REA’s Remarkable 1930s Find

Rob Lifson is like the boy who cried wolf, except that every time he makes that particular pronouncement, there really is something lurking about that Little Red Riding Hood needs to be concerned about. So when Lifson says, “This is one of the most miraculous finds in the history of the hobby,” you might want to sit up in your chair and take notice.
 
Just barely in time for the Spring Robert Edward Auction, which already had captured hobby attention with its usual blazing array of high-grade cards and sets, now adds a find of 50 lots of unopened material – sports and nonsports – that may well be the most significant grouping ever recorded of that description from that decade.

“We have never before seen a single unopened box of gum cards from the 1930s,” Lifson said about the find. “In fact, we don’t believe that anyone else has ever seen anything like the boxes and packs offered here either. At least not since the 1930s.

“We really like nonsports. This is a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” he said.

He added his view that the find is so incredible and so unlikely that, if they didn’t have the material there at the offices in Hoboken and weren’t able to provide photographs, they wouldn’t expect anyone to believe them. “It would be too ridiculous to be true. But it is.”

While the bulk of the find is in the nonsport arena, vintage baseball collectors will certainly be fascinated by what seems to be an uncataloged Fleer set from 1932. “It’s a new Fleer set!” said Lifson of the unusual 1932 Fleer Taka-Flyers, which are actually discs, what Lifson describes as cards meant to be outdoor toys.

Perhaps that explains how a product like that could have eluded a conscientious group of hobbyists for nearly 80 years.

The find also sheds light on the obscure 1933 Tattoo Orbit “cards,” those curious little ditties that involve, gasp, moistening the cards to develop the player’s image. “I always thought the cards were issued in packs of gum,” Lifson said, noting that the box they found shows the cards in the corner of the box in a stack.

“With the Tatoo Orbit cards, you can see how they were issued,” Lifson exclaimed. “The retailer passed them out.”

He was just as incredulous about a box of 1929 Star Player Candy cards in sealed packs, as they were traditionally listed in catalogs. “How could we have a new Howard Johnson card that I’ve never seen before?” Lifson said. Those cards had been listed as “Star Player Candy,” the same designation as the more common 1928 issue.

Clearly issued by Dockman’s, as noted on the side of the box, the 1929 issue had thought to include only Ruth and Gehrig, but Johnson’s inclusion likely will cause changes for catalog editors. The box from the find included one Gehrig, which will offered as a separate lot in the REA sale and the single Walter Johnson card, which will also be sold as a separate lot. The find included four Ruths; two will be included in the box lot, and two will be in separate lots.

While the baseball cards draw considerable attention, the vast majority of the rare packs and boxes are nonsport issues (just a few are baseball issues) produced by various 1930s gum companies such as National Chicle, Goudey, Tattoo Orbit, and Gum Inc., as well as many other lesser-known manufacturers.

“There’s a box of Skybirds here. I’ve never seen a pack of League of Nations cards, and there’s a box in this find.”

Lifson added that the material was only recently discovered and that REA staffers were scrambling to get it all into the May auction. He noted the boxes and packs were saved by a candy and gum distributor as ordering samples. The distributor kept these samples on a large shelving unit just for reference, to identify product for ordering purposes. As new products came in, sometimes boxes of old products would be shoved to the back of the sample product shelf, eventually hidden from view by more current product samples. The boxes and packs presented here were pushed so far back on the shelf that they were completely hidden from view, providing all the elements of a perfect time capsule and perfectly preserved all these years.

Copies of the Robert Edward Auctions 672-page full-color catalog (shipping April 9) are available for free. To review the catalog online, to learn more about Robert Edward Auctions, to receive a complimentary copy of the catalog or to inquire about consignments, visit www.robertedwardauctions.com or call (908) 226-9900.

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