In the world of sports memorabilia collecting, a remarkable discovery has recently emerged, shedding new light on the captivating history of early baseball cards. Found tucked away in an unlikely place—a Band-Aid box—this extraordinary find consists of 39 cards from the elusive 1921 Herpolsheimer set, including nine previously unknown cards. Hidden for almost a century, these treasures have now been unveiled and are up for auction in Love of the Game Auctions’ ongoing event.
The Herpolsheimer cards, issued in 1921, have long been considered some of the rarest in the baseball card collecting world. Up until now, only 105 cards from this set had been authenticated and graded across both PSA and SGC population reports. This recent discovery not only expands the known universe of these cards but also adds new faces to the collection.
Al Crisafulli, the auction director at Love of the Game, can barely contain his excitement. “I’ve been captivated by these cards for years,” he shared, reflecting the sentiment shared by serious collectors who understand the rarity and historical significance of the Herpolsheimer issue.
The story of this find is as intriguing as the cards themselves. In 2019, during an estate sale near Grand Rapids, Michigan, the cards were stumbled upon inside a simple Band-Aid box—an unassuming container that concealed a small fortune in paper treasures. After four years of maintaining contact with the card owner, Crisafulli finally secured these gems for auction. Each card has since been graded by PSA and will be individually auctioned off.
Among the discovered cards is a Babe Ruth card, making it only the second of its kind known to exist. Given the scarcity and the legendary status of the Great Bambino, this card alone is expected to fetch a high price at auction. Other Hall of Famers such as Tris Speaker, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rabbit Maranville, John McGraw, Red Faber, and Sam Rice also grace this newfound collection, further enhancing its significance.
Not only are the fronts of these cards captivating, but the backs also bear interesting information. They advertise the Grand Rapids retail store’s Boy’s Fashion Shop, adding another layer of charm to these relics. The discovery of additional cards not listed in the original checklist—Dave Bancroft, Johnny Evers, Harry Hooper, Stuffy McInnis, Art Nehf, Wally Schang, George Sisler, Casey Stengel, and Fred Toney—suggests that the set may be larger than previously thought, possibly consisting of 78 or 79 cards instead of the previously believed 69 or 70.
Crisafulli first became aware of these cards in 2019 when their owner discreetly made an inquiry on the Net54 sports card forum. The post sparked the curiosity of forum members and Crisafulli himself, leading to ongoing communication until the cards were secured for auction.
The backstory of the Herpolsheimer Company is as fascinating as the cards themselves. Established in 1870 as a dry goods store by William Godlove Herpolsheimer and Charles G.A. Voigt, it went on to become a prominent presence in Grand Rapids and beyond. Henry Herpolsheimer later took over, followed by his son Arthur, who steered the company’s expansion into furniture sales through a merger. Unfortunately, Arthur’s life ended prematurely, casting a somber shadow over the family’s history.
The store’s legacy also intersected with national history when Betty Bloomer, who would later become First Lady as the wife of President Gerald R. Ford, worked there as a fashion coordinator in 1942.
The discovery of this second batch of Herpolsheimer cards reshapes their distribution story and significance, indicating a wider release than previously believed. It paints a picture of a department store that cleverly capitalized on the allure of baseball’s most celebrated figures to appeal to its clientele.
The Band-Aid box that housed these cards—a metal relic from the 1930s—serves as a poignant reminder of the journey these cards have taken. From being a promotional tool in a local store to becoming highly sought-after historical artifacts in the world of collectibles, their significance has only grown with time.
As the auction date draws near, these cards are set to mesmerize the collecting community, offering a rare glimpse into the early days of baseball card collecting. Each card, with its faint pencil markings and signs of wear from past handling, tells a unique story—a narrative that collectors will soon have the opportunity to continue as they become the new custodians of these invaluable pieces of baseball history.