We’ve always sold a lot of Exhibit cards in our auctions. We like them, especially the baseball Exhibits from the 1920s. We think the photographs are fantastic – after years of tobacco companies publishing illustrated cards (with varying degrees of quality), and during an era where baseball cards were typified by either poorly-drawn strip cards or small, black-and-white photographic ones, the postcard-sized cards feature attractive photos and clean designed. And for today’s collector, there are plenty of challenging variations and rarities to make set building tough.
Thanks to several awesome consignments, our Spring auction features the largest selection of Exhibits we’ve ever offered. In fact, we don’t recall so many Exhibits featured anywhere – more than 150 Exhibit-related lots in total, including complete sets, display items, a couple of Exhibit vending machines, and of course, some of the toughest rarities (including the 1923-24 Exhibit Babe Ruth you see above, one of just a few known examples).
The Exhibit Supply Company of Chicago manufactured these cards – and others unrelated to sports – beginning in 1921. They were distributed in vending machines at amusement parks, arcades, retail stores, and other establishments. Each year the company would make additions and subtractions to the cards they produced, adding some players and deleting others, changing layouts, creating different “colors” by tinting the images, and later even changing player poses. These additions and modifications created a host of variations and different levels of rarity, and probably most important for collectors like us, a host of mysteries to solve about how and when the cards were issued, and which variations are more difficult to find.
The majority of the Exhibits that we are offering in this auction were manufactured prior to 1948, and include all of the great names from the 1920s and 30s, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, George Sisler, and many more. The auction features multiple examples of each player – some individually, and some sold as part of complete (or partial) sets. The auction features fourteen different Exhibit cards of Babe Ruth – not counting the ones included in sets.
Exhibits are beautiful and fascinating, and it is our hope that the large assortment featured in this sale helps elevate the profile of these beautiful cards by attracting some new collectors into the fascinating universe of Exhibits.