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Lot # 87 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Unique 1889 E. R. Williams Base Ball Game Playing Cards Complete Set - Newly Discovered!

Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $70,500

Presented is a newly-discovered and unique complete set of 1889 E. R. Williams Base Ball Game cards. This is a tremendous find and the first example of this unique set that we ever seen in all our forty years! At a quick glance the set looks exactly like the "color" version of the E. R. Williams Base Ball Game which collectors are familiar with, but a closer look reveals that with the exception of lettering and color to the baseballs in corners, the cards are actually printed without color and the portraits are presented with an extremely different, far more detailed steel engraving process as opposed to color portraits. It actually gets even more interesting. When you compare the checklist of the "color" set to the cards included in this set there are many differences. Three of the players (Brown, Long, and Billy Sunday) featured in this set were never actually issued in the "color" set. While another five cards (including Ward) featured in this set have a different combination of players than the previously known cards included in the "color" set. Being as this is the only "steel engraving portrait" E. R. Williams set known to exist (and not a single additional card from this newly discovered E. R. Williams set has ever surfaced), all of these cards are the only examples known. Clearly, this set is a completely separate and distinct E. R. Williams Base Ball Game series that was issued either before or after the "color" E. R. Williams Base Ball Game. Also of great note: The portraits of all of the players that appear in both sets are very different. The detail on the steel engraving set is far greater, the expressions are very different, and even the visible portions of the uniforms are different in some cases. Our theory: one of the E. R. Williams sets dates from 1889, and the other actually dates from 1890. This theory is strongly supported by the fact that the cards have "Copyright 1889" as part of their design and the instruction booklet that comes with the set is also dated 1889, yet the E. R. Williams game is very prominently advertised in the center of the 1890 New York Players League game programs. The 1890 New York Players League programs advertise that the E. R. Williams set is available for sale "on the grounds" and is priced at $1 (a significant sum in 1890). The composition of the players (and the years in which they played) in both E. R. Williams sets do not allow us to define one set as being exclusively from one year, but our best guess is that the newly discovered steel engraving set dates from 1889, and the color was added later (along with substituting players, changing player combinations, and many other very small design element adjustments) to make the set more exciting looking for youngsters. The 1889 copyright date was part of the original steel-engraving design of the cards and was not changed (and in fact could not be easily changed) when the set was issued with changes including color in 1890. The same instruction booklet (also copyright 1889), game pieces, and box were also issued with both sets. Even though the mystery of the dating of this set may never be solved with certainty, we believe this is the answer. This is an incredible newly discovered series of this classic nineteenth-century issue. The new players that appear in only the newly-discovered steel-engraving set are obviously monumental. But only by studying the images, comparing the substantial differences in the artwork of cards that by checklist appear to be the same in both sets, can the extraordinary differences and significance of this set be fully appreciated.

Like the color set, the steel-engraving E. R. Williams game-card set is comprised of nineteen cards featuring portraits of thirty-eight different players (two per card), and thirty-three additional game cards (which have baseball design but do not feature players). The E. R. Williams set has always been one of the rarest and most highly prized of all baseball playing-cards sets and all pre-1900 baseball issues. All the greatest stars of the era are represented, including Hall of Famers Buck Ewing, Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, Roger Connor, Charles Comiskey, John Clarkson, Tim Keefe, Mike Kelly, John Ward, and Mickey Welch. Dummy Hoy and (in this set only) Billy Sunday are among the non-Hall of Famers included in the set. Each of the nineteen player cards from this unique complete set have been professionally graded by SGC. The SGC grades are as follows: Two EX/NM 80: Brouthers/Latham (HOF) and Clarkson/Keefe (HOF). One EX 60: Carroll/Fogarty (newly discovered player combo). Eleven VG/EX 50: Anson/Ewing (HOF), Buffington/Caruthers, Connor/Comiskey (HOF), Welch/Long (HOF, Long is a newly discovered player), Brown/Carpenter (Brown is a newly discovered player), Glasscock/Ward (HOF, newly discovered player combo), Irwin/Corkhill (newly discovered player combo), Weyhing/Kilroy (newly discovered player combo), Hoy/Reilly, King/Tener, and Myers/Stricker. Five VG 40: Orr/Sunday (Sunday is a newly discovered player), McKean/Tucker (newly discovered player combo), Denny/Tiernan, Foutz/Kelly (HOF), and Pfeffer/Wolf. The balance of the cards is in Vg-Ex condition. This is certainly the only example known of this extremely rare and significant issue. Also included with this set are the original 10-page instruction booklet, all game pieces, and the original box. This is a magnificent newly discovered set! Total: 52 cards. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $70,500


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