Pennsylvania Polar Bear Tobacco Card Collection

Featuring T206 Demmittt, O'Hara St. Louis and T205 Hobitzell No-Stats Variations
  • November 30, 2020

A Pennsylvania family reached out to Just Collect over the summer with a collection of more than 150 tobacco cards that had been collected and had remained in the family for more than 100 years! 

Collections in Trying Times

We're living in unique and challenging times. Lives and daily routines have changed for so many. Some, quite dramatically. The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has had a great impact on the sports card industry and on the hobby, as well.  Before the pandemic, Just Collect would receive between 10-15 email inquiries and another 5-10 or so telephone inquiries about collections and values on a daily basis. Since the onset of the pandemic, those numbers have nearly tripled. The inquiries have run the gamut, too. From single cards, vintage cards, collections, reprints, single modern cards, and junk-era material. We've had many people contact us just wondering what they found while rummaging through their attics and basements while being home bound. Some people have used the downtime to consolidate and organize their collections and prepare them for sale.

Pennsylvania Polar Bear Collection

Remote Evaluation

Just Collect has always featured a great program for reviewing collections and working with sellers locally and across the country. As long as a seller is comfortable, distance is not an issue. We've closed deal worth tens of thousands of dollars through the mail and via our FedEx Shipping Program. Sometimes, we're even able to prepare and reach agreement a deal via email and phone calls and still find the necessity to complete it in person.

A Pennsylvania family reached out to Just Collect over the summer with a collection of more than 150 tobacco cards that had been collected and had remained in the family for more than 100 years. The majority of the collection was 1909-1911 T206 White Border cards, but there were also about 30 1912 T205 Gold Border cards. The family was unwilling to send the collection in for review and inspection and with the limitations of distance, COVID restrictions, and concern for everyone's health, it was going to be very difficult for us to travel to them to view it in person.

How do you accurately evaluate a collection of more than 150 tobacco cards when you don't have them in front of you? You ask for and cross your fingers that you can get some high quality images. Usually, the images are good enough to get a preliminary idea of the contents and the condition, but still requires an in-hand review to accurately assess and value the entirety of the collection. In this case, the husband took incredible care and invested some significant time to provide the Just Collect specialists with high resolution images of the front and back of each and every card in the collection.  Below are two of the original images of the T206 Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder images that we received:

T206 Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder Front T206 Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder Reverse


Now, if the collection were mostly commons, it would've been an easy evaluation. But there were a few major Hall of Famers and a few tough variations. And those tough variations would prove to be quite valuable.


Something that we always find interesting in the manner in which collections were assembled and stored. Every collection tells a story. Sometimes the story is obvious and sometimes the story tried to conceal itself. But there is always a story.  Storage and cataloging are always great beginnings to uncovering the history of a collection. We've seen so many different systems and storage vehicles over the years. From elaborate hand written and detailed spreadsheets, to team centric albums or poster boards, to randomly throwing everything into a box or a bag. This collection was meticulously catalogued by the father in small, handmade "envelope" wraps that separated the subjects by issue and then alphabetically – writing the first letter(s) of the last name and listing each player's name and city on the "envelope."  Here are the original envelopes"

Pennsylvania Polar Bear Collection Envelopes



The collection, which was predominantly T206 cards, featured almost exclusively Polar Bear advertising backs. For the T206 enthusiasts, the Polar Bear back is considered relatively common, just slightly less frequent than the most available Piedmont and Sweet Caporal advertising backs. But Polar Bear advertising backs are unique in that there are a few scarcities found only with the Polar Bear back. Bill O'Hara and Ray Demmitt are featured on the Polar Bear back after their trades from New York clubs to St. Louis clubs. The Polar Bear back is the ONLY advertising back that features them with their St. Louis ball clubs; O'Hara with the Cardinals and Demmitt with the Browns. All of the other advertising backs with them feature O'Hara with the NY Giants and Demmitt with NY Highlanders. Scarcities like these are rare in collections, but they are ones that we certainly make note of when performing the evaluation. In this case, the sellers were not aware that the collection contained these two cards and also a very scarce T205 variation – Dick Hobitzell (No Stats on Reverse).

T206 Polar Bear Demmitt and O'Hara T205 Hobitzell No Stats on Back


As we reviewed and prepared the evaluation from the hundreds of images that the family provided, we made note of the scarcities and discussed the valuation and the collection in more depth with the family. As we shared our findings, the family was surprised and impressed by the fact that the specialists found these variations and that they made the family aware of them rather than treating the cards as commons – as the family would not have been aware. They had done plenty of homework and had a detailed spreadsheet with the grades and values of the Hall of Famers and the rest of the collection, but they had missed 3 of the most valuable cards in the collection.

Hall of Famers

Without the 3 variations, the collection was still phenomenal. There were many Hall of Famers, featuring two Ty Cobb cards, one being the Red Portrait pose and the other the Bat Off Shoulder image, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, and Christy Mathewson in both a T205 and a T206.

T206 Tobacco Collection Cobb, Johnson, Mathewson


The Meeting and Sale

After final reviews and some discussion, we agreed upon a purchase price pending in-hand review of the collection.  The family, still uncomfortable shipping the collection, opted to come to our Somerset, NJ office with the collection and agreed to follow COVID protocol.  The meeting was easy, all parties were wearing their masks, and the collection was reviewed, verified, and a final offer, as agreed upon, was presented to the sellers.  They accepted and the full payment was made.  We asked the family how they came to finding Just Collect and they shared that the collection had been in the family and that their father had recently passed and that the mother had entrusted her daughter and son-in-law to liquidate to collection so that the funds could be dispersed to the family.

The daughter and her husband visiting some local dealers and were met with low-ball offers and offers to consigning the collection. Each meeting seemed more discouraging and disappointing than the last. The daughter, at her wits end, noted that she found a quiet moment and asked her late father for his help.  She said  that shortly after her prayer to her father, she found Just Collect on the Internet, did some research, and began the contact that eventually led to the sale of the collection. A sale that she and the family didn't realize would be so fruitful, so easy, and so rewarding. A sale that made the mother, the daughter, and the family happy.

The Family's Testimonial:

After we completed this blog, we received a follow-up from the family sharing their remembrance of the collection and their pleasure in dealing with Just Collect.  Rather than parse it, we are sharing it is its entirety:

One rarely has the chance to go back in time and experience a slice of life well over a hundred years ago... but that is what my father's baseball card collection did for me. These precious cards issued from 1909-1911 were a gift to my dad from his uncle. My great uncle Kurl (no that is not a typo- his name really is Kurl!) gave them to my father in 1933, when Dad was only 9 years old. Since my father was a very fastidious guy, he cared for the cards in the gentlest manner (representative of his gentle nature) for 70 years.

In 2004 my father passed and left his baseball card collection in my mother's care. At 96 years young, mom decided to sell the collection. Her plan was to have her grandsons each keep a few cards as memoirs of their grandfather, but the rest of the cards would be sold dividing the monetary value between the boys. My husband photographed the cards, and I catalogued all 156 of these tiny portraits. Holding these cards, I felt a respect for these athletes and marveled at the works of art these cards are!

When we started the search to sell the collection, in support of my mother's wishes, I really was not sure how to go about doing this. My mother had someone locally who looked at the cards but gave us only a vague idea of a few card values and it was not clear how we would work with him. I did not have a strong feeling this was the right way to go. That is when I had a "conversation with Dad" one night and asked him what we should do! The next day my internet search turned up Just Collect. John P. was so nice to deal with over the phone and took his time to explain how Just Collect go about evaluating a collection and what my options were. We sent Just Collect photos of all the cards, along with my itemized list. Scott evaluated the cards and, with a very quick turnaround, sent us a full list of the associated card values, as well as their offer for the collection. We were happy with their offer and their willingness to work with us to exclude some cards as keepsakes. It has been a pleasure working with John P. and Scott A. They are knowledgeable professionals who are fair, considerate, and passionate about what they do. I had no idea how emotional it would be to part with the cards- like saying goodbye to my Dad once more. But knowing the cards would bring great joy to people made this hand-over easier. Having a company that we felt we could trust to work through this process has made a huge difference. Thanks guys!

Submitted by Sally C., card collection owner's daughter


Schedule an Appointment to Meet Just Collect at a Show Near You

Just Collect travels to several shows on a regular basis. In the New York area, we often attend the White Plains Show at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. If you're in the New England area, you can make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists when we're in the area for the Shriner's Show at the Aleppo Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. We also visit the Metro-DC area when we attend the CSA Show in Chantilly, VA. If you're in the South Jersey or Delaware area, you can also schedule appointments while we're in the Philadelphia area when we do The Philly Show in Valley Forge, PA.


We set up at The National Sports Collectors Convention every year and this year. Next year, 2020, The National will be at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ. It has also been in Cleveland, Chicago and Baltimore in recent years. Additionally, we travel to the Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo in Mississauga, Ontario for those of you in the Toronto area that want to meet with us in Canada.


We would love to meet with you and schedule a private appointment to assess and value your collection while we are in your area, so please check out our show and travel schedule to see when Just Collect will be in your area!


Our Buying Philosophy

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the past decade. Although we are known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage basketball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, also!

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and soul into building their collection. So when you're ready to sell, Just Collect understands the feelings that you're going through and we will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.


Won't They Be Worth More if I Grade Them Myself

We discuss all of the selling options with everyone that we meet with. In most cases, selling the collection on their own will put the most money on the bottom line, but it will also take an large commitment of time and energy and one that most are not ready or able to undertake. Another misconception is that grading the collection will return more money. When I hear people say, "You're just going to grade them and get ten times the money," I almost cringe. Grading a collection can be a money losing proposition, especially if you don't know what you're doing. And most times, we grade very few, if any cards, from average collections that we buy.

We value a collection based upon the condition and the value. If a card is worth $100 in a PSA 7 NM, we're going to value it at $100 whether it is ungraded or graded. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars grading your cards, but we're still valuing them the same and paying the same regardless of how much you've invested in grading them.


We Are Always Buying

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss your collection and get our industry leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace.

Don't hesitate to check out our Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.


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