 1950s and touts Bonnie Meaty Meal. The mike is from Sacramento AM radio station KFBK. Baer was a long time resident of Sacramento and had a radio show on KFBK. I have no idea whether the dog really is his.

The purpose of this section is to provide periodic updates to information in my book. As I stumble across new sets, new information on catalogued sets, and so on, I will post the information here. Please check back periodically as I never know what I will find from week to week.

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​Benny Leonard Restaurant PC

I'd been looking for one of these for quite a while. Leonard had a restaurant on the Upper West Side of NYC in the 1920s. I'd seen matchcovers from time to time but never a postcard. That always surprised me. One finally surfaced on Ebay this year:

Next mystery: These standees, printed on heavy cardboard with real photo inserts and measuring 14 inches tall appeared on Ebay. The card of McLarnin says "May 17th?" on the front, which seems to indicate the series was made to promote his lightweight title bout versus Mandell, which was actually held on May 21, 1928.