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1894 N302 Mayo's Cut Plug Football Collection

  • November 19, 2014
  • Leighton Sheldon

1894 N302 William Hickok YaleOver the years, we've seen plenty of collections come through our doors. Some are large and include tens of thousands of cards and some are just a few cards. Sometimes, they’re predominantly modern, sometimes vintage. Occasionally, we are presented with a collection that we have a great deal of interest in purchasing, but are unable to reach an agreement on price. This happened recently with a very nice collection of ten 1894 N302 Mayo’s Cut Plug Football cards. These 10 cards represented almost 30% of the set. The New York City owner had received these 19th Century examples from a friend that had collected them and the small group presented rather nicely, ranging from Authentic to VG/EX. We reviewed the collection with the owner, provided recent and past sales histories, and had on-hand PSA graded examples for comparison to substantiate our evaluation and subsequent purchase offer. Unfortunately, the seller was not ready to accept the evaluation and the price that Just Collect offered. We thanked the owner for bringing the cards to us and allowing us to preview them and make an offer to purchase, and stated that our offer stands should he not find another to his liking.

Several weeks later, the card’s owner contacted Just Collect and stated that he had decided to sell, asked if our offer was still good and scheduled an appointment to return to our office with the partial N302 Set. We re-examined the collection and agreed upon the initial offer and paid the seller in cash.

Often, the story revolves around the names of sports immortals that are commonly recognized, incredible quality or an amazing history of the collection. In this case, the story is more about the scarcity of the issue. The Mayo Tobacco Works of Richmond Virginia, manufacturer’s of Mayo’s Cut Plug Tobacco, issued a 35 subject football card set in 1894 that exclusively featured football players from Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Considered the rarest football set ever distributed as well as the only 19th century set solely dedicated to football, the Mayo’s Cut Plug Set (known also by its ACC designation as the N302 Set), presents many challenges to the advanced collector. The brittle stock, dark borders and solid black reverses easily exhibit even the slightest of wear or damage. Additionally, as was the norm of the era, most cards were trimmed and/or glued into albums. Unlike baseball, football did not enjoy a similar level of mass popularity at the turn of the century and was more regional and boasted collegiate-based fandom. Professional football, as we know it today, was more than half a century in the future as college football was the pigskin game of choice. Look for these 10 cards to be offered via our weekly eBay auctions in the very near future.

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