T206 collectors have a field day with this kind of stuff – off-registered cards, miscuts, print freaks, and other anomalies are well-documented, and very, very cool examples of poor turn-of-the-century quality control that help T206 scholars better understand print techniques, sheet placement, and other questions that have been lost to history.
Cracker Jacks, though, aren’t really known for this sort of thing. The vivid reds and clean borders have long made these beautiful cards a favorite among prewar collectors, as do their tie with the American institution that is the Cracker Jack company. They’re simply gorgeous cards.
But the main issue collectors have with them, condition-wise, deals with the staining that comes from the popcorn and caramel inside the Cracker Jack box, along with centering issues common to the era. While a great deal of unstained CJs are available, we don’t often see print defects.
Here, we have not one, but two 1915 Cracker Jacks that suffer from not one, but two print defects. Both cards – of Joe Boehling and Jim Delehanty – are miscut along the right edge, and are also severely out of registration.
After reviewing these cards with several prewar collectors at the National, it was pretty clear – these cards are weird, and certainly uncommon for the issue. Indeed, while population reports are by no means an accurate gauge of things like this, PSA has graded more than 10,000 1915 Cracker Jacks, and only about 3% were graded with a qualifier of any kind – and as we know, qualifiers could be for centering, marks, general print defects, or miscut cards.
In this case, both cards are graded with the MC qualifier, signifying the miscut right edges. However, it is the print registration that is most striking, with the dark red ink appearing off-register by a full sixteenth of an inch. What’s interesting – at least to me – is the appearance of what seems to be a second pass of red ink, much lighter than the dominant, dark red, that appears properly registered. This would indicate that perhaps the cards were printed with two passes of red ink, possibly accounting for the vivid hue of the cards.
What’s also interesting about these cards is that technically, they are not miscut. The type is properly centered on each card, as are the player images – it’s simply the misapplied ink that causes the cards to appear miscut.
Aside from the print defects, these cards are otherwise exceptional examples – unstained, with EX-MT to NMT corners and sharp edges. The backs are clean.
Did these cards make it into circulation? Were they scrapped by the quality control of Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein after production, and subsequently taken out the back door by an employee? Perhaps we’ll never know – but these two cards are very cool examples of Cracker Jack print anomalies that will be featured in our October, 2012 auction.