The T206 Vic Willis Collection of Jim Blumenthal

Published by Robert Lifson on Tagged Uncategorized

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The following appears in the printed catalog introducing the T206 Vic Willis Collection of longtime friend and noted collector Jim Blumenthal:

One of the greatest things about collecting is that it unites people from all walks of life around a common interest and shared goals. These are people who you might not otherwise have any occasion to meet in life, but a shared interest can bring you together and form strong bonds that lead to longtime friendships. For us at REA, and countless others within the hobby, this was especially the case with collector Jim Blumenthal, who passed away in October 2014 at the age of 47 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Jim was a true renaissance man, in his personal and professional lives as well as in his collecting life. An accomplished academic, Jim was regarded as one of the world’s preeminent Buddhist scholars and taught at several institutions in Oregon in addition to traveling around the world to speak at conferences and events on the subject, as well as personally providing translation services for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A passionate Grateful Dead fan, Jim was known for amassing a vast music library spanning all sorts of genres. A dedicated card collector, Jim was immersed in projects ranging from the earliest days of baseball cards right through the 1970s, resulting in a remarkable world-class card collection and contributions to the hobby that will forever be remembered.

Jim was an active participant on several message boards, interacting with other collectors, sharing his cards, his knowledge, and his passion. He was always quicker to commend someone else on their accomplishments than he was to talk about his own, but when he did, he did so knowing that they would be best understood and appreciated by his fellow hobbyists. He was a fixture at the National Sports Collectors Convention, attending for several days each year and bringing with him the tremendous humor and good nature (along with some really great cards) that were his hallmark and appreciated by everyone he encountered. Jim was universally respected by his peers, possessing the highest understanding of our hobby. It was hard not to be immediately impressed by Jim, who though soft-spoken, spoke passionately and informatively about the cards and the hobby whenever given the chance. In his presence, it was hard not to be aware of how balanced he was, how spiritual he was, and what a tremendous positive force among us he represented. It was an honor to have him as an important part of our collecting community, and we were privileged to have him as a collector and more important, a friend.

Jim’s collection was vast and spanned many areas that individually would be challenging and impressive but together were remarkable and awesome. There were three distinct collecting projects that Jim worked on throughout his life that everyone particularly associated with him. The first project was the 1886 N167 Old Judge set, of great importance as the first series of baseball cards ever produced by Goodwin and Co., which would end up as the most important card manufacturer of the nineteenth century. The set consists of twelve cards, including six Hall of Famers, and had not been completed by a single collector in modern times (we can’t even be sure it was completed in 1886). This project was truly the collecting version of climbing Mount Everest! After many years and much research and tenacity, Jim was miraculously able to locate all the cards (a feat unto itself!) and complete the set, reuniting all twelve cards, a seemingly impossible quest. Jim published an exceptional look at the set in the Spring 2013 issue of Old Cardboard magazine. The second project was the colorful thirty-card 1910 E93 Standard Caramel set, considered by many to be among the most popular of the 1910-era caramel-card sets, which is loaded with Hall of Famers and stars. Beginning in the early 2000s, Jim set out to build the finest Standard Caramel set possible. This mission culminated in a set boasting an incredible 8.10 overall GPA (the next closest set is 6.16), thirteen consecutive years as the number-one set, and an induction of the set into the PSA Set Registry Hall of Fame in 2008. The third project was the legendary 1909-1911 T206 White Border set, which provided countless challenges and avenues for collecting. Jim tackled this set from all angles: as a set collector, as a key-card collector, and as a rare-back collector. His efforts yielded one of the finest T206 collections ever assembled. One of Jim’s favorite cards within the set was the batting pose of Hall of Famer Vic Willis, and Jim set out to collect this card with every available advertising back known. The card could be found with fifteen different advertisements on the reverse, a number that doesn’t seem all that daunting until one considers that it included advertisements for Drum, Uzit, and Lenox with brown printing, each of which ranks among the rarest backs in the entire set. Finding an example of these backs with any subject is extremely difficult, but finding an example of Vic Willis batting is borderline impossible. But Jim did the impossible, as he’d done many times before in other areas of his personal, professional, and collecting life, and completed this back run. We are honored to present this collection in the spring auction (Lots 277, 278, 279, 280, and 281) to document, for Jim and for everyone else, that the impossible is possible. Proceeds from the sale of this collection will be going to assist with charitable efforts close to the hearts of Jim, his family, and his work.

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