1893 Just So Tobacco Buck Ewing - Newly Discovered!

Sold For: $17,625

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 111

Item Year: 1893

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Cards (1830-1899)

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Graded POOR 10 by SGC. Presented is one of the most remarkable nineteenth-century baseball-card discoveries in the history of card collecting: a newly discovered Just So Tobacco example of Hall of Famer Buck Ewing! This is an extraordinary find that, condition aside, is one of the nineteenth-century collecting world's holy grail cards. For years collectors have wondered whether the 1893 Just So Tobacco card set, which features only players from the Cleveland Spiders, originally included a card of Buck Ewing, the most celebrated player on the team. Ewing joined the club just prior to the beginning of the 1893 season but, until this discovery, no card of him in the Just So Tobacco card set had ever surfaced. All Just So Tobacco cards are exceedingly rare. We estimate that fewer than twenty-five examples in total are known in the entire collecting world. Because all cards from the Just So Tobacco card set are so rare, collectors have long theorized that it was possible that Ewing was in fact issued and an example just did not happen to survive or was yet be discovered. As this lot proves, they were right!

This card survived behind the walls of a house in Pennsylvania. Since approximately its year of issue in 1893, it had been nailed to a wood stud behind a plaster wall, where it had remained for decades until its accidental discovery. Our consignor discovered the card while doing some work remodeling the bathroom of his mother's home, which had been built in the late nineteenth century and had been in the family since the 1920s. He began by tearing apart a plaster wall, creating holes in the process. When he looked inside the first hole in the wall with his flashlight to assess the situation, he was startled to see what appeared to be a small photo staring back at him, stuck to a crossbeam with an old square head nail. It was the Just So Ewing.

The card was a little dirty from chimney smoke (its location was near where smoke from a coal-burning stove passed). It had obviously been used as a construction marker more than a century earlier when the house was built, thus explaining its presence behind the wall nailed to a beam. Our consignor was a very casual collector, so he knew enough to put the card aside. But none of his friends who collected cards knew anything about it. So he put it in a drawer and pretty much forgot about it for the next twelve years. In late 2009, he dug the card out and, with the help of the Internet (which he did not have in 1997 for research) he became aware for the first time that his card had great significance and value to collectors, After researching how to best sell such a card, it was our great pleasure to learn that he decided to consign the card to Robert Edward Auctions.

Issued in 1893, Just So Tobacco cards are one of the most unusual and obscure nineteenth-century baseball-card issues. Featuring portraits of the Cleveland Spiders, as they were known at the time, cards from this set are legendary for their rarity. They are very distinctive both in size (measuring 2.5 x 3.875 inches) as well as in their very close to black-and-white real-photo appearance. The 1890s were a very slow decade for baseball-card sets. Just So Tobacco is one of the very few issues of the era, adding to its significance to collectors. This Buck Ewing example is understandably encapsulated and graded POOR by SGC. The card is missing two pieces (the upper left corner and the center of the top from the nail), has some indentations (hammer marks) and heavy staining. It could probably benefit greatly from some simple cleaning of dirt with a paper towel; we left the card exactly as it was presented to us. Despite the obvious condition flaws, the card has a striking appearance and still displays bold contrast. It will never be mistaken for a Mint card, or even a Good condition card, but it has an undeniable visual appeal nonetheless and we do believe this extraordinary rarity will be appreciated for what it is, condition faults and all: one of the most exciting and interesting vintage card finds ever, and the only Just So Tobacco example known of Buck Ewing, one of nineteenth-century collecting's "dream cards." The only other Hall of Famer examples known in the Just So set are Jesse Burkett, John Clarkson, and Cy Young. This card represents a fascinating and unique opportunity to acquire an almost never offered Hall of Famer example from the Just So Tobacco card set, with significant flaws but still very attractive, and one of nineteenth-century card collecting's most legendary rarities. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $17,625

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