Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Gibson more rare than a Gibson more rare than Wagner

In the last post, I briefly spoke about the 1913 Voskamp's Coffee Pirates set. There are a lot of cool things about that set, and I'm sure the lack of information and overall rarity of the set only adds to the mystique. It's one of many very popular prewar card sets that are exclusively Pirates players.

Today, I'm going to talk about another set that isn't short on rarity -- both in terms of finding the cards, but also in terms of finding information about them.

Enter the 1909 Colgan's Square Proofs set.

The best description of these sets that I've seen comes from the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards:
"Though widely identified as being connected to the Colgan's Chips disc issues of 1909-12, there is nothing to tie these square cards to the gum company except for the shared use of player photos. The squares measure about 1-3/8" x 1-3/4" and are blank-backed. Black-and-white player portrait player portrait photos have a last name and team identification beneath. Many, but not all, of the surviving specimens have paper and/or glue residue on back, leading to speculation they may have been part of an advertising piece. The extent of the checklist is unknown, with verified examples listed here."
The book goes on to list 51 different examples covering 50 different players.

The player that appears twice?
George Gibson!

There isn't much difference between the Gibson examples in the set. The photos are the same, but the alignment of 'Gibson' and 'Pittsburg' relative to each other between examples is different.

I should note at this point, that the SCD guide doesn't tell the whole story. SGC's population report shows that they've graded two different Matty McIntyre cards, one with Detroit and the other with Chicago. That is particular baffling, though, as this set is obviously not just a 1909 set though that is how it's commonly catalogued. I suppose that's a discussion for another day.

Despite doing it for the second post in a row, I do hesitate to use population reports as a definitive measure of rarity. But as a general guide, well, I'm about to do it again, so I guess I'm saying it's okay!

The example shown here is one of the two graded by SGC. According SGC's population report there are only 2 Gibson examples graded (out of 52 graded by SGC for the entire set). PSA has never graded any Gibsons, but has graded 3 others (all different), and Beckett has graded 6 (no Gibsons) for a total of 61. Of those 61, 26 are the only one for that particular player. The other 35 cover 13 players, meaning at least 13 of the cards in the confirmed checklist have never been graded at all. The most commonly graded player is Dode Criss, with 4.

Last week I suggested that if only 25% of Voskamp's have been graded they're still more rare then the T206 Wagner. I really have no idea how accurate that guess is, so what follows will continue to remain highly unscientific ;)

There are 4 graded Voskamp's Gibsons between PSA and SGC, which means I'm suggesting there are 16 surviving Voskamp Gibsons.  The Gibson I showed last week is actually in a GAI holder, and over the years I've definitely seen a few raw examples. Surely there are some in collections that simply aren't public and/or haven't seen the light of day in years. 16 is a relatively safe estimate.

With the Colgan Square Proof, SGC says they've graded two. I have seen one raw one in 10 years (the variation I mention above). I have no idea if it's now the other SGC-graded Gibson, but if we say it's not, we're talking about a total known (by me) population of 3. I assume there are some in private collections still.

The truth is, you can find a Colgan Square Proof relatively easily. It's one of those sets that finding an example is easy, but finding a particular player isn't always so simple. Having seen 2 or 3 Gibsons in 10 years, and seeing that at least 1/4 of the set has never been graded even once, has me comfortable suggesting that more 20% of the surviving Square Proof Gibsons have been graded.

If that suggested assumption (see, very scientific) holds, then there are fewer than 15 surviving Colgan Square Proofs, and I'm counting both variations in that total, which is clearly fewer than my suggested 16 Voskamp's.

So there you have it. A Gibson more rare than a Gibson more rare than Wagner.

Oh, in case you were thinking about it, worry not, I am not a teacher, so my crazy methods are not being taught regularly to the leaders of tomorrow!


  1. I was at a show this weekend and saw a graded Gibson (maybe one of the Caramel sets, but I can't recall exactly what one). Made me think of your blog. If he still has it next time I see him I'll at least be inquiring on how much he wants for it.


    1. Thanks man, that's awesome! I'll shoot you my contact info in case it is still around.


  2. Hey man, just for your info, the Voskamp Gibson I have use to be in a PSA holder. So pop totals are actually PSA - 1 and SGC - 2


    1. Thanks Marty. I guess that makes the Voskamp potentially even more rare than I estimated (ie. if PSA didn't update their registry numbers, and I assume they wouldn't because they can't possibly always know when somebody cracks and resubs to another TPG).