Friday, June 9, 2017

Hidden Gem: Rare Ty Cobb E95 Promo Card Discovered

By Jon Hanley

Last week an exciting discovery was made deep in the dungeons of Dean’s Cards. As Dean’s son, home from college, I was given the task of researching this unique Ty Cobb card, a relic previously undiscovered. When Dean first acquired this artifact over ten years ago, he knew it was old and most likely rare, but remained unsure what he had on his hands. After several experts admitted they had never seen anything like this item before, Dean hesitated from releasing it to the market. As a result, this cardboard depiction of the 4,000 hit club’s founding member sat on a shelf and waited ten more years until its mysteries were finally unraveled.

Photo by Dean's Cards
According to our research, Philadelphia Caramel expert Erik Varon recently discovered a nexus between this lookalike E95 Ty Cobb card and a Philadelphia Caramel Company advertisement issued circa 1910. Varon concluded this card was cut from an ad similar to the one pictured below, which was probably distributed to convince potential vendors to carry the company’s soon to be released baseball cards. This would make this item one of the earliest known promo cards. These 1909 Philadelphia Caramel cards were later designated by collectors as E95’s, and feature twenty-five stars of the day including Cobb. While our find may appear almost identical to the E95 Cobb card, further inspection will reveal that the lettering was enlarged and moved from the bottom margin to above Cobb’s head, probably to make the image more suitable for a larger print.

Photo by Erik Varon
The most peculiar part of this card is the jumble of wordage featured on the backside, the characteristic which enables the item’s identification. While the front of the ad featured Cobb, the backside described the company’s caramel and other products with phrases like “jelly confections” and “soft cream centered chocolates”. These words match up almost perfectly with the Philadelphia Caramel Co. advertisement mentioned above.

Photo by Net54
As learned from an online forum, the ad included a second promo card beside Cobb featuring prizefighter Jim Jeffries, who came out of retirement to challenge the 1908 Heavyweight Champion, Jack Johnson. The Philadelphia Caramel Co. simultaneously released a set of boxing cards, later designated as E79’s, since baseball and boxing were the two most popular sports in the United States at the time. When the backsides of the two cards are placed side-by-side they fit together like pieces in a puzzle.

Unfortunately, the full advertisement will likely never be found, as these cut-outs are extremely rare on their own. To our knowledge, this Cobb card is only one of three in acknowledged existence, making it the rarest item ever stumbled upon at Dean’s Cards.

One of these sold through Heritage Auctions in 2009, with the item description reading, “Until the full piece is discovered, this lone remnant will remain as our inspiration to keep searching those dusty attics and flea markets looking for long forgotten treasures.

Our find is not only another remnant of this lost treasure but is in much better condition than the item sold eight years ago. Dean’s Cards will most likely auction this rare piece of history on eBay later in the month, but for the time being, we remain too caught up in the excitement of discovery to consider a starting price.

We hope our discovery will encourage others to join this Crusade to uncover further artifacts of America’s greatest pastime. After all, discoveries like this are one of the many pleasures of our favorite hobby and yet another reason why grown men still play with baseball cards. 

If you would like to read more about the Philadelphia Caramel Company, check out Erik Varon's new book, Jakob's Story and the American Dream, recently released on Amazon.