Amazing 1911 S81/S76 Silks Complete SetS On one Massive Uncut Sheet
A mere handful of S81 Silks sets have ever been successfully completed, and there is only one uncut sheet, presented here, on the face of the earth.
Chad and Doug Dreier acquired this unique crown jewel for their museum in 2005. Ever since, while novice visitors have beelined to see the T206 Wagner first-hand, true aficionados have stood in awe, mouths agape, bowing down at the altar of this miraculous, pristine survivor. The delicate silk surface remains so clean and luminescent, the lush colors so vibrantly vivid, the portraiture so classically iconic—it is truly the ultimate manifestation of one of the quintessentially beautiful creations in hobby history. Some have even gone so far as to call this uncut sheet the single finest display piece among all 20th-century sports collectibles.
Five famous military men from the S76 “Generals” issue (#s 196-200) occupy the top row: George Washington, U.S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Napoleon Bonaparte and Buffalo Bill Cody. Twenty-five stars from the S81 “Baseball Players” issue (#s 86-110) compose the grid’s remaining five rows: Rube Marquard, Marty O’Toole, Rube Benton, Grover Alexander, Russ Ford, John McGraw, Nap Rucker, Mike Mitchell, Chief Bender, Home Run Baker, Nap Lajoie, Joe Tinker, Sherry Magee, Howie Camnitz, Eddie Collins, Red Dooin, Ty Cobb, Hugh Jennings, Roser Bresnahan, Jake Stahl, Tris Speaker, Ed Walsh, Christy Mathewson, Johnny Evers and Walter Johnson.
Such an intact format visually transforms what once were individual action poses (shared by its sister premiums, the T3 Turkey Reds and L1 Leathers) into an interactive group gathering—a congregation of legends. With a little imagination, it’s as if Bresnahan is actually sending a pop fly into the outstretched glove of Magee. As if Tinker is turning yet another double play with Chance. Meanwhile, Mathewson peers over his shoulder at Johnson. Bender hurls his signature slider toward teammate Baker. And Jennings performs his trademark Ee-Yah dance to motivate Cobb.
Measuring 3 feet by 4-1/2 feet, the uncut sheet was stored for safekeeping from the time of its manufacture until it was rediscovered by a pair of Philadelphia antique dealers in the 1970s. Soon Ken Silverman, dubbed the “King of Silks,” purchased the sheet and proudly displayed it as the centerpiece of his famed tobacco-silk collection. When it next changed hands, upon Silverman’s retirement in the 1980s, the sheet earned the rarefied distinction of being the only baseball collectible outside of the T206 Honus Wagner to have sold for more than $100,000. Later, in the early 1990s, it was even on loan for a special exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Amazingly, despite the susceptibility of silk to adverse elements of time and environment, the condition of this bright, brilliant treasure remains Near Mint to Mint with no apparent flaws of any significance. A printer’s “OK” notation and approval signature appear at bottom center. The sheet is gloriously matted and framed, in a manner befitting its magnitude and historical importance, to dimensions of 3-1/2 feet by 5 feet.
As a measure of the extreme rarity and value here, it is important to note two background details: 1) Our firm’s experienced executives have never before had the pleasure to handle an S81 Ty Cobb; and 2) In 2005, a group of thirteen S81 Silks (without Cobb or Walter Johnson) realized nearly $80,000 at auction. Correspondingly, it is estimated that a complete S81 set in today’s market would value close to $200,000—and that this sole extant uncut sheet, by extension, would command far more.
Incidentally, Chad and Doug Dreier were already in the midst of building a complete set of S81 Silks when the opportunity arose to acquire the uncut sheet. True to form, they accomplished both lofty goals. Therefore, rest assured that even if this grand prize proves financially out of reach, the consolation prize of the Dreiers’ customary full set—incredibly spectacular in its own right—will come to auction within the next year.