Presented is one of the most remarkable nineteenth-century baseball-card discoveries in the history of card collecting: a newly discovered Just So Tobacco rookie card of Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett! This example was found in an old photo album while our consignor was cleaning out his grandfather's home. At first, it was not apparent to our consignor (who is a non-collector) that this trade card featured a baseball player, which frightfully nearly led to the card being disposed in the trash. His continued research thankfully led him to REA, and we are extremely excited to have the opportunity to offer this legendary rookie card. Issued in 1893, Just So Tobacco cards are one of the most unusual and most obscure of all nineteenth-century baseball-card issues. Featuring portraits of the Cleveland Spiders, as they were known at the time, cards from this set are legendary for their incredible rarity. They are very distinctive both in size (measuring 2.5 x 3.875 inches) as well as their very close to black-and-white (yet, according to catalogs, still technically sepia) appearance. The 1890s were very slow for baseball-card sets. Just So Tobacco is one of the very few issues of the era, adding to its great significance to collectors. Burkett is one of four Hall of Famers within the set (Cy Young, Buck Ewing, and John Clarkson are the others), and he is heralded as one of the greatest nineteenth-century stars. He began his career as a pitcher with the Scranton Minors of the Central League in 1888, when he won twenty-seven games. He was even better with Worcester in 1889, finishing with a record of 39-6. The following season he was signed by the Giants, but he flopped on the mound, compiling a record of 3-10 before the Giants decided to give him a shot in the outfield. It turned out to be a wise decision, as Burkett finished the season with a .309 average. Burkett eventually developed into one of the greatest hitters of his era, hitting over .400 on three different occasions and finishing his career with a .338 lifetime average.
Despite entering the Major Leagues in 1890, due to the lack of card issues during the decade, this 1893 issue is considered to be Burkett's rookie card, making it hugely significant to collectors on many different fronts. The offered card is one of only three known examples of a Just So Burkett. (One of the two known examples is completely restored and was offered as Lot #124 in REA's spring 2019 auction, realizing $15,600.) This example is completely original and unrestored! The offered card is extremely well centered, with a crisp image, and honest corner wear. Graded FAIR 1.5 by SGC (submitted by REA) due to a small spot of paper loss above Burkett's left shoulder, a few light stains, and pencil writing on the reverse.
Burkett would not appear in another trading card or pin issue until the 1898 Cameo Pepsin or 1902-1911 W600 Sporting Life Cabinets. Despite the condition flaws to this card, it is of great significance and extremely desirable to collectors of nineteenth-century cards, Hall of Famers, and rookie cards alike. This card would be a worthy addition to any advanced collection and represents one of only three examples known of Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett from this incredibly rare nineteenth-century issue. Reserve $25,000. Estimate (open).