LOGANVILLE, Ga. — Staffers at a Georgia sports and memorabilia shop were surprised earlier this month when a woman walked into the store with baseball cards more than a century old piled into a cigar box, including 20 of Babe Ruth.
Joe Davis, the owner of J&J Sports Cards/Got Baseball Cards in Loganville, posted photographs of what are called strip cards from the early 1920s on the shop’s Facebook page. As the name implies, the cards were produced in a long strip, where merchants could cut them and hand them to customers.
According to Sports Collectors Daily, there were approximately 600 sports and non-sports strip cards in the collection.
“Everything under the sun,” Davis told Cox Media Group in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Davis, who has been in business in the metro Atlanta area since 1991, told Cox Media Group that the woman was looking for help with the collection, which had been passed on to her by her mother. The older woman had been a caretaker for a man who lived in Coney Island in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. He collected the cards for years, and they were gifted to the caretaker after he passed away. She stored the cards for decades.
The daughter of the caretaker was moving and “felt like she was supposed to check her mom’s old closet,” the shop wrote on Facebook.
“She had called us and was looking for some help with her collection,” Davis told Cox Media Group by telephone on Saturday. “We’ll buy collections from time to time but we usually just assist people, and that’s what we did with her.”
The woman told Davis’ staff that she needed “help and education,” and she took the cards to the shop on Feb. 1.
When she visited J&J Sports Cards/Got Baseball Cards, which is located about 35 miles east of downtown Atlanta, she stayed for about “six or seven hours,” Davis said.
Davis, who was not in the shop when the woman visited, did view the contents. He said the old nickel box of Phillies cigars contained several baseball Hall of Famers. The 20 Ruth cards were spread across five different sets, Davis said.
There were also 15 cards of Ty Cobb, with three different issues of the Georgia Peach. Hall of Famers Walter Johnson (10 cards) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (12 cards) were also in the mix, Davis said.
According to Sports Collectors Daily, other Hall of Famers in the box included Rogers Hornsby (nine cards), Tris Speaker (24), Casey Stengel (eight) and Christy Mathewson (two). There were also non-baseball subjects like boxing legend Jack Dempsey, golfer Walter Hagen and a W551 card of tennis star Bill Tilden.
Davis told Cox Media Group that there were also 41 strip cards depicting presidents, including W562 issues from 1924. That group included cards of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
Davis sent a large amount of the cards to SGC, a grading service based in Boca Raton, Florida.
He said the cards were in poor condition and may not get a grade higher than 2 on SGC’s scale, with 10 being the highest.
Since the strip cards were made of paper stock -- and since youngsters 100 years ago were not concerned about the condition, tearing the strips to keep their favorite players -- Davis is not expecting high grades when the cards are returned next month from SGC.
“A lot of the cards are only going to grade authentic,” Davis told Cox Media Group. “We’ll be lucky if we get any 2′s or 3′s.”
Davis, who said his expertise was with pre-World War I tobacco issues like the T-206 set, said the woman’s collection was quite a find.
“It’s something you just don’t see,” Davis told Cox Media Group. “I’ve only seen one other collection this large, some T-206s about 15 years ago.”
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