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Century-Old Baseball Memorabilia Unearthed in Original Tobacco Tin

In the quiet expanse of Northern California, a historical treasure lay hidden within the confines of a modest home. It wasn't gold or ancient artifacts but something of significant value to baseball aficionados—a century-old collection of baseball cards, encased in an original tobacco tin, untouched by time.

The narrative of this collection's journey to the public eye began with a serendipitous phone call to the proprietors of Auction Monthly, a local auction house in Granite Bay. In late September, a man informed them of an antique tin filled with what he described as old baseball cards that he wished to part with. The auction house experts arranged a prompt meeting, unaware that they were about to step into a portal to baseball's yesteryears.

Upon opening the rusty Pedro Cut Plug Tobacco tin, they were met with a collection meticulously gathered by the caller's father, "Ed," who had been born in 1909 and had passed away in 1994. Ed's lifetime collection comprised strip cards, caramel cards, and tobacco cards, some dating back over a century, a testament to the passion of a lifelong baseball enthusiast.

Ed's son narrated the history of the collection, revealing how his father, a child of the Great Depression, was instilled with the principle of holding onto possessions—a virtue that safeguarded these cards through the years. The tin, likely a gift from an uncle, was a fixture of Ed's childhood. Years later, it was rediscovered in a closet of the family home in Tracy, California, after Ed's passing. For twenty-nine years following this rediscovery, the collection remained with the family, until finally, it was released to a hobby that, although transformed since Ed's time, still held the same enthrallment for baseball's glorious past.

The collection was vast and varied, boasting over 600 cards, all predating 1926. The passage of time and the palpable affection of Ed's father for these cards had left them in less-than-mint condition, a common fate for strip cards often subjected to the eager hands of young collectors. Yet, their worn edges spoke volumes of their storied past. Particularly striking was the abundance of Babe Ruth cards—a staggering 20 of them—heralding the deep admiration Ed's father had for the Sultan of Swat.

Among the prized finds were:

  • A Shoeless Joe Jackson card from the 1919-21 W514 series
  • A Babe Ruth card from the 1921 E220 National Caramel series
  • Another Ruth card from the 1922 American Caramel E121 series
  • Cards featuring almost every member of the 1919 Black Sox
  • Multiple Ruth cards from the W514 series and three from the 1920 W519 series
  • A Ty Cobb card from the 1922 American Caramel E121 series
  • A Cobb card from the 1921 W516 series
  • A George Sisler card from the 1920 W519 series

The cards spanned numerous pre-war sets and included an assortment of strip cards from Ed's childhood, as well as Zeenuts cards from 1924-26, primarily distributed on the West Coast.

The auction house, upon acquiring this slice of baseball history, was particularly astonished by the sheer volume of Ruth cards. They set about a meticulous process of grading the finer pieces, while also offering others for sale in their found condition.

This discovery transcends the typical card collection—it's a historical record, a link to baseball's golden age. Each card in the tin serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of the game's early titans. For the modern collector, these cards represent a connection to the sport's roots, to a time when baseball was more than a game—it was a cultural touchstone.

The cards are a visual chronicle of the era they represent. The strip cards, often cut from larger sheets, the caramel cards, sweeter companions to their tobacco cousins—all paint a picture of an era where baseball was burgeoning into America's favorite pastime.

For those who hold these cards in their hands today, they are not just printed paper but relics of a simpler time. They evoke the dusty diamonds of the early 20th century, the roar of the crowd in nascent ballparks, and the larger-than-life heroes who graced the field.

The unearthing of this collection is a moment of celebration, a victory for the preservation of baseball's heritage. It tells the story of a boy and his heroes, of a father and his legacy, and of a sport that has captured hearts for generations.

As the auction house readies these cards for new ownership, each one will find a place in the annals of collector's items, sought after for both their rarity and the stories they carry. From the hands of a boy in Oakland to the showcases of collectors worldwide, these cards continue their journey, a journey that is as much a part of baseball as the crack of a bat or the cheer of the crowd. This collection, once hidden away in a tin box in Tracy, now stands ready to ignite the passions of collectors and fans, reminding us all of the timeless allure of baseball.


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