Thousands of dollars, garters & fisticuffs: Old baseball cards we never see can offer surprises

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

If you’re one of the Everyday Joe kind of collectors without a bank account in the six-figures or someone who makes a hobby out of window-shopping in auction catalogs, you’re probably a lot like me when it comes to older baseball cards.

They’re out of sight, so they’re out of mind — if you even know they exist at all.

There are countless examples of pre-war cardboard that I’ll readily admit that I have only seen flipping through pages of the latest Beckett Almanac, if that. They’re cards most of us may never see or you might see at a National Sports Collectors Convention if you attend … maybe.

Simply put, for me the card above of Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson is among them. It’s from the 1912 Boston Garter Color set, a 16-card release that was a promotional item to encourage the sales of garters for men. (Some of you might not even know what that is — needless to say I’ve never seen or used them, myself, and I’m not that young.)

The first surprise here? Perhaps that garters and baseball cards somehow intermingled. The second one? The fact that this set must be pretty rare — the 16-card release conservatively goes for about a half-million dollars on the high-end as it books for $450,000. Surprise No. 3? This actual card previously sold for $31,625 in the annual Robert Edward Auctions sale after an estimated sale price of $10,000 to $15,000. Not bad considering it originally cost a dime for it and seven others — or 20 cents for all 16 cards.

The real surprise on this card, though? Well, while Mathewson was known as “The Christian Gentleman,” there seems to be some funny business going on. Take a look at the action scene in the background behind him.

Now that’s a surprise.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


  1. kris
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    wouldn’t that go nice with your t206 of him

  2. Chris Levy
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    The $31,625 sale in REA was back in 2004. In 2011 one sold for $61,174 in Paragon ( and was in much worse condition. I wonder if the REA version wouldn’t flirt with $100,000 if it came to market again.

  3. Posted July 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that scene depicts a brawl, just an image of a batter and pitcher placed unfortunately close together. Just another happy accident that makes cards fun.

  4. Jon Waldman
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    There was a great book put out a few years ago called Cardboard Gems that showcased cards from this and other pre modern-era cards.

    As far as collecting these gems, yes, they can go expensive if you’re looking at the stars of the era and HOF’ers. Now having said that, for less than $50 total I’ve been able to pick up two T-206s, a 33 Goudey and an original Allen and Ginter. Condition? ranges from decent to atrocious, but for less than half the cost of a box of most products today I have cards that are either over 100 years old or will hit that mark easily before my age of retirement.

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