Card of the Day: George Gibson 1912 J=K Candy

Today we have another guest submission in our Card of the Day series. This one comes from Martin Healy Jr, a name you might recognize from his two previous articles on our site. He collects items of George Gibson, the catcher for the 1909 World Series winning Pittsburgh Pirates. Gibson held the team record for games caught until surpassed by Jason Kendall, nearly 90 years after Gibson set the record. Healy contributed an article on how he became a fan of Gibson and that led to the book he wrote about Gibson’s career. He was also featured here as a guest submission in our Pirates Memorabilia series.

Healy told me about an extremely rare Pirates card that he acquired and I asked him to share the story of the card and his purchase. Without giving away the story, I’ll say that he got the 1912 J=K Candy card of George Gibson through an auction house and I can completely relate to the process. I’ve been in the same situation multiple times, occasionally with a positive outcome. One of the worst things about finding a card you need in an auction is finding out about it before the auction starts. It’s the longest two weeks (approximate auction running time) for a serious card collector. I’ll let him tell the rest, but here’s a picture of the subject card first. The back of the cards are blank from this set.

George Gibson 1912 J=K Candy

by Martin Healy Jr

Being a card collector of all-time Pirates catching great George Gibson, there have always been a few cards that eluded me: his candy box cards. During the deadball era, candy companies featured star baseball players of the time on their products as advertising. Nowadays, some vintage baseball card collectors search out these exceptionally obscure issues and hold them in high regard for their rarity and beauty. One set, 1912 J=K candy is deemed the toughest of all candy issues. In fact, the George Gibson card had never been seen by this collector until recently. On June 21, 2020, Heritage Auctions put to the auction block a copy from a fresh to the hobby collection.

Other Gibson collectors and I were ecstatic to learn of the cards existence. We were thrilled that the card image mimicked the action pose used on his 1910 E125 American Caramel Die-cut card and his 1910 M101-2 Sporting News Supplement. For me personally, the find not only brought joy, but also apprehension. I feared that with the card being a 1 of 1, I may miss out and be left with a hole in my collection forever.

I followed the auction listing religiously leading up to the auction date. Heritage has a ticker to show how many potential bidders are watching the lot. As days went by, the number of bidding foes increased, and my anxiety level followed. By the evening of the auction, the card was being watched by at least 20 other collectors.

The lot itself also consisted of another card from the set. A very good condition Art Devlin. Fortunately for me, a fellow collector contacted me with interest in forming a coalition in an attempt to win the lot within a reasonable budget. He’d take the Devlin, and I’d get my cherished Gibson.

Bidding that evening started slow. I thought we might get the cards for a steal. But just like how Gibson wouldn’t let National League base stealers swipe bags so easy, there would be no calm pilfering of the cards for us that night. Throughout the night I recalled what a fellow collector had told me: “This could be a once in a life-time opportunity.” Eventually, the clock counted down without another bid and I won the card. It is now the crown jewel of my George Gibson card collection. At least until I can find the other two Gibson candy box cards I need.