Let me start off by saying, I’m going to try super hard not to turn this article into a book.  A lot has been going on!  To kick it all off, I did a MASSIVE trade involving a boatload of Jose Canseco cards.  The boxes on the right are Canseco cards.  The box on the left?  An 1888 Allen & Ginter N28 baseball card set.

I know what you are thinking:  How very Tanner of me to trade my 1888 Allen & Ginter set for Canseco cards.  PLOT TWIST:  The Canseco cards actually left my collection! I packed up a large lot I picked up in collections I bought out from a few places, and put them up for sale.  Fellow collector Brad reached out with his A&G set, and we did a swap!

I had to send the King Kelly out to be graded, but before I did that, I put it under the microscope just to make 100% certain it was authentic.  Yup!  19th century lithography will typically have watercolor-looking splotches with darker rims around them.  Thank you David Cycleback for the assist!

I posted these for sale, and a bunch of people were asking “Tanner!  You are selling your A&G set?!?! WHY?  You LOVE it!”  Don’t worry – I still have my set! 🙂  This set was actually my second set, and I did the swap so I could sell or trade them.  I still have my set (shown below!)  All are graded SGC 1 – the fronts mostly look pack fresh, but the backs have damage.  I put my entire emphasis on front eye appeal, so this set is perfect for me.  I actually DID sell this set (along with most all of my other vintage) earlier on in the year, but bought the set back – and rebuilt 🙂

The back damage on the A&G cards are due to someone having glued them into an album.  I was fortunate enough to find an album earlier in 2020, and now have it on display with my set.  Check it out!

So, where did the money from the 2nd set go?  THE KING:

King Kelly, that is.  The 19th century figure who was the Babe Ruth of his time.  America’s first pop song (Slide, Kelly, Slide) was written about him.  He is the first one that people started chasing to get his autograph.  He even pioneered various baseball techniques, and transcended the sport into pop culture.  The only reason you may not know about his exploits is because television & radio weren’t around then to perpetuate his legendary career.  Thankfully, we do have books, newspaper articles, and a handful of baseball cards to remember him.  Seriously, y’all … read this.

if you aren’t into pre-war cards, you may be scratching your head right now.  “Didn’t he just sell an entire set with a King Kelly in it?”  If you are a person who sees no difference between one old card and another, I can understand.  That is how I look at autographed shiny chrome refractor cards of teenagers that so many go gaga after.

At the time of this writing, the PSA POP for the Allen & Ginter King Kelly is 187.  Extremely low for such a coveted and historical card.  Kelly has a number of different Old Judge cards, but the one I had my sights on is my absolute favorite – and my favorite Old Judge, ever. The PSA POP is just 3.  The picture below is from “The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company (1886-1890)”.  It is an outstanding book that shows virtually all of the *known* Old Judge cards.  The picture shows all of the King Kelly cards. 254-2 is my favorite portrait and 254-4 is my favorite Old Judge card.

Here is what the Library of Congress has on file for my two favorites.  These were from the Benjamin K. Edwards collection.  After he passed away, his daughter gave his collection to poet Carl Sandburg, who, in turn, donated them to the Library of Congress in 1954.

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Think about that for a second:  These cards were donated nearly 70 years after they were created, which is nearly 70 years ago from the time of this writing!  The creation of these cards are much closer to when the Constitution was written than present day.

With a PSA POP of *ONE* (for the notation of Port. Bare Head – Chicago, that is … there are a few others than have been graded as well) I was extremely excited to have landed this earlier in the year:

The seller of this card happened to have my other favorite King Kelly as an SGC 4.5, and we conversed about it back in March.  His price was higher than I was willing to pay, but I lost sleep over it, and decided against going for it.

And then November rolled around.

The Robert Edwards Auction House listed a very nice looking SGC 2.5.  Talk about losing sleep!  It is one thing to talk price with no appropriate comps in sight.  It is quite another when one is actively being sold.  All I knew is I was going for it.

There is just something about this pose, his look, and the background that gets me.  The background especially, though.  The trees, mountains, bushes, lake, stream.  It gives us a glimpse into baseball (and life) just a couple decades removed from the Civil War.  In fact, Kelly’s father served in the Civil War.

The day the auction was set to end, I conversed with the seller of the SGC 4.5, asking if he would be willing to negotiate.  He said no, and would actually have to adjust his price if the 2.5 at auction went any higher.  That was the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear, but I fully understood.  I went back and forth in my head about what I wanted to do, and ultimately, I decided to pull the trigger & lock in his 4.5.  Based upon the sales price of the 2.5, the asking price of the 4.5 was more than fair.  It was fun to see the bidding movement up past midnight until it ended.

I breathed a sigh of relief when he gave me the tracking number, but as we all know, USPS has had many issues recently.  It took nearly THREE WEEKS for it to get here, and even its delivery wasn’t without anxiety.  The box came with an end that was not fully secured – I recorded myself opening it, because I was extremely worried someone had opened it, pulled the card, and closed it back up.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case!  Here is my prize, with a close up of the card itself as well:

It is clean, bright, has great contrast, and simply put, is museum quality!  It is the best copy I’ve seen of this Old Judge card, ever.  That isn’t to say I wouldn’t die to have a handful of other different Old Judge cards.  If you have a Chicago Cap Anson, call me!

As my collecting habits evolve, I find myself interested in not just having a collection, but collecting – that is, buying, selling, and trading.  Constant movement of cards in and out of my collection keeps things fresh and exciting for me.  Plus, I just love trying to do BIG things.  When I saw a Gypsy Queen Roger Connor hit an auction house, I instantly fell in love.   For all you readers out there, check this out!

I knew it was going to fetch big money, but I watched it like a hawk, and kept looking at my Canseco boxes.

After buying out not one, but THREE big Canseco collections this year, a switch flipped in me, and I even started looking into buying up multiples of certain cards.  That was not the direction I wanted to go since I walked away from supercollecting back in mid 2018.  Still though, having 10% of the 1993 Finest Refractor run, and 25% of all licensed on card auto jumbo patches is fun to look at, and impressive to say.  I had to make a decision – did I want to go down the path of getting multiples of the same Canseco card, or put that money toward vintage?  I made the decision to drastically thin out my Canseco collection, which meant culling it of duplicates, and cards I didn’t love.  It was long overdue, anyway.

From a quantity perspective, I ended up selling about half of my Canseco collection, along with lots of other cards to fund a serious shot at the beautiful Gypsy Queen Roger Connor. I kept the top quality Canseco stuff – the cards I love and the best cards I had, and plan to continue looking for more!

Here is a picture of the card that caught my eye:

This card is exceedingly rare, and armed with some funds from (finally) selling a ton, I made a bid.  I was the high bidder for much of the final day.

And then I got a notification.  Please, please, bids, don’t be high!

The competing bids:

There is some interesting psychology that goes on in a person’s head when they are outbid and have time to do something about it. For me, I went back and forth – should/can I responsibly go higher?  I really wanted the card, but as I watched it go higher and higher, I came to terms with the fact that I had been squarely beaten.

But that’s collecting.  You don’t hit home runs unless you take monster swings.  That means striking out a lot, too.  I struck out, but it motivated me to sell cards I didn’t absolutely love that I may not have otherwise.  In fact, I even sold a lot more *after* having lost out on the Gypsy Queen Connor, because selling mode was activated in me.  My Canseco collection is a mere fraction of what it has ever been from a quantity perspective, capable of fitting in four 2-row boxes, but it is mostly all of the stuff I love – the stuff I didn’t love is gone, for the most part.  This whole exercise has made me really appreciate the Canseco cards I do have so much more, now that the “fluff” is gone.  My gosh, I love these cards 🙂  Here are some of my favorites!

I seem to do a purge from time to time.  In fact, I started off 2020 by selling vintage cards I had purchased in 2019 that I really didn’t love.  Eventually, I ended up selling virtually everything on a whim, and rebuilt.  I made mistakes by selling some things for too little, and many cards sold low simply because I thought there was no way the PSA controversy / covid would bode well for the hobby.  Boy, was I wrong!

But, that is not where the story ends.  If I hadn’t sold them, I wouldn’t have been able to go on all the fun little journeys in collecting I did this year, and pick up the massive cards I now have.

Speaking of taking a big swing, selling off a bunch of stuff allowed me to do exactly that on another card that took my breath away the first time I saw it.  If you close your eyes and think of a Babe Ruth baseball card, this one likely will pop up in your mind.  It is arguably the most iconic card of the most famous player ever to have stepped on the diamond.  This piece of art they call the 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth is modeled after the famous photo taken by Charles Conlon.

But all is not as it seems …

This looks like a 1933 Goudey.  It is actually a 1933 World Wide Gum Babe Ruth.  Sometimes called the Canadian Goudey, the Goudey Canadian Back, or the Goudey French back, both have virtually identical fronts, all the way down to the Goudey Gum Company copyright on the front  (Goudey owned World Wide Gum).

The main differences are limited to the backs.  This might sound familiar, as T206 cards can be found with various backs as well, ranging from fairly rare to insanely rare.

The 1933 World Wide Gum Babe Ruth is an exceedingly scarce issue, when compared to its Goudey counterpart.  Here is a graph I did for fun showing the PSA POPs of a few cards:

The number of the World Wide Gum versions are significantly lower.  While they aren’t cheap by any means, they are not worth multiples of the more common Goudeys, like T206s with rare backs are.  People do seem to be catching on to this scarce and drastically undervalued issue.

When I saw this 1933 World Wide Gum Babe Ruth, my first impression was that I had to do everything I could to get it into my collection. I had a PSA 1 ’33 Goudey Ruth earlier on in the year, but parted with it, due to staple dimples, and creasing.  ANY Babe Ruth is amazing to own, but I wanted something I couldn’t take my eyes off of, and this would be the perfect candidate.  As collectors, we want our collections to stand out from the crowd.

The iconic front and rare back combination makes it exciting enough, but the eye appeal is what really took my breath away.  It has the appearance of a 7.  Once I laid my eyes on it, I knew right away that it ruined any other ’33 Ruth for me this side of $25,000.

The back shows an issue on the bottom left over the word “Printed”.  The centering, coloring, edges, and corners make this a strong candidate for being one of the most under graded cards I’ve ever seen.  That is a good thing, though, because I intentionally look for cards like this – plus – “buy the card, not the grade” – if this were graded as strong as its eye appeal shows, it wouldn’t be in my collection.

I went back and forth with the seller for a week, making four offers, but he shut me down each time and said it would likely stay in his collection.  Finally, he did counter – though the price was obo, he stayed firm at full price.  I wrote him a long message thanking him for going back and forth with me, but said I would regrettably have to hold off.  I pressed “send” on the forum, and watched my dream Babe Ruth sail away, knowing that my message was probably the last nail in the coffin he needed as confirmation to keep it.  If I wanted a ’33 Ruth, it was going to have to be a significantly rougher version.

I got up from my desk to get a snack, and ran through it all in my head again.  I thought about all it had going for it: it was the rarest version of arguably the most iconic card of the most famous baseball player, ever … and probably the nicest one I’d ever get a chance to own.  As I said before, you have to swing hard to hit a home run, but that means you strike out a lot, too.  I figured several other Babe Ruth Goudeys and a few World Wide Gums would pop up in the future, but just not this nice within my price range.  Some harsh PSA 1s are now hitting the $2,500-4,000 range with versions ripped in half fetching several hundred dollars!

With all of this stirring in my head, I went back to my computer, and saw this …

The forum had a server issue, and never sent my message!  I came to my senses, and responded again as soon as the website was back up, this time telling him LET’S DO THIS!!!  On Christmas day, we finalized the deal, and he sent the card.  I figured that this card probably ruined any and all other ’33 Ruths in my price range from here on out, so now was the time to make the leap!  This is now mine.  I can’t tell you how much this card means to me.  I have all the faith in the world that it will continue to climb in value, and have always wondered why it isn’t already at or beyond ’52 Topps Mantle levels.

So in the end, I was able to capture the King, though I lost the (Gypsy) Queen.  In losing the Queen, I got the Babe 🙂

2020 has been a wild ride – a truly terrific year for my collection as well!  Not because some expensive cards have made it into my collection, but rather *how* they made it into my collection.  I sold many cards too low, and even starting off New Years 2020 by selling a card for too low.  NOT fun, let me tell ya!  I got a very good education in vintage over the past couple of years – and collecting in general!

What an awesome hobby we have! It is so rich in history. Shown below are two players who elevated baseball to a whole new level in two entirely different centuries. Nearly half a century separates these two cards, and still, both feel like ancient history. I’m so thankful they created cards back then for us so we can admire, collect, and remember our hobby’s roots.

In 2021, I want to continue helping others in this hobby to achieve their goals.  What this means for many is determining what you truly want in your collection, selling what you don’t, and targeting what makes your mouth water.  If you have any questions or need any help, I’m happy to help!

Happy 2021, everyone.  May your hobby – and life – be richly blessed!

Video of me opening the King Kelly …

Video of me opening the Babe …