Impossibly Rare 1888 Joseph Hall Cabinet Hall Of Famer Quartet – Coming Soon!

jhc copyThe Brooklyn photography studio of Joseph Hall produced a number of different baseball-related photographs, among which were a group of individual player cabinets featuring members of the 1888-89 New York Giants.  Very little is known about these cards, though the majority of the known player images were used for the very rare and valuable N338-2 S.F. Hess issue of 1888 (which contains 16 known members of the Giants).  The cards measure approximately 4″ x 6 1/4″, and feature beautiful, black-and-white portrait photos, with the player’s name lettered below the image (in some cases in script writing).  The Joseph Hall cards are very rare.

Presented here is a collection of four Hall of Famers from the Joseph Hall set: John Ward, Mickey Welch, Jim O’Rourke, and Roger Connor.  Each of these four cards originated from a large group of 18 different cabinets that were sold at auction in 2006 for more than $70,000.  After that initial sale, the cards were broken up and were scattered throughout the hobby.

These cards represent four of the five Hall of Famers in that initial group (the fifth being Tim Keefe, not part of this collection), and the largest single group of cards from that issue to be sold publicly in one place since.  The cards are among the most rare of all 19th Century cards; despite the aforementioned sale of 18 cabinets in 2006, just four of those 18 have made it as far as the Standard Catalog.  Over the years since the discovery of the initial group, several individual examples (including Hall of Famers) have exchanged hands both privately and at public auction, with this group of four pieced together individually by a private collector who has held them for some time.

Included in the group are the following:

1888 Jos Hall Orourke Front1) Jim O’Rourke (HOF) – Graded FAIR 20 by SGC, the card has been clipped at all four corners, as is the case with a great number of the cabinets from the initial find.  The image quality is strong, with excellent contrast, and some wear on the surface that is restricted largely to the area outside the oval where the photo appears.  The number 2 is written in ink on the otherwise clean and ornate reverse. O’Rourke is currently not catalogued as part of the N338-2 S.F. Hess set, though the existence of this cabinet would make it likely that an O’Rourke was produced for that issue as well.

2) Roger Connor (HOF) – Graded A by SGC, this card has also been clipped at the corners and exhibits surface wear similar to that seen on the O’Rourke.  The image quality and contrast is similarly strong, and the reverse is largely clean with some minor staining at the bottom.  This particular example boasts the identical image to the N338-2 card of Connor.

3) Mickey Welch (HOF) – Graded A by SGC, the card of “Smiling” Mickey has the same four corner clips as the others, along with some staining and wrinkling on the surface.  Welch’s name is written in ink under the oval photo, and the number 4 is written in ink on the reverse.  Of the known Joseph Hall Giants Cabinets, the image of Welch is one of just three known player images that were not used in the N338-2 S.F. Hess issue (the others being O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, and Hall of Famer Tim Keefe).  As of this writing, the image of Welch used in this cabinet is unique and unknown to any other of Welch’s card issues.

1888 Jos Hall Welch Back4) John Ward (HOF) – Graded A by SGC, the card of Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward appears to have been slightly hand cut along the edges, along with the four corners being clipped.  The card exhibits considerable wear that is manifested in some tears to the photo itself; the SGC holder lends itself to a strong appearance and excellent protection for the card.  Ward’s name is written in ink in the lower border, and above it again in pencil, and the number 3 is written in ink on the reverse.  The image of Ward used in this cabinet is identical to that of his S338-2 S.F. Hess issue, and also to that of a recently discovered Police Gazette cabinet that sold for nearly $10,000 earlier this year.

These cards are extraordinarily rare, so much so as despite the fact that the advertisement on the reverse clearly indicates that duplicates could be purchased from the studio, these cards are thought to be unique.  The existence of the initial 18 cards sold at aucton in 2006 was a hobby miracle; that four of the five Hall of Famers known to exist have been reassembled by a dedicated collector despite the overwhelming demand for (and cost of) 19th Century material is simply astonishing.  It is entirely unlikely that a group of Hall of Famers from such a rare issue will be offered together in this way again.

T206 Magie Error

T206 Magee FrontThe most popular and widely-collected prewar card issue is undoubtedly T206.  While the player selection is large and includes a great number of Hall of Famers and scarce backs to challenge collectors, the issue also includes a number of rarities that represent some of the set’s toughest and most desirable cards.

The Sherry Magee “Magie” error is one of them.  Known as the fourth of the set’s “Big Four” rarities (the other three being the famous Honus Wagner, the underrated Eddie Plank and the impossible “Slow Joe” Doyle [NY National] cards), the Magie error is, of the four, perhaps the most popular due to its affordability in relation to the others.  The reason for the rarity is simple: Magee’s name was initially misspelled, and corrected during the initial Piedmont 150 printing.

Despite the variation only being known with the Piedmont 150 (Factory 25) back, it is still considered by most collectors to be a necessary card for completion of the T206 set.  It is for this reason that it remains one of the set’s most sought-after cards, and why its value continues to rise.  One of the hobby’s most important rarities, it is thought that merely 150-200 examples of the card exist, the demand far exceeding the supply.

Graded VG 3 by PSA, this example boasts strong, bold color along with some minor surface wear and creasing along the bottom-right corner.  With corner wear consistent with the grade, the card remains a striking example.  With an extremely high percentage of the hobby’s known Magies existing at the lower end of the grade spectrum, an example as attractive as this one is highly desirable.  An extremely attractive example of one of the hobby’s most important cards.

T206 Magee Front

High-Grade 1910 Tip Top Bread Honus Wagner

1910 Tip Top Wagner Front

A mere three examples of the D322 Tip Top Bread Honus Wagner have been graded higher than this wonderful card, by either SGC or PSA.  Featuring the Flying Dutchman in the fabled pose immortalized by legendary photographer Carl Horner, the card was issued as part of a 25-card set by the Ward-Mackey company to help promote its Tip Top Bread brand.  Comprised of members of the 1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, the attractive and unusual set is relatively scarce today, with the Wagner unquestionably being the set’s key card.

This is a particularly exceptional and important example, having been the card once owned by hobby pioneer Lionel Carter.  Carter begin collecting in the 1930s and continued to do so until his extraordinary collection was auctioned in early 2009.  Known for his penchant for high-grade cards, Carter amassed an incredible collection over the years while giving back to the hobby by sharing his considerable knowledge with other collectors.  The length of time during which Carter built his collection meant that he acquired many cards before the hobby was as condition-sensitive as it is today; his cards were carefully affixed in scrapbooks where they remained protected for decades.  The result has been an increased level of confidence among contemporary collectors that cards bearing the Carter pedigree are fresh, unaltered and not subjected to the rigors to which many prewar cards have been exposed over the years.

This is one of the finest examples of this card extant, and is the key card in a scarce, desirable and unique issue.  In addition, it was one of the more valuable individual cards in the famed Lionel Carter Collection, fetching the highest price out of all the items in the auction where it initially appeared.  The winning bidder has held the card for nearly five years, during which time just two other examples in similar grades have sold at public auction, both in 2010.

Suffice to say this is a scarce and extremely valuable card of one of the hobby’s most widely collected players, once owned by a beloved hobby pioneer, one of the highest-grade examples known to exist.