Unique 1888 Joseph Hall Cabinets Master Set (14 Plus Five Variations)
To call the Dreiers completists may be an understatement. Often, completion by checklists alone wasn’t nearly complete enough. Master sets and fresh discoveries became their specialty stock in trade as Chad and Doug double-handedly rewrote the card catalogs themselves.
Take the rarer-than-rare Joseph Hall Cabinets. Mortal men have spent lifetimes struggling simply to harvest the 14 different American Association and National League teams—especially the impossible Chicago and Washington cabinets, which book for almost quadruple the value of Philadelphia and Baltimore. But the Dreiers? They wouldn’t settle for just the mediocrity of having the best Hall Cabinets complete set in hobby history. Rather, Chad and Doug endeavored to compile the best master set that there ever will be in the past, present or future.
In fact, for their 19th and final inclusion, the Dreiers’ OCD (Obsessive Completion Disorder) even drove them to overlook condition in favor of a never-before-seen St. Louis variation that was only partially intact, with much of its border missing. Because that is what true completists do: They stop at nothing. They are the collecting world’s ultra-marathoners, running for days on end to reach the vaunted finish line.
And speaking of ambition, it is worth mention that Joseph Hall’s esteemed issue was essentially the first attempt to capture as many professional baseball teams as possible in a matching format within a single year. The trailblazing photographer’s greatest legacy, therefore, may be that he efficiently recorded for posterity the portraits of nearly 200 individual ballplayers—including 17 Hall of Famers—with only 14 group portraits. By contrast, as Old Judge collectors are well aware, it would take all of 200 single-player tobacco cards to create a commensurate visual roster of most everyone from the era. (As a special bonus, the Hall Cabinets also feature Cap Anson in uniform!)
It is generally held that, at most, single-digit populations of each team have survived to this day. Although their settings, backgrounds and studio mount styles may differ slightly, the cabinets are consistent with regard to size (4-1/2” x 6-1/2”), Hall’s Brooklyn copyright imprint, and the numbered legend denoting player names. Preservation-wise, this master set exhibits sensational Near Mint photographs across the board (unless otherwise noted and excluding the aforementioned, partially intact St. Louis variation). Strikingly deep, distinct image quality and bold print are hallmarks of the Dreiers’ scrupulous standards. Mount wear or the lack thereof is addressed case-by-case below.
Athletic Ball Club, 1888 w/Wilbert Robinson, Harry Stovey, Ed Seward and Gus Weyhing. Zero toning on an extremely clean mount. Slight corner chipping and a couple of small edge creases. Philadelphia’s 20-man lineup is the largest in the set.
Baltimore Ball Club, 1888 Clean appearance and brilliant image clarity and contrast. Lower-right corner bump and isolated minor perimeter staining—perhaps the result of an adhesive whose vestiges coat
Boston Ball Club, 1888 w/King Kelly, Old Hoss Radbourn and John Clarkson. Interestingly, Joseph Hall took the Brooklyn team photo and inserted composite-style Boston heads and caps on the Brooklyn bodies, adding “BOSTON” to the chest, replacing Brooklyn’s striped caps with Boston’s generic ones, and switching the Brooklyn stadium background to a forest-illustration studio backdrop. Moderate toning throughout, two vertical creases to image, minor edge wear.
Brooklyn Ball Club, 1888 w/Bob Caruthers. Very clean front and back. Slight edge wear.
Chicago Ball Club, 1888 w/Cap Anson. Terrific image contrast. Two chipped corners, slight edge rubbing.
Cincinnati Ball Club, 1888 w/Bid McPhee, John Reilly and Tony Mullane. Clean front and back. Top-left corner chip, slight edge rubbing.
Cleveland Ball Club, 1888 w/Chief Zimmer. Clean appearance, great contrast. Corner bumps.
Detroit Ball Club, 1888 w/Dan Brouthers, Sam Thompson and Ned Hanlon. Clean appearance, fine contrast. Top-left crease with amateur reinforcement on reverse, slight corner chipping.
Indianapolis Ball Club, 1888. Moderate peripheral wear and paper loss affecting portions of the print lettering.
Kansas City Ball Club, 1888. Dramatically clean Hall Studio embossed reverse, “PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION B.B. CLUBS. 1888.” Minimal perimeter wear.
Louisville Ball Club, 1888 w/Pete Browning. Shockingly clean appearance. Negligible corner bumps.
New York Ball Club, 1888 w/Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, Monte Ward, Buck Ewing, Jim O’Rourke and Mickey Welch. Formal studio portrait variation. Peripheral toning, missing lower-left corner.
New York “League Champions—1889” w/Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, Monte Ward, Buck Ewing, Jim O’Rourke and Mickey Welch. Same formal studio portrait as previous but with caption variation. General peripheral wear and toning.
New York Ball Club, 1888 w/Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, Monte Ward, Buck Ewing, Jim O’Rourke and Mickey Welch. In-uniform with stadium background. Hall Studio embossed reverse, “PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE B.B. CLUBS. 1888.” Minor edge creasing and one spot of surface paper loss affecting print.
St. Louis “American Association Champions, 1889” w/Charles Comiskey, Tommy McCarthy, Tip O’Neill, Arlie Latham and Silver King. Radiant image clarity and contrast, beautifully clean front and back, with Hall Studio embossing, “PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION B.B. CLUBS. 1888.” Trivial corner rubbing.
St. Louis “American Association Champions, 1889” w/Charles Comiskey, Tommy McCarthy, Tip O’Neill, Arlie Latham and Silver King. Same caption as previous but with a slight photo variation primarily noticeable due to the spectator sitting on the stadium railing in the background (whom Hall probably asked to return to the stands, necessitating the second take). Hall Studio embossing on reverse, “PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION B.B. CLUBS. 1888.” Moderate peripheral wear/toning.
St. Louis “World Champions—1885, 1886, 1887” w/Charles Comiskey, Tommy McCarthy, Tip O’Neill, Arlie Latham and Silver King. Caption variation with dazzling near-pristine appearance quality on front and back. Subtle image crease, insignificant corner wear.
St. Louis “World Champions—1885, 1886, 1887” w/Charles Comiskey, Tommy McCarthy, Tip O’Neill, Arlie Latham and Silver King. Same caption as previous but with recurrence of spectator-on-railing photo variation. All player images are intact and unaffected though the borders have substantial missing pieces. Literally “rough around the edges.”
Washington Ball Club, 1888 w/Connie Mack. Some surface paper loss to Hall Studio reverse, “PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE B.B. CLUBS. 1888.” General surface wear to mount front with no impact to the image.