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The Boston Cracker Jack Collection

1914 and 1915 Collection with Honus Wagner, Johnson, Mathewson & Pratt

  • December 08, 2016
  • Leighton Sheldon

During the summer months of 1914 and 1915, a young, teenage boy from Massachusetts named George, who later went by the nickname "Mutt," would go to baseball games in Boston.  George would save whatever money he could muster to attend the games, buy Cracker Jacks and he would also pick up and search the empty boxes in quest of the premiums of the era.  No, not the decoder rings, the rub-on-tattoos or the dog whistles many of us would find in the Cracker Jack boxes of our youth, George was in search of Cracker Jack baseball cards inserted into the boxes with the sticky candied popcorn and peanut sweets.  The cards that Mutt collected have remained in the family for more than 100 years!

The inaugural 1914 issue of Cracker Jack cards, of which there were less than 20 examples in this collection, featured 144 different player cards with biographies and a Cracker Jack advertisement on the reverse.  They were issued only in boxes of the popular confectionery treat.

The follow-up 1915 issue, which is the predominance of this collection, extended the set to 176 cards.  Most of the players from the 1914 issue were included with only a few changes in the illustrations.  Learn more about the 1914 Cracker Jack Set by visiting our 1914 Cracker Jack page.  Additionally, the 1915 Set was available in complete form from the factory as collectors could send in 100 Cracker Jack coupons (or one coupon and a quarter) to receive a complete 1915 Cracker Jack Baseball Set.  For more details on this set, you can visit our 1915 Cracker Jack page. Also, an album for the set was available for 50 coupons (or one coupon and a dime).  The reverse of the cards with the player bio and advertising blurb was printed upside down in relation to the 1914 issue -- so that the back could be read when flipped in the album that was available from Cracker Jack.

How did the collection get to our office in Somerset, New Jersey?   We'll let Mutt's great-grandson, who sold us the collection, explain,

"My great grandfather, who spent his teenage years in the Boston area and developed a love for baseball. My father said grandpa Mutt ( George ) would go to games and spend whatever money he had on Cracker Jack's and collect the cards and would also pick up any and all empty boxes he could find to see if any cards were in them still . Unfortunately he used the cards to keep records of if they were traded, released, and or switched positions. He also made a board in the shape of a baseball diamond and made stand up holders for the cards so he could place each player in their position on the field. He also made a spinner so he could play a board game style baseball game. I have found out from asking my dad why the Walter Johnson had no writing on it and it was because grandpa Mutt thought Walter Johnson was the best baseball player ever!  When grandpa Mutt passed away he left them to my father, who put them in sleeves around 1967 to 1970 and placed them in a tobacco tin until around 2016 when my father gave them to me!"

Many of the cards have a cut corner (as exhibited on the Wagner below right), the result of a board game that Grandpa Mutt developed and played with the cards. Mutt would also note player trades (as can be seen on the Mathewson below left), position changes and eventual retirement on the cards – sometimes in pencil, sometimes in black fountain pen ink.  As you can see, the Johnson (below center) is one of the few that isn't marked as Mutt believed that Big Train was the greatest baseball player ever and should not be defaced in any way.

1915 Cracker Jack Christy Mathewson 1915 Cracker Jack Walter Johnson 1915 Cracker Jack Honus Wagner

The collection consisted of more than 130 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack cards.  Many future Hall of Famers were included in the collection.  Aside from the 1915 Mathewson, Johnson and Wagner pictured above, other prominent players were mostly from the 1915 issue and included:  Eddie Plank, Eddie Collins, Sam Crawford ('14), Charles Comiskey, Johnny Evers, Chief Bender, Roger Bresnahan, Ed Walsh, Rube Marquard ('14), Tris Speaker, John McGraw, Hughie Jennings and Clark Griffith.  

1914 Cracker Jack Del Pratt

One of the key cards in the collection was the scarce 1914 Del (Derrill) Pratt.  Pratt, one of only two players to receive an image change in the 1915 issue (the other being Mathewson), is considered to be the scarcest of the 1914 Cracker Jack cards as can be attested by the mere total of less than two dozen showing in graded reports.  With such a meager amount of the 1914 CJ Pratt present in PSA and SGC population reports, the scarcity of this card cannot be understated.  

Just Collect is proud to have been offered this collection and we're extremely happy to have been able to purchase it and offer these cards back into the collecting world.

If you have a collection that you are interested in having appraised or are looking to sell, please contact us for a free appraisal! We are looking to buy all types of collections, whether you have complete sets, partial sets, a few HOF rookie cards, or some high-grade singles or rookies, just give us a call! 732-828-2261.

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