It’s the dream that keeps so many searching dusty attics, garages, storage units, basements and barns. It calls collectors to yard sales, flea markets, and estate sales each weekend. The find. Some rare and valuable treasure, tucked away for decades and forgotten. Until it’s uncovered.
It feels like at this point, there should be no more “finds” in the hobby. After all, people have known baseball cards, especially old baseball cards, are valuable for over 40 years. But they still happen, and every time we wonder if it’s the last time. Until the next time.
Their stories are woven into the history of this great hobby of ours. They are told and retold, and are part of what makes collecting pieces of cardboard with baseball players’ pictures on them such an enjoyable and resilient hobby.
The recent discovery of a treasure trove of 1941 Play Ball uncut sheets is the next chapter in this rich history.
So, what are the details of the find this time? Let’s explore!
While the exact number is unknown, the reports are that the find includes hundreds of uncut sheets of 1941 Play Ball cards.
The uncut sheets are also unique in that they contain 8 cards per sheet. Other 1941 Play Ball uncut sheets (they are rare) have been uncovered and some have even been authenticated and graded. All those copies are 4-card sheets, making the 8-card sheets unique.
It is likely that these were given to stores either as an incentive for shopkeepers or as a giveaway to customers to get them excited about the new product.
The find was discovered in a basement storage room of what is thought to be an old general store outside of Pittsburgh. The building was being cleaned out via an estate sale. The room was described as looking like it had been undisturbed for the better part of seven decades.
The person who discovered the find has asked to remain anonymous, but we know they are a 75-year-old ex-teacher.
In 1941, Gum, Inc. released its third and final baseball card set, 1941 Play Ball. The 2 1/2″ by 3 1/8″ cards were released in two series, of 48 and 24 cards, respectively. The 1941 Play Ball set is the only Play Ball set to be released in color.
The 1939 and 1940 sets were in black and white. The 1941 set has many cards that have the same image as the 1940 Play Ball set, but colorized.
It is widely accepted that the second series was not released until 1942. The first series was also re-issued in 1942 but without the copyright date.
The 1941 Play Ball set includes the rookie card of Pee Wee Reese. It also contains early cards of many Hall of Famers, including Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, and Ted Williams, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, Carl Hubbell, Chuck Klein, Mel Ott, and more.
What the set doesn’t include are any Chicago Cubs, as that team was owned by the rival Wrigley Gum company. Packs of 1941 Play Ball contained two cards and a pack of gum, and sold for 1 cent.
The 1941 Play Ball set was the last card set issued for seven years due to paper shortages during World War II. While only three Play Ball sets were released, that was not the end of Gum, Inc. and baseball cards. After World War II, Gum, Inc. rebranded itself as Bowman Gum.
Uncut sheets, in simple terms, are sheets of cardboard with cards printed on them, but not cut apart. These can be as small as 2-3 cards, or as big as a poster or larger.
Uncut sheets typically fall into one of two categories, either card production or marketing.
Cards are not produced individually but are printed on large sheets of cardboard and then cut into individual cards. This process is why you occasionally see miss-cut or off-center cards, especially in vintage sets.
Uncut sheets used in the card production process often have dozens, if not over 100 cards and can be quite large.
Production sheets were never really intended for distribution, but some made their way out of the factory, either out the back door as gifts. Framed, they can be quite attractive collectibles in their own right. In some cases, collectors have cut sheets apart into individual cards to sell them.
Marketing uncut sheets typically are smaller, anywhere from two cards to around a dozen. The 1941 Play Ball uncut sheets, most of which feature eight cards, fall into this category. There were used as giveaways or incentives for collectors, or for stores to consider selling a card product.
The lots will be sold at auction via Robert Edwards Auctions (REA), starting with their current auction. The uncut sheets will be sold over a series of auctions. This is wise as it will not flood the market, crashing demand and prices.
You can read more on Robert Edwards Auctions in our article The Ultimate REA Auctions Review: The Auction Action Series.
The first six lots of 1941 Play Ball Uncut Sheets are in the current Robert Edwards Auctions (REA) auction. This auction is set to end on 12/4/2022 at 9:00 PM EST. Here is a link to the 1941 Play Ball Uncut Sheet lots.
The auctions are broken down into three lots of 5 strips each, three lots of 50 strips each. All six lots had a minimum bid of $1,000 and all have surpassed that minimum bid.
OK, so you’re excited about this find and considering buying? There are a few things to consider.
First, the auctions offer two distinct flavors….quality vs. quantity. If you’re looking to invest, the smaller lots with the top Hall of Famers are the way to go, especially if they are in better overall condition. Quality in terms of condition and player selection is king when it comes to value, both current-day and future potential.
If you’re just looking to buy for the fun of owning these unique collectibles, however, the larger lots offer some Hall of Famers and lots of cards. I could see framing these behind anti-UV glass and displaying them. They would make quite the decoration for a sports room!
The other consideration is buy now vs. buy later. That one is a bit trickier. Are the lots presented currently the best of the best? Or are some similar or even better lots to come?
Once the story of the initial find drifts from the front of people’s minds, and a number of lots sell, will demand (and prices) be lower in the future? Again, it’s impossible for us to know, but it’s something to keep in mind while considering your purchase.
The 1941 Play Ball Uncut Sheet Find is one of the most exciting in the hobby in recent memory. It brings a never-before-seen configuration of uncut sheets from a popular long-ago set that is loaded with Hall of Famers. It will be fascinating to see where the initial auctions close, and what additional treasures are to be rolled out in future auctions.
And if you’re a collector who loves vintage finds, if this doesn’t motivate to keep your own personal search for hidden treasure going, it’s likely not a lot will.