Lot # 1: 1923(?) Matanzas Billiken complete set of 9

Category: Featured

Starting Bid: $10,000.00

Bids: 1 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Auction #28",
which ran from 11/8/2020 10:00 PM to
11/14/2020 11:46 PM

The 1923-24 Billiken set is one of the most desirable of all Cuban baseball card issues. Most collectors are familiar with it. But how many collectors are familiar with Matanzas Billikens? This is a set of 9 cards, likely produced in 1923. We don't know for sure how or why these card were issued, but the theory is that they were done before the 1923-24 Billiken set was produced, perhaps as a test run to see how popular they were. All players are on one of two teams. Either "Matanzas" or "Piratas." There are 9 cards total. Two or three have another example known, the rest are all one of a kind. There are several Negro Leaguers in the set including Recurvon Teran, Francisco Cardenas and Pablo Pita. It also includes several long-time Cuban League players in Ricardo Torres and Jose "Lopito" Lopez, as well as Abraham Tolosa, Tata, Marcelo, and Gonzalez.

It's likely that there was some kind of series between the two teams and these cards were made to commemorate it. We don't know where the Piratas were from, but it's particularly interesting that there is a team from Matanzas, the home town of the greatest Cuban player of all time, Martin Dihigo. Advanced collectors are familiar with the fact that the images on Billiken cards were taken from photographs that each featured 3 players. It's odd that not one of the original photos ever turned up. So that makes the following even more amazing. Take a look at the cards of Pablo Pita and Recurvon Teran, and then take a look at the photograph below (not included in this lot).In the middle is none other than a very young Martin Dihigo. This means that at one time, there probably was a Billiken card of Martin Dihigo! Dihigo didn't turn 19 until after the 1923-24 season was over. So he is either 17 or 18 here. Both Dihigo and Teran are wearing Cuban Stars jerseys. Dihigo's first year with the Cuban stars was 1923. Teran's last year with the Cuban Stars was 1924. So we can say with certainty that these are from either 1923 or 1924. Pretty crazy that the only Billiken 3-player photo ever to turn up happens to be from the Matanzas and it happens to feature Dihigo in the center, meaning someone in Cuba back in 1923 or 1924 probably had a Martin Dihigo Billiken card. It is extremely unlikely that cards exists today, but somtimes in my dreams I can picture it.


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