Cracker Jack snacks are an iconic American food. Many people still enjoy the sweet tasting popcorn and nut delight and it has been associated most in Americana with the sport of baseball. Cracker Jacks are sold at many ballparks still to this day and are immortalized in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that is played during the seventh inning stretch. Cracker Jacks involvement with baseball dates back over a century.
Baseball cards are iconic pieces of Americana and some cards are worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the old days baseball cards could be procured two ways: from purchasing tobacco or Cracker Jacks. Like today the cards of the star players are the most desirable and one of these cards, the T-206 Honus Wagner holds the record for being the most valuable card ever sold at a whopping 3.12 million dollars in 2007.
While this card was not found in a barn a Cracker Jack poster was found in a barn that advertised its 1915 set. This set features star players like Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Joe Jackson, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville. Hall of Famers all (or would have been at least in Jackson’s case). Customers could save proofs of purchases from the box and send in to Cracker Jack and receive the entire 176 player set from 1915. An album could also be purchased to hold the cards. This set has been identified by collectors as one of the finest sets ever made available and is one of the rarest. The poster would have been placed above the product as an advertisement. The set features 32 future Hall of Famers and in mint condition the average card is worth $2,200 with the most valuable cards of Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb valued at over $200,000 each.
The poster that was found in the barn was beaten and had probably been hanging there for several years. How it came to the original owner’s possession is unknown. A poster in better condition sold for around $150,000 in 2009 but the market for this set and anything related to it had become hotter and it was believed that the poster could fetch upwards of $300,000. These posters are rare and only a few specimens are known to be in existence since many people simply cut the cards out of the poster and discarded the rest.
In a way the discovery was almost by chance. The barn was owned by a Wisconsin police officer and he happened to be listening to a radio show that was talking about the discovery of super rare baseball cards in a paper bag that were about to be thrown out. That find was worth millions of dollars and the officer knew that while he did not have baseball cards he had a poster advertising them. He told his colleagues that he had something like that at home but he had never thought much of it until then. The officer then immediately took down the poster, which had been hanging on the walls in the barn, and brought it inside for safe keeping. A friend who was more into collecting did some snooping and determined that the officer had a real find on his hands. He contacted a sports memorabilia dealer and sold it for an undisclosed amount who then put it up for auction.
The edges of the cardboard poster were frayed or damaged from being exposed to the elements for almost a century. It was covered in dust but for the auction house that simply added to the story. The buyer could have it professionally cleaned. The poster wound up selling for $61,000. Not bad for a piece of cardboard hanging in a barn!