T Card Primer

by David Hornish, dsh46@aol.com

Before we begin, you can access the checklist covering all the T Cards here and there is also a checklist covering the various factory and district codes on the cards located here.

Tobacco cards represent the first real high point in the history of baseball cards. It is here that the modern baseball card took form. T-206 was the first truly popular set issued in the twentieth century and the first to employ color. T-3, T-201 and T-202 set production standards that weren't equaled until the 1950's. But tobacco cards, while not entirely born of necessity, had a purpose: they stiffened the cigarette pack and promoted various brands of coffin nails while providing a picture of most of the players in the game. They also present a serious challenge to the type set collector.

You see, the tobacco card heading above (and everywhere else) is slightly misleading. Tobacco cards first appeared in the Nineteenth Century, but what Jefferson Burdick designated as "T" in the American Card Catalog consisted solely of cards issued from 1898 on. The thought of all tobacco issues appearing under one heading must have bothered him and because of this distinction between 19th and mostly 20th century issues, even people with somewhat limited budgets can assemble a fairly comprehensive T card type set. Believe me, you don't want to spend the money to procure a nice example of Kalamazoo Bats or Four Base Hits, both painfully rare 19th century sets, let alone try to track down a presentable specimen or two.

While I am thankful Mr. Burdick made the distinction between the two eras, they really aren't that far removed from one another. The same manufacturers who distributed cards in the 1880's were essentially responsible for their resurgence almost twenty years later, albeit under the corporate umbrella of the American Tobacco Company. In fact, the man who was essentially responsible for the demise of tobacco cards in the 1890's was indirectly responsible for their return in 1909.

J.B. "Buck" Duke, owner of W. Duke & Sons Company and a robber baron of the highest order, got together with some of his biggest competitors, including Allen & Ginter, Goodwin & Company and W.S. Kimball, and formed the American Tobacco Company in 1890. This, ladies and gentlemen, was exactly what the Sherman Anti Trust Act was designed to prevent. The American Tobacco Company (or Trust) controlled a sizable portion of the U.S. tobacco market, thanks to the maneuverings of Mr. Duke..

With fair trade now just a memory in the tobacco business, Mr. Duke soon put a halt to the issuance of insert and premium cards with tobacco products produced by the trust. Some smaller manufacturers persevered, but the first era of baseball cards was over, lasting only four years. While not active in the insert market any more, Mr. Duke still kept busy: in 1898 he formed the Continental Tobacco Company, which produced cut plug tobacco and brought P.H. Mayo & Brother into the fold, and shortly after the turn of the century he created the American Cigar Company.

Naturally, the government took a dim view of these monopolistic adventures, despite previous encouragement to the contrary and in 1907 sued to dissolve the trust. Three years and several appeals courts later, the government finally won out and in a fitting bit of inspiration appointed Mr. Duke to dismantle his own empire. (Actually, this was done all the time. Just ask John Rockefeller.) You may recognize this time period; it's when baseball cards reappeared in cigarette packs (amazing what a little competition will do, eh?), although I'm not positive that the decision against the Trust exactly coincided with this development. I'm also not sure when the name American Tobacco Company was no longer used, it seems that it lingered on at least until 1919. It underwent a name change and still exists today under the name of Standard Brands, although it is now owned by a British consortium. From 1909 to 1913 baseball (and other) cards were all the rage and the first true collecting craze was born.

Like all good things (attention star card investors) this had to end. In 1913 Camel cigarettes appeared on the scene, with the announcement that they did not have inserts or premiums due to the high cost of the tobacco contained therein. Well, you don't need to tell businessmen how to save money when something like this happens and within a year or so the tobacco card era was all but over. There were a few smaller companies that continued to produce cards until 1916, but World War One probably killed off any hope of a resurgence in the insert card market beyond that. Tobacco issues appeared sporadically after that and it wasn't until 1952, when Red Man issued the first of four sets, that any concerted effort was made to sell tobacco by putting baseball cards in the package. Red Man is still around today, but they haven't issued cards in forty years.

A great many tobacco cards were issued, some promoting obscure manufacturers in geographically remote areas. Still, they were produced three quarters of a century ago, some in very limited quantities for a US. population much smaller than today's and are sought after avidly by advanced collectors, which means that assembling a complete tobacco type set is almost (99 and 44/100ths) impossible. Still, a majority of these cards can be found, even today and they are well worth seeking out.

The American Tobacco Company was responsible for most of the production of tobacco cards. My own theory is that they produced the fronts at little or no charge and provided them to the various manufacturers to be matched with the individual backs, or printed the entire card for those manufacturers who did not have access to printing facilities. It is the backs that present the most serious challenge to the type set collector..



The obvious place to begin is with T-206. First issued in mid-season 1909 they were marketed at least through the early part of the 1911 season. Due to almost two full years of distribution and high consumer interest, they generally exist in greater amounts than other tobacco issues and their popularity ensures some availability. Your best bet for tracking down these cards is by attending a large show or in scouring SCD. Sixteen different brands can be found on the backs and if you factor in the factory, color and series designations (as I have done) there are thirty-three possible combinations to collect (thirty-four if you count the blank backs, which some people don't). Twenty-five of these can be obtained with some diligence and three others are seen at least occasionally. Blank Backs are probably somewhere in the middle in terms of scarcity, but that's a guess on my part. There's also a red backed Hindu variety that is supposedly very scarce, but I have not listed it as I feel it is only a variation in the normal brown color pigmentation. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the Drum, Lenox, Uzit and one Piedmont variety (especially the Drum) varieties are like finding a clean bathroom in New York City--forget about it! These are really tough.. The really bad news is that the Ty Cobb back belongs to the rarest card in the T-206 spectrum. If my math is correct, there are only six known Cobbs with Cobb backs at present, making it ten times as scarce as the Wagner card. and nice examples fetch in the mid-five figures. That my friends, is the definition of an impossible card!

Want to make collecting T-206's easier? Ignore the factory designations. They really are insignificant. If you don't believe me, check out my article on factory backs in a future issue. Just going after the back/series combinations should be enough to drive you crazy anyway. Not counting the Blank Backs, there are twenty six different back/series combinations and the problems enumerated above obviously exist in collecting T-206's in this manner as well.

If you want my advice, just go for the different backs. That's the real meat of T-206; the series and factory designations are only minor variations. And it's a lot cheaper this way too. Whatever approach you take will be hard enough, but the beauty and difficulty of T-206 make it a worthwhile endeavor so long as you don't go after the Cobb with Cobb back!


Around the time T-206's were appearing the Ramly company issued their own series of baseball cards. Probably inspired by the success of T-206, these ornate, almost square cards present quite a challenge to type set collectors. The regular Ramly card is easy enough to find but two variations exist in small enough quantities to vex even the most persevering soul: A T.T.T. back which is scarce and a "Square" design front, which you might as well forget about. The square design is blank backed.


1910 brought us Turkey Reds; gorgeous, oversized cards that were premiums obtained by redeeming cigarette coupons. These cards are truly breathtaking and one should be included in every collection, whether you collect type cards or not. Boxer's and baseball player's photos are framed on a large card featuring vivid backgrounds with subtle, pastel colored shading, which are filled with extraordinary detail. There are four different back varieties available: Checklist(1-75), Checklist (1-76), Checklist (1-76, no address) and one with a Turkey Red advertisement.


In 1911 another major issue was released by the American Tobacco Company: the Gold Border series. Like T-206 there are a large number of back varieties available, but the three frontal designs are so different from one another that they could almost be viewed as subsets of T-205. There are fronts for National Leaguers (austere portraits), American Leaguers (with a crossed bat frame) and Minor Leaguers (arched frame) which are the hardest to come by. Minor Leaguers have been reported with two backs only, Hassan and Polar Bear.

The seventeen different backs (counting factory designations and color variations-there are eleven different brands) present the biggest challenge to the persevering type set collector. Like T-206, The Piedmont and Sweet Caporal backs are the easiest, followed by four brands which moderately tough. Cycle and American Beauty follow and the Hindu, Broadleaf and Drum backs top the list of toughies. I don't know what it is with Drum, they must have made foul tasting cigarettes or something!


Buoyed by the success of the above issues, the American Tobacco Trust created some bold new designs for 1912 and it can be argued that the functionality of the tobacco card was overtaken at this time by aesthetics. The Mecca Double Folders series consists of fifty gorgeous color cards that could be folded over to show 100 different players. From a type set standpoint, the only variation is in the factory line.


1912 was also the year Hassan Triple Folders appeared on the market. A black and white center panel was flanked by two cards that closely resemble T-205's, sans gold border. American League players are still contained within the crossed bat motif though and there are no minor leaguers represented. Like T-201, the only variation is in the factory line, but the different factories produced cards with different colored backs. I have also included a listing for the end piece as they are sometimes encountered separated from the center panel. An end piece by itself should not be considered a true type card.


There was another major set issued in 1912:- T-207, commonly referred to as Brown Backgrounds. Six different backs, with two have factory number variations make collecting T-207 seem like a breeze when compared to-205 or T-206, but the cards seem to be tougher to come by. In order of scarcity the variations are: Anonymous, factory 3; Recruit-both factories (reasonable, but tougher than examples from the major tobacco sets); Anonymous- factory 25 Broadleaf, Cycle, Napoleon Little Cigars (more rarefied air, here)and Red Cross (I don't think so, folks).


The last of the major tobacco issues are the Fatima Team Cards of 1913. The regular issue is a large photograph of one of the sixteen major league teams and they are not easy to find. There is also a very large premium issue for each team which are rarely, if ever, seen are truly five figure items. I wish you good luck in trying to obtain either one, although there does seem to be a mini-flood of the smaller variety in circulation now.



We now come to the minor tobacco issues and if you are faint of heart I would not recommend reading any further. Assembling a type set of these cards may well be an impossible task and anybody who can come up with even half of them is a truly intrepid soul. None of the cards that are described here are easy and some are just about extinct Some cards were never issued in the Northeast and others appeared only in the California area at a time when the wild tales of the Barbary Coast were still being spun. Onward, onward...


These are premium cards issued by the Pinkerton Tobacco Company and were obtained by redeeming coupons found in packages of Red Man Tobacco. Essentially these are the first Red Man cards, predating their more well known descendants by forty years or so. There are three types of T-5: a true "cabinet", which is the hardest Pinkerton variety to come by, a "paper mount" cabinet and smaller premiums, called "Pinkerton Photos" issued after the larger cabinets debuted in 1911. These last two are somewhat easier to locate than the true cabinet variety.


This set was produced by both Mayo's Cut Plug and Winner Cut Plug and consists of comic designs and text. T-203 is included here only for the sake of completeness due to its inclusion in the American Card Catalog and both designs are seen occasionally, although interest is minimal..


The 1911 Fireside, or more accurately Cullivan's Fireside, set depicts members of the Philadelphia Athletics, who won the 1910 World Series. They are very beautiful and rare and you should consider yourself lucky if you find a nice specimen. Examples are found with Nadja and blank backs, but they are considered to be E cards, which stands for cards issued with candy products in the 'Teens and Twenties.


Like Bowman's 1953 issue, the Contentnea set of 1910 came in both color and black & white. Unlike the Bowman's, the color varieties are the hardest to find Tracking down either type of these cards depicting minor leaguers is a challenge, however the color cards are, as you might have guessed from the rapier-like segue above, more difficult than the black & white ones. The color cards are significantly more expensive to boot, so there!.


Due to the fact that this is the largest American tobacco set ever issued, these 1910 Old Mill minor league cards can still be found with some ease today, although their red border is susceptible to damage much like 1971 Topps cards. Issued in eight series, cards from the third series can also be found with orange fronts, which probably was due to a lack of red pigmentation during printing. These are listed here as the variation occurs on the front of the card unlike the red back Hindu's found in T-206. Both varieties are fairly easy to come by in off-condition, but NM specimens will set you back quite a bit.


A sister set to T-210, all of the subjects can be found in the Old Mill set. This time, the cards have green borders, with an ornate Red Sun advertisement on the reverse. I feel that these cards are better looking than T-210 due to their glossy finish and the fact that green seems a more natural color for a baseball card than red. These cards are moderately difficult, but uncracked specimens (the gloss is beautiful, but also makes the cards fragile) are truly scarce.


Issued around the same time as T-206, these Obak cards show players active in two big West Coast leagues during the first decade of this century. Like T-206, this is a comprehensive set, with different backs for each of the three years of issue. 1909 backs have a stylized Obak logo and may come with or without a frame. These are the toughest ones to find. In 1910 two different backs were used, one advertising 150 subjects and one with 175 subjects. There are also differences in the reverse text on all 1910 Obaks and Lew Lipset reports 35 varieties are known. Assuming that each text variety was available on both 150 and 175 Subject cards, there are 70 different Obak backs (try saying that fast) available from 1910. I have not listed these variations in the interest of sanity, but if you are crazy enough to go after all 70 backs, more power to you.. The 1911 issue has backs with statistics and are about as plentiful as the 1910 variety. Unlike some of the other minor league T sets, Obaks can be found with only moderate difficulty. An album was also issued in 1910 and is presumably scarce.


This is an Obak premium issued in 1911 and it is extremely hard to find one of these at a reasonable price, if you can even find one at all. They are attractive though, picturing the player in an oval set against a solid color frame and like most premiums, are significantly larger than the regular issue cards. These are truly, truly scarce.


Coupon Cigarettes actually issued cards sporadically from 1910 until 1919. At one time the 1910/11 cards, were thought to be part of T-206, but further research has revealed this is not the case. The 1910/11 Coupon cards are dead ringers for T-206, although they seem to be printed on heavy paper, not cardboard. The backs advertise Coupon (Mild) Cigarettes. Due to the paper medium, nice cards are hard to find.

The next time Coupon got around to issuing cards was 1914 and they included players from the Federal League. Issued into 1916, the backs indicate 20 for 5 cents, which seems to be an excellent deal on cigarettes, or baseball cards for that matter..

The last series of Coupons appeared in 1919 and the war apparently had an impact on the cost of cigarettes as the backs now display 16 for 10 CTS. Talk about inflation! There is a minor back variation and 1919 cards either show Factory No. 3, or Factory No. 8, which is an overprint. Like the 1914 issue, a little bit easier to find than the 1910 version.


Another scarce minor league issue, T-214's were produced by Victory Tobacco and also resemble T-206. These cards are almost impossible to track down and should you be able to snag one, consider yourself lucky.


Red Cross Tobacco produced these cards between 1910 and 1912 and they too bear a strong resemblance to T-206. Brown captioned cards were available first and are referred to as Type 1 varieties. Type 2 varieties have blue captions and both types are somewhat difficult to come by. I have listed T-215's with Pirate backs below in order to avoid confusion, but they were produced in London, possibly for overseas servicemen, and probably fall out of the scope of this article. They are almost impossible to find in this country, but they look really cool..


T-216 is a somewhat more complex issue than most minor league T card sets. They were issued by the People's Tobacco Company of New Orleans and are not encountered with any great frequency. Six back varieties make collecting T-216 type cards a challenge. The backs are as follows: Kotton Extra Mild, Kotton Mild and Sweet, and Kotton Never Go Out (fairly tough); a paper variety of Kotton Never Go Out (difficult due to condition scarcity), Mino (tough) and Virginia Extra (wow!). Good luck with any of these varieties as none are seen with any regularity.


It seems to me that the deeper you get into the T card jungle, the scarcer the cards get, and these cards, issued by Mono are no exception. Featuring PCL players and issued in 1911, these black & white cards might be the rarest of the minor league T cards. I have only seen one of these cards at a show and have never spotted one in an SCD ad, although I don't scan the ads as diligently as I once did. In your dreams, people...


Back to the major leagues here. These oversized cards, produced by Liggett & Myers in 1914 under the Fatima brand name are actually photographs mounted on paper. Due to their size, the portraits are excellent and you can really see what the uniforms looked like back then. While not easy to find, T-222's are out there.


One of the nicest looking T card issues, T-227 is a multisport issue, with only four baseball players depicted. These cards are larger than most tobacco cards, but not as large as T-222. As all of the baseball subjects are Hall of Famers, it will cost you a bit to obtain a type card from this set. Both the Honest Long Cut and Miners Extra varieties cards are equally difficult.



Red Man Tobacco issued baseball cards for four different years in the mid 1950's as the fourth era of Twentieth Century issues was cresting (For the record, Era 1 is the tobacco card issues, Era 2 the second wave of E card issues, Era 3 brought us gum cards starting in 1933 and Era 4 covers the post World War Two years through 1963. Era 5 covers 1964 (post Topps-Fleer Lawsuit, version one) to 1980 and Era 6 the years 1981 to 1992 (from boom to bust, as it were). We are now at the beginning of Era 7 and seeing a consolidation of the market with a return to somewhat more sensible ideals. Each era covers mass produced sets with national distribution, or at least distribution in the existing major league markets up until 1948. N cards were never really issued on such a full scale, but I would designate them as Era 0 if I had to. Each era seemed to be lasting longer than the previous one, but Era 6 bucked that trend, since the market imploded well before twenty years had passed.

Anyway, Red Man first produced cards in 1952 (T-232) and ended their four year run in 1955 (T-235). You can figure out the other ACC designations yourself, OK? The cards themselves are fairly attractive, being large, painted portraits of (mostly) famous players of the day, with a box of text on the front. There are ads on the back, extolling products which could be exchanged for tabs on the bottom of the cards. Without the tabs it is difficult to determine which year certain players were issued and the card must have a tab to be considered complete. Cards without tabs are encountered even at small shows, but it is not the easiest thing to find a nice condition card with the tab still intact, thus your task is that much more difficult should you elect to look for complete cards (and you should). Even with tabs, Red Man's are the easiest tobacco cards to locate and they are certainly the least expensive.


Compared to cards in other ACC designations, there are not too many un-cataloged T cards. Now I realize that the ACC is no longer published and technically everything issued since Buck Barker stopped putting out his update lists falls into this category, but I'm really talking about cards that were unknown to Jefferson Burdick, or at least those that were ignored by him (although he didn't seem to ignore ANYTHING). I have been able to come up with a short list of un-cataloged tobacco cards. Since tobacco cards are widely collected and checklisted, I don't expect that there will be too many more additions to this list. Oh, a couple of back varieties will probably turn up somewhere down the pike, but I'm fairly confident I've got them all (of course, if I had a copy of the World Tobacco Index I could really be sure).


These are really postcards, but what the hey, I've stuck 'em here. They are not to easy to find, but not too hard either and there isn't all that much more to say about these cards.


Not a whole lot to go on here. They are standard tobacco card size, but little is known about these cards. I've never seen one, but Lipset saw fit to mention them, so I've included them here. A reasonable guess is that they are a little bit tougher to find than the Charles Denby cards. I've got the issue date as 1909, but I'm not real confident about that.


Produced in Cuba, these cards were issued in 1924 by Cia Cigarrera Diaz and at one time thought to feature only major league pitchers, but I believe some position players have now turned up. They are included here because the last time I checked, Cuba was still part of Latin America. I don't expect you'll be able to find one of these too easily.


More properly classified as an E-98 with an Old Put overprint on the back, I've listed it here, rather than with the E cards, for no good reason at all. Well, that's not true. It's very possible they were inserted into packs of Old Put Cigars and that would make it a legitimate tobacco issue. Can't really say how difficult they are. I don't think they are truly scarce, but interest is not all that great so finding them might be the real challenge. The date is based on E-98's issuance, which, as you can see in the checklist, I've been real accurate with (Hey, there's a reason these cards are un-cataloged--nobody knows nothing' about them!).


I saw an ad for these recently in SCD (for a Mantle), but it only mentioned they were premiums issued in 1965. That makes them the most recent tobacco cards, but the way things are going I don't think they will be the last (I mean that, by the way. It's only a matter of time before somebody sticks cards in a pack of cigarettes again, unless this whole Joe Camel flap airs out). Recently issued, but I've never seen one and I look for things like this.


These are more commonly referred to as Plowboys and to make my (and your) life miserable, there are four varieties (maybe) to collect. All Plowboys feature Cubs or White Sox players and I've listed a specimen for each team in the checklist as the White Sox cards may have been issued after the Cubs. Two different backs exist, one with a detailed listing of what could be obtained by sending in coupons to Spaulding & Merrick and one without the list. It's very possible that one back goes with the Cubs and the other with the White Sox, giving us only two varieties of these large premium cards. They are more difficult to find than some of the other un-cataloged tobacco cards and you can expect to fork over some bucks should you track one down.


Are they M cards or are they T cards? Both? The cards were produced by a Minneapolis newspaper, but Worch Cigar may have issued them as premiums, even though they are not mentioned on the card at all. They are not all that hard to come by. More research is definitely needed on the relationship of Worch Cigar and the Minneapolis Star.


Like any large designation in the ACC, there are a few oddball issues associated with T cards. One of them, is the rarest card known (only one real example exists, plus one photocopy of an example) but the others are all stamps, which are seen with some regularity. I'll save the mystery about the world's rarest card until the end.


These are called Piedmont Art Stamps and they resemble T-205's. I've listed three varieties below, representing different obverse designs for each of the leagues in existence in 1914, when these were issued. Given that they are seen in SCD ads about once a month, you should be able to get hold of a nice example with little effort. An album for the stamps might exist, as there is an ad for one on the reverse, but I've never seen mention of it anywhere else.


These too are stamps, but they were issued by Helmar in 1911. There are a number of different obverse designs, but as no apparent order is utilized, I have only provided a listing for a generic specimen. These stamps are also seen fairly often and seem as plentiful as the Piedmont Art Stamps.


This is one mysterious issue and for years the only evidence of its existence was a photocopy of one card , although Lipset reports it was known before the first edition of the ACC . I would guess the photocopy dates from 1960 or so (photocopies before then were like photographic negatives, white on black). The "card" shows Carson Bigbee and there are stats on the back for the 1918 through 1921 seasons, making this a 1922 issue, together with a space for someone to write in their name and address and vote for their favorite player. Then, some 70 years after the set was issued, a card of Frank Baker was found, causing quite a commotion in the hobby. To date, I have not read or heard of any more discoveries in this set. Why the scarcity? Perhaps Fan held a contest and picked one or two lucky winners from the entries they received. If the prize was fantastic enough that might account for the fact hardly anybody's ever seen one of these suckers. A number of articles have appeared throughout the years concerning this card, which are basically just rehashes of what you have read above. Obviously, this is one tough card. Any information on this card or set would be appreciated.

While I was in the midst of compiling the type set checklist I grew fascinated with the little tag lines showing factories, disctricts and states and set out to categorize them. Almost every tobacco issue contains this information, including Silks and Stamps, one catalog, a premium listing and an envelope. Ten states, twenty four factories and thirteen different districts are known and if you set out to collect every back/factory combination you would have to track down at least 112 of them, not including a catalog, premium sheet and packaging envelope. I say "at least" because thereare a few that I could not determine. There are also some issues with no designations. Since most of these could be considered oddball issues, such as pins, leathers and premiums, I suspect that most, if not all, of the cards without factory designations were sub-contracted out by the American Tobacco Trust.

The factory checklist shows all of the combinations, arranged by factory and district within each state. It also includews some peripheral issues like pins not found in the regular checklist. Most of my information was obtained by squinting at photographs in Ron Erbe's American Premium Guide to Baseball Cards (an invaluable tome, long out of print), The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards and Volume 3 of Lew Lipset's Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards. The Lipset book was the one I referred to most often.

The T-212 Obaks were all printed at the same factory in California, which is no surprise as the cards feature players from the somewhat obscure Northwest League and the better known Pacific Coast League. As you can see, the first district's factory number 171 was the only one located in the Golden State. An Obak premium, issued in 1911, does not have a factory designation.

The Louisiana issues are a little more varied. While the state was not divided into districts, four factories produced cards there: 3, 4, 8 and 11. (The "Anonymous" T-207 does not have a company displayed on the back.) Apparently most of the cards printed in Louisiana were meant for distribution in the South and Lew Lipset even refers to T-213, T-214, T-215 and T-216 as "Louisiana issues." Interestingly enough, the T-215 Red Cross cards were printed in New Jersey. There are also the T-215's sporting "Pirate" backs. These were issued by a British company and do not have a factory designation. The T-213 Type 3 Coupon's have an overprinted back, most probably the blocked out factory is number 3.

T-204's were only produced in Massachusetts. It should be noted that the T.T.T. backs are very scarce. Factories in Maryland printed the T-227 Series of Champions (Miner's Extra back) and T-207 Recruits. The New York factory printed the Honest Long Cut T-227's.

North Carolina's District 4 had three factories printing cards, including number 33, which produced the ultra-rare Ty Cobb's. Factory number 12's Contentnea production was limited to the black & white variety. The color versions of the cards have no factory shown. Factory number 42 printed two unusual issues: the T-222 Fatima's, which are larger than most tobacco cards, and the rather esoteric Piedmont Art Stamps.

As mentioned before, Factory number 10 in New Jersey produced the T-215 Red Cross cards and also the T-207 Red Cross variety.

Compared to New Jersey, New York's output was positively prodigious. Five factories in four different districts produced cards in the Empire State, which is exceeded only by Virginia, located in the heart of tobacco country. Two unique issues, the T-201 Mecca Double Folders and T-202 Hassan Triple Folders were produced in New York, as was the Turkish Trophies Gift Slip, produced by Helmar. Both T-201 and T-202 were printed at Factory 30, 2nd District and Factory 649, 1st District. Lipset's Encyclopedia mentions that T-202's with red printed backs were only produced at Factory number 30 and those with black print only at factory number 649. Factory 60 apparently printed the Honest Long Cut cards and the very rare T-208 Fireside's were the only issue produced at factory 141.

Lipset (again) indicates that the pictures in the Fireside series are identical to the D-359 Rochester Baking issue, which leads me to believe that factory 141 (and District 21) were located in upstate New York. I would surmise that District 2 (factories 30 & 60) was located in Manhattan and District 1 (factory 649) in Brooklyn. Factory number 7 (District 3) may have been located in Manhattan as well, despite the District 3 designation. The only factory 7 products were the S-74 Silks and the Helmar Stamps envelope, two specialized items. I have placed District 2 in Manhattan because more backs were produced there; it could very well have been in Brooklyn, with District 1 representing Manhattan. At any rate, the New York metropolitan area is the most probable geographical location for Districts 1, 2 and 3, since the Double and Triple Folders are somewhat more technologically advanced than the other issues of the era, as are the Silks and the Helmar envelope. It would stand to reason that a major industrial area is responsible for these issues, due to their unique designs.

Ohio produced the T-205 and T-206 cards with Polar Bear backs and also the T-205 Pinkerton catalog. The catalog was produced in a different district than the Polar Bear cards, which leads me to believe that some of the issues with no factory designations may have been produced in Ohio's 10th District. At the very least, the T-5 Pinkertons's might have been manufactured there.

Pennsylvania produced only the Recruit and Napoleon T-207 varieties. Recruits were also printed in Maryland, which is situated very close to Pennsylvania.

Virginia, as mentioned before, produced the greatest variety of tobacco cards, including two varieties of Old Mill Silks. The state's 2nd District housed three factories, with factory 25 producing the majority of issues. Factory 81, which produced the incredibly rare T-231 Fan (Lipset reported only one known example, although another has since been found), does not have a District designation, perhaps it was made in the 1st District. In fact, factories 17 and 42, both in the 2nd District, produced only one issue each.

That leaves us with the "orphans", those cards showing no factory designation. Those cards issued with Cigars are in this category, as are the B-18 Blankets, C-46 Imperial Tobacco (Canada's only tobacco issue), H-801 Old Mill's, L-1 Leathers, P-2 Sweet Caporal Pins and PX-2 Domino Discs. Large Size cards (T-3, T-4, T-5, Plowboys) also fit in here as do the Cuban-issued Diaz cards. The "Unknown" cards are also rather esoteric. The S-81 Turkey Red Silks and Helmar Stamps may have been produced with a New York designation, while the Derby and Worch Cigar cards probably have no designation.

The question now is, why have factory designations on the back of these cards? I believe the majority of fronts were printed in two or three central locations and the shipped to the local factory for printing, cutting and distribution. For a time I thought that the designations indicated solely what factory the cards (and, hence, the cigarettes) were distributed from. This would explain the overprinted designations, but not the issues without factory lines. I am now of the opinion that the factories printed their own backs, which may have served to ensure some sort of quality control. In some instances they may have indicated the distribution point instead. The one thing that led me to this conclusion was the existence of the overprinted backs.

Why bother overprinting a previous designation unless there was good reason? Surely, if the intent were to only show the card's factory of origin, the expense of overprinting would be frivolous, to say the least. However, if the intent was to provide a way to track distribution, the overprints are justifiable. With so many brands and different card issues there must have been dozens of warehouses and distribution centers for the cigarettes. If a certain location was not producing cards of a high enough quality, then using the designations would help identify the offending factory, but I doubt print quality was really a factor. Cards with no designations might have been sub-contracted out.

A now, a final note of interest regarding the world's most famous baseball card. The notion that Honus Wagner objected to his picture appearing in T-206 because of his aversion to tobacco is preposterous. Wagner was known to enjoy a chew every now and then and there is also the matter of his appearing in ads for the T-206 cards. On the cover of Lipset's Encyclopedia there is an advertisement for the cards, which appeared in the September 4, 1909 issue of Sporting Life, which prominently features a crude, but recognizable, drawing of the Wagner card. Based on this I suspect that Wagner's motivation may have been a bit more mercenary than previously assumed.

I have heard (and generally believed) that Wagner had his card pulled when the American Tobacco Trust refused to pay him for the use of his portrait. Now if that's the case, why on earth would they use his card in an advertisement placed in a publication that Wagner himself would almost surely see? The other nine cards shown in the ad feature some fading stars, some decent players and a couple of real stiffs. Upon seeing himself surrounded by all this meager talent, I would not be at all surprised if Wagner demanded additional recompense, either for appearing in the ad or for being a star of such great magnitude. I would also not be greatly surprised if the American Tobacco Trust told him to get lost. He appears in no other tobacco issues, except for the T-200 Fatima team pictures, which he probably had no control over. The Wagner card appears in only the 150 series of T-206, issued in 1909. The card was almost certainly pulled after September 4, 1909, which means the 150 series may have been issued during the off season (explaining why the Wagner is rarer than the other 150 series cards). The Wagner does not appear in the 350 series, which repeats many of the 150 series subjects and was probably issued in 1910.

The story behind Wagner's alleged distaste for tobacco could even have been started by the American Tobacco Trust in 1910, in response to inquiries as to why the Wagner could not be found anymore. At any rate, the next time some "hobby expert" starts spouting off the anti-tobacco theory, please tell him he is wrong.

O B C :   A   T r a d i t i o n   o f   E x c e l l e n c e   S i n c e   1 9 9 1

Old Baseball Cards (OBC), copyright© 1991 - by OBC.
Unauthorized use of the material contained on this page is strictly prohibited.
This page was last updated on