I want to thank Ed McCollum again for sharing the story of his collection. If you haven’t read his article, The Rebuilt T206 Howe McCormick Collection, which I published last weekend, you can read it here. After reading his article, I had a few additional questions I wanted to ask him. Here they are, along with Ed’s answers:
Do you have any speculation as to how Howe’s cards came to market?
My current guess is that the collection came to the market sometime around 1969 – seven years before his death. I’ve recently purchased a group of nine cards from a collector that had Howe’s stamp on them. He remembers buying them from Wirt Gammon of Florida in 1969. I’m told Wirt was one of the hobby giants in those days and I would speculate that he is the one who bought Howe’s collection. Previously, I had purchased a few cards from collectors who had complete or near complete T206 collections, and both of those gentlemen told me they had started their collections in the mid-70s. That sort of made sence, since Howe died in 76, but finding out about the cards purchased in 1969 makes me wonder exactly when Howe decided to part with the cards.
Has this stamp only appeared on T206’s?
No, I have heard from two collectors who have E96 cards with the same stamp. But from these two individuals, I only know of a total of six of those cards. The first gentleman wanted to sell me his four, so I could have “the complete Howe McCormick collection,” then about three years later the second gentleman told me he had E96s with the stamp on his cards, and wondered if I had ever run across any more. He and I still exchange emails about our cards and he is quick to let me know when he spots a T206 with the stamp.
Did it appear that Howe had a collection strategy?
It would appear his only collecting strategy was getting as many cards as he possibly could, no matter what. Of the 311 I have, there are 238 that I have one card of the player/pose, 59 I have two copies of the player in that pose, 12 cards that I have three of in the same player/pose, and two cards I have four copies of the same player/pose. Duplicate cards didn’t seem to bother him.
Something of an oddity is that I have three copies of Lundgren/Chicago, which is considered a tougher card to find, and while I only own two of them, there is a third copy of Ed Foster with a Hindu back that has traded hands several times in the last several years (I don’t know the current owner of that card). There are many more common cards I haven’t seen, one example being Cobb/red portrait. Yet there are two green portraits and an absolutely beautiful Cobb bat off shoulder with the stamp. I don’t own any of those, but do know the owners of two out of the three.
Were you able to find anything out about Howe’s children?
Yes, he and his wife Thelma had a daughter, named Betty McCormick. From what I’ve heard from Howe’s cousin, and what I’ve found online, she had a beautiful singing voice, and made her career in show business. She was a member of singer Vaughn Monroe’s Moonmaids, a big band era group. (Vaughn Monroe is singing “Let it Snow” during the closing credits of one of my favorite Christmas movies, Die Hard.) Sometime after leaving the Moonmaids, she added an “e” to her name, becoming Bettye McCormick, and went on to sing with others including Burt Bacharach, whom she appeared on Broadway with in a short-lived musical. After the late 70s, she sort of disappears, until an obituary in 2005 that lists her cause of death as dementia.
Does Howe’s store/home still exist?
Sadly, no. Net54 board member David Polakoff, who is from the Gainesville area, did a lot of research on my behalf when he heard about the collection, and was able to trace/correct the original address of 300 W. Main Street to 300 W. Main Street S. (I had once called the mayor’s office in Gainesville asking about the address and had been told that Main Street ran North/South, not East/West. I kind of gave up after that.) David’s research pinpointed the location to what is now a parking lot for several city/state buildings. However, the store/home was located just a block away from a McCormick Street, which we are guessing was named after Howe’s grandfather, who started a church in the early days of Gainesville.
Have you made trades with other collectors to get Howe-stamped cards from their collections?
I have, although that is not as easy as it sounds. With the exception of seven cards from my first run at a T206 collection (given to me by the wife for a first anniversary, a 10th anniversary and several cards my son picked out for me when his mom would take him to a card shop), the only cards I have are Howe-stamped cards. So it doesn’t make much sense to trade a Howe-stamped card for a Howe-stamped card, when honestly, I’d want them both. So trades have taken up to six months to pull off, when looking for a certain card with a back in at least as good condition, but that doesn’t have a stamp on the back. But it has always been worth it.
Are there any that you weren’t able to obtain initially, but then years later were able to find?
Back in 2009, Mastro Auctions had a near complete T206 set (520 cards) at auction, with many of the cards listed as MK. I contacted them, just out of curiosity, and 50 of the 520 cards had Howe’s stamp. Trust me, one, it was a shock, and two, there is no way I would ever be able to afford to bid on a near complete set of cards. So Mastro was nice enough to pass along a message to the winner of the lot, where I explained I was trying to rebuild Howe’s collection, and ask them to work with me of at least several of the cards. Over the next year-and-a-half, as the winner broke up the lot and sold it on eBay, I was able to win 39 of those auctions. In the five years following that, I was able to acquire six more of those cards as they continued to change hands at other auctions (I always download the images of cards as they come up on eBay, so in case I don’t win the lot, I have a record of what it looked like, exactly where the stamp is located on the card, any other card damage, etc.). Four of the five cards still missing are Southern League players, all with a Hindu back on the card. Over time, those four cards all ended up in the hands of the same collector, who just last year, auctioned off his entire Southern-Leaguer-with-Hindu-back collection. I believe the lot had 48 cards, if memory serves correctly. Again, I wouldn’t be able to afford a lot of rare backs like that, and unfortunately, although REA was kind enough to pass a message on the to the winner, they have never reached out.
It seems that you value each card in the collection the same as any other. Would you say that’s accurate?
There are some cards that I would say are more favorite than others, but that would be because of the story behind them (who told me about it, what trade I had to make to pull this off, the three Saturday Evening Post cards that use the different stamp). Honestly, it is not about the player on the front, or the tobacco brand on the back, its more the thrill of finding the card, and doing what I can to reunite it with the others. Sadly, I’ve never run across a card in “real life,” meaning I’m at a show and see one and start the process of buying. Every card so far has been found through the online auctions and websites. There is enough of an “Oh my gosh, there’s one!” moment when I find them online, don’t know what would happen if I just happened to be sorting through a stack at a show and found one.
Just a final thought …
Probably the greatest thing to come from this project or quest or whatever you would call it has been meeting all the collectors who have been so willing to help with a collection that isn’t even theirs. Any given week, I hear from between 10 and 20 people who have seen one of these cards on an auction site, were looking through their or a friend’s collection and found one, even people who hear about it and just want to know more about why in the world am I doing it. More than likely, I’ll never meet most of these people, even though I consider them friends (sort of like Facebook, but on a whole different level). One of these years, I hope to be able to attend the National again (I’ve only been once, back in 1994 while working on my first collection) and be able to put a face to, and give a handshake to all the friend I’ve made through this collection.