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This lot is one of a special offering of 1903 E107 Breisch Williams cards from The Chris Sullivan Collection—click here to read more.
The collecting industry has long lamented the dearth of cardboard keepsakes coinciding with the career of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley. Commencing his enviable body of work in the early 1890s—with his career ending in 1908—Kelley missed inclusion in the Old Judge Cigarettes issue, and was surprisingly omitted from the 1895 N300 Mayo's Cut Plug checklist. The only 20th century issues released during his active playing days include the 1902 W600 Sporting Life Cabinet Premiums, the extremely rare 1904 Allegheny Prototypes (for which there is just a single extant copy for each player), 1906 Fan Craze, and this spellbinding 1903 Breisch Williams depiction. Almost certainly, the E107 stands as the most sought-after, career-contemporary card picturing the accomplished athlete.
Consistent with this baseball card’s pinnacle standing was Joe Kelley’s sheer batting excellence, which yielded 11 consecutive seasons averaging .300 or better. From 1893 through 1903 (the time of Breisch Williams' distribution), the outfielder and player/manager was one of the most feared hitters in the game, ending his career with a stellar .317 lifetime batting average. His best season was in 1894, when he collected 199 hits (to the tune of a lofty .399 average) while scoring a staggering total of 165 runs. (Adding to Kelley's hits column that year was a September 3 doubleheader, wherein he tallied 9 hits in his 9 plate appearances—including four doubles in a single game!)
Graded FR 1.5 by PSA, the finest example holdered to date by any of the industry's respected third-party grading services. A mesmerizing Kelley image—revealing Cincinnati's star outfielder in a formal-attire portrait pose—graces the obverse side of this rarity. Kelley’s strong gaze is faithfully represented in this black-and-white illustration, as its fine contrast and focus serve to flatter his likeness. The well-centered image is surrounded by clean white borders that culminate in honest rounding at the corners. Fortuitously, several diagonal creases in the lower-left quadrant (and smaller ones at other corner aspects) spare Kelley's visage entirely, leaving his portrait completely unimpaired. The reverse side's, “One of a hundred and fifty prominent Baseball players,” slogan remains uninterrupted and boldly legible. Technically Fair condition, and nevertheless the finest example imaginable of this fascinating E107 entry.
1903 E107 Breisch Williams Joe Kelley - PSA FR 1.5 - The Hobby's Highest-Graded Example!
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