Rare 1921 Herpolsheimer Baseball Cards Surface for Auction

In the world of sports memorabilia collecting, an exciting and unexpected discovery has recently come to light, shining a spotlight on the captivating history of early baseball cards. A remarkable find has emerged from an unlikely hiding place—a Band-Aid box—revealing a cache of 39 cards from the highly elusive 1921 Herpolsheimer set, including nine cards that were previously unknown to collectors. After being hidden away for almost a century, these rare gems have now been unveiled in Love of the Game Auctions’ ongoing event.

The 1921 Herpolsheimer cards have long been regarded as some of the rarest and most sought-after in the world of baseball card collecting. Up until now, only 105 cards from this set had been authenticated and graded across both PSA and SGC population reports. This recent find not only expands the known universe of these cards but also brings new faces into the mix.

Al Crisafulli, the auction director at Love of the Game, couldn’t contain his excitement about this discovery. “I’ve been captivated by these cards for years,” he shared, reflecting the sentiment of serious collectors who understand the rarity and historical value of the Herpolsheimer issue.

The story behind the find is as intriguing as the cards themselves. In 2019, these cards were discovered at an estate sale near Grand Rapids, Michigan, hidden away in a Band-Aid box—an ordinary container that held a remarkable fortune in paper treasures. After staying in contact with the card owner for four years, Crisafulli finally secured these precious finds for auction. Each card has since been graded by PSA and will be auctioned off individually.

Included among the collection is a card featuring the iconic Babe Ruth, only the second of its kind known to exist. Given the scarcity and legendary status of the Great Bambino, this particular card is expected to fetch a high price at auction. The newfound collection also features other baseball legends such as Tris Speaker, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rabbit Maranville, John McGraw, Red Faber, and Sam Rice, adding even more significance to the collection.

What makes these cards even more interesting is not just their fronts but also their backs, which serve as advertisements for the Grand Rapids retail store’s Boy’s Fashion Shop. The discovery of additional cards, not listed in the original checklist, including Dave Bancroft, Johnny Evers, Harry Hooper, Stuffy McInnis, Art Nehf, Wally Schang, George Sisler, Casey Stengel, and Fred Toney, suggests that the Herpolsheimer set is larger than previously believed, possibly comprising 78 or 79 cards instead of the originally assumed 69 or 70.

Crisafulli first became aware of these cards in 2019 when the owner discreetly inquired about them on the Net54 sports card forum. The post caught the attention of both forum members and Crisafulli, who reached out and kept in touch until securing the consignment for auction.

The history of the Herpolsheimer Company, which produced these cards, is as colorful and diverse as the cards themselves. Founded in 1870 as a dry goods store by William Godlove Herpolsheimer and Charles G.A. Voigt, it grew to become a significant presence not only in Grand Rapids but also in the wider retail industry. Henry Herpolsheimer took over the reins, followed by his son Arthur, who guided the company through a merger and expansion into furniture sales. Sadly, Arthur’s life was cut short, adding a touch of sadness to the family’s history.

The store’s legacy even intersected with national history when Betty Bloomer, who would later become the First Lady as the wife of President Gerald R. Ford, worked there as a fashion coordinator in 1942.

The discovery of this new batch of Herpolsheimer cards alters the narrative surrounding their distribution and significance, suggesting a more widespread release than previously believed. It paints a picture of a department store that cleverly utilized the allure of baseball’s most celebrated figures to attract customers.

The metal relic of a 1930s Band-Aid box where these cards were found serves as a poignant reminder of the journey these cards have taken—from simple promotional tools in a local store to coveted historical artifacts in the world of collectibles.

As the auction date approaches, these cards are expected to captivate the collecting community, offering a rare glimpse into the early days of baseball card collecting. Each card, with its faint pencil markings and signs of wear from years of handling, tells a unique story—a story that collectors will soon have the opportunity to continue as they become the new custodians of these priceless pieces of baseball history.


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