Comments: In March 2008, the additions
to my HOF collection slowed down. It was hard to find some of
the cards I was missing, or very expensive to upgrade others.
In order to keep the collecting juices flowing I decided to diversify
the collection a little by buying some cards of "Fan
Favorites"- the players who might not make the Hall but were
pretty good or famous in their own right. In some cases this included
researching old-timers back to the 19th century. I included their
names in my eBay searches. When tribute cards or items showed
up with good portraits I'd pick them up.
Anyway, in December 2012 it was announced that Deacon White would
be inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee.
I had a vague recollection of buying a postcard of some 19th century
ballplayer - maybe it was him. I searched through monster boxes,
drawers and the item was nowhere to be found. I have an MS Access
database of all my purchases but for some reason didn't think
to look there. Last month I searched my office again and found
the postcard I was looking for. It was hidden between a bunch
of unused cardsavers, bound by a rubber band, smack dab in the
middle of the stack. I looked at the card. I remembered the back
had a name written in ink, turned it over - White, Jim. I put
it back in the drawer and there it sat for a few weeks. For some
reason, nothing flickered upstairs. Fast forward a few weeks.
I knew Deacon White had an 1888 Scrapps Tobacco issue and had
searched for an example since his induction. Recently, one showed
up on the Net54 B/S/T page but the guy wanted to trade it for
a Rusie card. I sent some emails and he informed me the card was
only available for trade. After a few weeks, no trades came through,
and the seller decided to offer up the card to the highest bidder
between three collectors who had emailed him. Each of us needed
to submit our offer via email (midnight last night) and we would
be informed via email this morning if we won. My offer came in
solid 2nd - no luck. But, something triggered me to look back
at the postcard I had in my drawer. Sure enough when I looked
at the postcard this time it was the same player. Jim White is
Deacon White. So, when I got to work and opened my laptop I looked
at my database again and there it was! I purchased the postcard
on February 28, 2010 via eBay from Stephen Mitchell (thebaseballhobbyist).
I even saved the original description:
Offered for your consideration is...Divided back postcard
~ Kodak paper. Deacon White (James Laurie White) ~ 19th Century
Great (1871-1890) vintage photo postcard by Brace/Rowe/Burke.
In 20 seasons he ranked as one of the 19th century's early stars;
a someday Hall of Famer. Baseball hobbyists have long admired
the work of photographer George Brace and George Burke before
him. Brace succeeded Burke in the late 1940's after having worked
with him for several years before that. In later years, Berwyn,
Illinois, photo seller Jim Rowe sold Brace/Burke photos to both
collectors and ballplayers themselves. We suspect this card to
have been created by either Brace or Rowe from a Brace or Burke
negative. Offered here is a fine old photo postcard measuring
approximately 3-1/2" by 5-1/2". The reverse features a divided
back with "Photo Post Card" above the message portion. The address
portion has a stamp box with Kodak Paper framing "place stamp
here". We believe this card was produced in the 1960's or '70s.
The subject(s) is identified in ink or pencil on the back - standard
practice for both Rowe and Brace. According to the Beckett Alphabetical
Baseball Card Checklist, an exhaustive reference guide, this man
appeared on fewer than a half dozen baseball cards. Condition
appears to be Excellent plus.
I couldn't have asked for a better consolation prize! Here's
more about Mr. White if you are interested.
UPDATE: In late November, 2013 I included the Brace/Rowe postcard in a submission
using a 15-free gradings voucher I received from PSA for joining
their Collectors Club. I posted a sticky on this one telling PSA
its a Brace/Rowe postcard. Still, I didn't think they would slab
it because it would take a little bit of research to confirm the
player, etc, and I was right.....frustrating!
UPDATE: In October, 2014 one of my hobby friends Al Crisafulli revealed some interesting news about the set formerly known as 1888 Scrapps Tobacco:
It was in a 2005 auction catalog that Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions came clean about the origin of the “Scrapps Tobacco” name. “The responsibility for this erroneous attribution, we must admit, falls squarely on the shoulders of Robert Edward Auctions’ President Robert Lifson.” Lifson then proceeds to explain that in 1974, while working on the Sports Collectors Bible, he was fact-checking with hobby pioneer Dr. Lawrence Kurzok. When Kurzok verified that the cards were “Scrapps,” Lifson interpreted this as “Scrapps Tobacco.” The issue was published in the Sports Collectors Bible this way, and has been known by that moniker ever since.
The reality is that no “Scrapps Tobacco” brand has ever existed, and that the word “scrapps” was merely a catch-all term used to describe die-cut paper cards meant to be glued into 19th Century scrapbooks, a popular hobby of the time.
Perhaps these cards can provide a clue. Two separate lots, each containing an attached pair of “Scrapps Tobacco” cards. These cards represent two of the only three such attached pairs we have ever encountered, two of the only three such pairs our research has been able to uncover. Quite an incredible find, representing two pair, one of Hall of Fame Wolverines Ned Hanlon and Sam Thompson, and the other of the Browns’ Bill Gleason and Yank Robinson. Each card is spectacular in appearance (though the Hanlon/Thompson card is graded SGC FAIR 20 due to two tiny pinholes at Sam Thompson’s shoulder. The cards are intact, the die cuts and tabs still remaining.
It is a die cut tabs on the Robinson/Gleason pair that, to us, was most interesting. Printed on one of the tabs is “H. D. S. & Co,” perhaps in reference to the firm that produced or distributed the cards. Our research led us to “H. D. Smith & Co.,” owned by one Harry D. Smith of Cincinnati. The company was listed in an Ohio business director as “Manufacturers of Confectionery, Chewing Gum and Paper Boxes; Dealers in Nuts and Fire Works.” Indeed, we found several ads for July 4 fireworks, as well as candy. We also found a number of gum brands manufactured by the company. But it was a small blurb in the Commercial Supplement to Leslie’s, dated October 27, 1888, that we took notice of the following paragraph:
“Prominent among our Cincinnati industries is to be found the well and favorably known house of HD Smith & Co., manufacturers of confectionery and chewing-gum, making a specialty of the latter. Their goods are known and sold from Maine to California. Among their large variety, the brands “Red Riding Hood,” “Crystal Palace,” “Beauty,” “Cough,” “Excelsior,” and “Ylang Ylang” are the most prominent, and which the trade at large are familiar with. A novel production of theirs this season is the St. Louis and Detroit Champion Baseball Gum – a piece of gum with a perfect lithograph picture of one of the champion nine of the National League or American Association on each piece. The pictures were made to order in Germany, and are wonders in their way. Their “Beauty” gum (with mirror attached) commands a large sale the country over. H. D. Smith & Co. believe in and make only pure goods, and at all times are alive to the wants of the trade in their line."
This paragraph, coupled with the “H. D. S. & Co” printed on the tab of the Gleason/Robinson pair, leads us to believe that the mystery surrounding the origin of “Scrapps Tobacco” cards has been solved. These are actually “H. D. Smith & Co. GUM cards,” likely issued in early 1888, and quite possibly the earliest gum cards ever issued, if they predate the G&B Gum issue of that same year. At the very least, they appear to be the hobby’s first full-color gum cards, and quite likely were distributed the same way as the “Scrapps” presidents card.
We are pleased to present you with two lots that represent two of the three attached pairs of 1888 H. D. Smith & Co Baseball Gum die-cuts, the very cards that helped solve the longstanding mystery of Scrapps Tobacco, and quite possibly the first commercially-issued baseball gum cards.
Just a couple days later, one of the 1888 H.D. Smith & Co. gum cards showed up on eBay, a Deacon White nonetheless, and it was calling my name. I watched the auction over the course of the next week. Just in case, a snipe was recorded. It wouldn’t be needed because final auction day came and I monitored it hourly. I took Friday October 24th off to take the kids to the Wings Over The Rockies Air and Space Museum. My cousin was visiting us from Poland so he joined in on the fun. Throughout the visit I kept refreshing the auction on my iPhone. As we were exiting I timed a final bid with seconds left. The price climbed but I won – finally, almost two years after his induction – I had my Deacon White!