Lot # 1: Rare 1923-24 Billiken Oscar Charleston (HOF RC) - SGC GOOD 2

Category: Featured Items

Starting Bid: $5,000.00

Bids: 44 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed




This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Fall, 2022 - 10th Anniversary Auction",
which ran from 11/6/2022 12:00 PM to
11/26/2022 9:00 PM



The Billiken Cigarettes issue of 1923-24 was a Cuban-issued set that featured 2" x 2 5/8" cards depicting 60 players from the Cuban Professional League.  Each black and white glossy photo features an ad on the reverse, either for Billiken or, less frequently, La Mode Cigarettes.  One of the more popular and highly-prized Cuban league issues, this set includes many stars of the American Negro Leagues, including the key card of Oscar Charleston, along with Pop Lloyd, Jose Mendez, Cristobal Torriente and Andy Cooper.

One of the key figures of Negro League baseball and considered by Bill James the fourth greatest player of all-time, Charleston played or managed with more than a dozen teams in his 43-year career, also playing nine years of winter ball in Cuba.  It was during this time that this card was issued, one of two cards considered Charleston's "rookie" card (the other being his 1923-24 Tomas Gutierrez card).  Featuring a beautiful glossy photo of the Hall of Famer, Charleston's Billiken card is often considered his most desirable due to the clear photographic image.

Charleston's lifetime batting average of .364 is good for second all-time, just .002 behind Ty Cobb.  His 1921 season was perhaps his finest, when he posted a .433 batting average and .512 OBP, though he continued to post incredible numbers through the 1920s.  In addition to ranking among the Negro Leagues' top five all-time in batting average and home runs, Charleston is its all-time leader in stolen bases.  Though James ranks Charleston fourth all-time, other baseball scholars feel Charleston may be the greatest player ever.  The great John McGraw said of Charleston "If Oscar Charleston isn't the greatest baseball player in the world, then I'm no judge of baseball talent."

One of just nine examples to have been assessed by SGC (PSA has graded just three), the extremely rare card boasts a crisp, clear image with outstanding contrast.  A visible surface stain reduces the technical grade, though the eye appeal remains strong.  A light diagonal surface crease can be observed at the upper left when viewed at an angle, and corner wear is mild.  

Perhaps the most desirable card of one of the game's highest echelon of players, 1923-24 Billiken cards of Oscar Charleston simply do not make themselves available at public auction, with examples coming to market only a few times each decade.  Extraordinarily rare, the 1923-24 Billiken issue is quite possibly the most sought-after of all Cuban baseball card issues, with the Charleston card its most important.  A tremendous card, one of the most significant we have ever offered.

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