February 2019 Winter Premium Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 3/3/2019

Celebrate Black History Month and the recent 100th anniversary of Jack Roosevelt Robinson's birth (January 31, 1919) with a winning bid on what is quite possibly the rarest Jackie Robinson rookie card of them all. Traditionally, his iconic 1948-49 Leaf card #79 and even his 1949 Bowman card #50 have been identified as his official rookie cards, but the former UCLA four-sport letterman and second lieutenant in the United States Army can also be found on a number of lesser known issues produced in 1947, the year he broke baseball's color barrier and won MLB's first-ever Rookie of the Year Award.

Most of those lesser known issues were distributed by Bond Homogenized Bread, who partnered with the future Hall of Famer sometime during the summer of '47 to help promote its product at grocery stores. An advertisement in the August 19, 1947 edition of the Baltimore Afro American News (pictured here) made fans the following promise: "FREE OFFER! Your grocer will give you a pocket-size reproduction of this Jackie Robinson photograph, free for the asking. Get yours today!" Over the next two years, Bond Bread then produced and distributed an additional dozen different Jackie Robinson cards using the same white-bordered design. These 1947 Bond Bread Jackie Robinson rookie cards have become some of the most coveted cards in all of collecting, with prices for some of the higher-end copies and rarer versions soaring over five figures in recent years.

In addition to this 13-card set, however, Bond Bread is also associated with at least four other early J-Rob cards. Sometime during 1947, Bond distributed a borderless black-and-white card set with loaves of its bread. Included in the set were hardball heroes such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio as well as a bevy of players making their first appearances on cardboard, including, among others, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Ralph Kiner, Gil Hodges, and, of course, Jackie Robinson. These cards had rounded or die-cut corners so as to ease their insertion into bread packages. However, the question of which issue came first—and can therefore be recognized as Jackie's very first card—has never been definitively answered, though the cardboard aficionados at Net54 have certainly entertained the subject.

Of most importance in the lengthy but valuable Bond Bread discussion at Net54 is the question of whether a later-produced, square-cornered version of these cards ever had anything to do with Bond Bread and, indeed, whether they were even legitimate, period productions. While I don't intend to entertain that debate here, the decade-long running discussion thread raises several additional questions. There are at least two different versions of these square-cornered sets, including a white-back and a beige-back. Are both of these reprints, or might one version actually be legitimate? Furthermore, the same images from these sets can also be found on a postcard-sized issue, typically referred to as 1947 Bond Bread Exhibits. These are quite rare, with PSA reporting just five copies of each Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson in its population report, three Joe DiMaggio, two Bob Feller, and seven Stan Musial. What are these cards, and where do they come from? Who printed them, and when?

Even more obscure than the Bond Bread Exhibits, however, is a fourth and final version, referred to as the 1947 Bond Bread Dual Sided or Perforated set. Virtually nothing is known about this set other than that it was issued in at least two different 24-card perforated panels by a company called Elgee. To call them scarce, even extraordinarily scarce, is a gross understatement. Until Small Traditions graded the Robinson offered in this lot, only one other had ever been recognized by each PSA and SGC. The only other PSA-graded example appears prominently in the Net54 post, but even the most knowledgeable contributors there had no substantial comments to offer. What is this card? Did it have anything at all to do with Bond bread? What was Elgee? Did Elgee possibly print these cards for Bond Bread and other distributors? Are these perforated cards then possibly some sort of sample or proof of Elgee's printed product? When was it printed? If a proof, then was it actually printed before the Bond Bread cards? Why are there so few in circulation? How many (if any) more are out there?

Whatever the answers to these questions, one thing is crystal clear: the unusual Jackie Robinson/James Cagney dual-sided and perforated card offered in this lot is unquestionably, profoundly scarce. The offered copy is the highest of only three examples ever graded by the combined authentication firms of PSA and SGC. Not only is it rare, and not only does it also feature legendary actor James Cagney, but it is also somewhat similar to the iconic, condition sensitive 1996 Sports Illustrated for Kids Tiger Woods rookie card. Both are important cards; both are perforated and nearly impossible to find in high-grade condition. Only, this one is half-a-century older and about 100,000 times scarcer. In conclusion, if rarity is the language of your collection, if cultural and historical significance attract and inspire you, and if mystery intrigues you, then here is a card for your longer-term consideration. Maybe, one day, you'll be the sleuth to solve its secret and to answer what is perhaps the most compelling question of them all: is this, in fact, Jackie Robinson's rarest rookie card?

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $2,500
Final prices include buyers premium: $4,910
Number Bids: 5
Auction closed on Sunday, March 3, 2019.
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