Vintage NON-sport cards subject pictorial and history series.

Taliasen

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An introduction:

First a little background about me and why I collect. I have been a die-hard baseball card collector for over 30 years. My favorite players are Rickey Henderson and Sean Casey. As affordable, in my range, cards of these two players became less and less available I wanted to put my passion and energy into another subject that would yield more new cards in my mailbox on a regular basis. I am also part wolf. No seriously, I have always claimed this LONG before it was "cool" to say so. Tattoos and legit spirit animal aside, I figured that there must be a way to connect my hobby and wolves.

I knew of non-sport animal cards but I did not know much, nor was there a great deal of information available beyond a very limited number of popular sets. Many in this hobby are familiar with the "holy grail" of cards, the T206 Honus Wagner. As monumental as that card is though, many less collectors know less about "tobacco" cards in general.

In the mid to late 1800's, arguably around the same time baseball was invented, smoking and the tobacco industry were big business. I did not care to research statistics on quantity sold or money made, but it must have seemed like there were as many cigarette companies as there were baseball card brands in 2005. You have have heard of names like Piedmont, Polar Bear and Old Mill, and even Phillip-Morris got their start in this era.

During this time, a pack of cigarettes were packed in nothing more than tissue paper. Manufacturers inserted a cardboard, or at least thicker stock paper in the packs to hold them together and in shape. Advertisements were placed on the thicker card stock, then eventually pictures and presto, a tobacco card.

A "tobacco" card is a bit of a misnomer though. Much like when people say they go roller blading, but in fact do not own a pair or brand name Rollerblades. Cards with pictures and advertisements were quite often packed with coffee, tea, of course gum and candy, and even baking soda (as you will see in later posts) just as often as they were in packs of cigarettes.

A quick search on eBay will enlighten you as to the sheer number of different subjects depicted on vintage non-sport cards. of course there were sports figures, and anything and everything from birds, butterflies, fish, planes, trains, boats, foreign castles, flags of countries, actors, military medals, animals, flowers and the list goes on and on. As I went further down the rabbit hole of animal card sets looking for wolves, the sets became increasing more specialized to include wild animals, zoo animals, farm animals, specifically four legged mammals, and predators. A couple of different manufactures stated their product contained an educational piece. They wanted to depict zoo and foreign animals so their customers who live in big cities could read and learn about animals that they might not ever get to see in real life.

I learned some other interesting things about card manufacturing from this era. As many of the sets were regional or at least the manufacturer did not plan on their customers switching brands, companies would sell the images of both the card fronts and backs to a competitor as soon as two years after they were originally used. Only small changes had to be made to the cards like changing logos and the brand/company name. As cards inserted into products was gaining in popularity and everyone wanted to jump on the band wagon quickly. It was often quicker and cheaper to buy images from a competitor then commission an artist to create a whole new set. We will see multiple examples of cards that are virtually identical save for some minor details in later posts. Another interesting detail is that a lot of the early NON-sport card sets were produced overseas including countries all over Europe, Australia, and even Canada. At least early on, a lot of the bigger sports themed sets were made in the USA. This actually makes sense. In 1910 how often would people from England, let alone America, see German Castles? Or a farmhand, who never would go to a zoo in a big city, see lions and elephants? A common theme that will appear here in several cards, and is the subject material for several sets period, are Aesop's fables. This is probably partly due to the fact that not much was known about wolves then and they were seen as mean or evil that lessons and human characteristics could be learned form all animals.

This led me to decide what I would collect for my wolf card collection. I decided to collect cards that were numbered or listed as part of a set, (no postcards or lithographs) had to have at least part of the card identifying text in English, (a requirement to be graded by PSA) and be strictly about or depict wolves. I did not include cards about the Shepard boy who cried wolf. I actually have wolf cards up to and including 2019 issues. For purposes of this series though, I consider (and will only post) "vintage" cards to be up to WWII, 1945.
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Taliasen

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1887 J10 CHURCH AND CO. INTERESTING ANIMALS GREY WOLF and
1898 JOHN DWIGHT & CO. INTERESTING ANIMALS GREY WOLF

Not only is the 1887 card the oldest I own, this happens to be an example of a vintage card that is NOT a tobacco card and is also an example of where the image was sold to a competitor and "re-issued" (in this example) 11 years later.

Both of these cards were distributed in packages of baking soda. The "Arm & Hammer" was distributed nationally. Keep in mind however, that there were only 33 states in the union in 1887! The Dwight's soda was more of a regional distribution focused in the northeast. There were several different 'series' of cards produced by Arm & Hammer and "re-issued" in later years under a different brand. Subjects include birds (including separate series for song birds, useful birds of America and birds of Prey) Fishes, interesting animals and Mother Goose stories. There are SEVERAL different variations of individual cards across all of the series. This is partly due to the fact that there were different locations the cards (even in the same set and year) were printed. Many of the variations are specific words and phrases in the text. The card backs all have the brand name of the specific soda highlighted and all claim that theirs is the best. The font of the brand names on the card backs is bigger and bold. Almost like they were indicating where to swap out a different brand name. Other common text variations on the card backs include "cost of postage" vs "Cost of postage and packaging," and "three (or printed 3) 2-cent stamps," vs "six (or printed 6) 2-cent stamps."

The 1887 "Arm & Hammer" card obviously has a big crease across the middle and tape across the back. The brand logos are different in the upper right corner of the card fronts and the branding text is different on the backs. I find it interesting that 2/3 of the card back is dedicated to the branding and promotion of the soda and only 1/3 speaks the the subject pictured.

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1888 N25 ALLEN & GINTER WILD ANIMALS OF THE WORLD WOLF
1910 E29 PHILADELPHIA CARAMEL-WOLF

Some interesting points about this pair of cards. The first card is an example of a traditional "tobacco" card. This is also the largest span I have between when the image was reproduced, 22 years.

The A&G card is from one of the relatively few, popular non-sport card sets of the era. This is in part due to the brand popularity and because it was so widely produced. Original pre-1900 A&G cards are regularly available on eBay. Condition pending of course, some non-sport subjects can be kind of pricey. Several copies of the N25 card have been graded as there are a handful of collectors completing the set. This again speaks to the popularity of the cards.

The Philadelphia Caramel card is far more scare, but not necessarily more valuable. It was released as a VERY regional issue and a much smaller production run, packaged with caramels, in and around the Philadelphia area. There is obvious paper loss on the back of my issue. This is from being mounted in and then removed from a binder. This set can be considered condition sensitive though as many cards were stained and even ruined as they were packaged actually touching the candy. Try peeling a thin card away form a sticky candy in the summer heat with both the candy being edible (no torn off paper bits) and the card remaining in decent condition. Note the color is brighter on the A&G despite being 22 years older.

Major differences on the card backs include logo changes, font, print size and card numbering in the case of the Caramel card.

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1890 N21 ALLEN AND GINTER QUADRUPEDS
1911 E28 PHILADELPHIA CARAMEL ZOO CARDS WOLF

This pair has basically the same information as the pair above. Again A&G sold the rights to the images to the Philadelphia Caramel company, only this time 21 years later. All of the rest of the information is basically the same. The national vs. regional distribution, the popularity of the A&G set as collectors are grading several cards though PSA to compile the set. Again, just like above, I have the only known graded copy of the Philadelphia Caramel Zoo card. Even the condition problems are the same as noted above.

While the fronts are again identical, major differences appear on the card backs. In addition to font type and size differences, the A&G has more intricate logo and branding. This makes the zoo card back look almost plain to me. In a further attempt to differentiate the cards form the A&G issue, the zoo cards switch around the order of the order of the cards (at least the checklist) the A&G is alphabetical starting with Antelope and Armadillo while the zoo card starts with Leopard and Black Bear. All of the subjects and set size are the same though, just listed in a different order on the zoo card. There is obvious paper loss on the back of my A&G issue.

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1890 N216 KINNEY BROTHERS ANIMALS WOLF

In addition to the A&G cards, this is another pretty popular true tobacco card. There are several N216 cards graded by PSA. Completed auctions in the past couple years also attest to the sets popularity. A "near complete" set of 23/25 cards sold for $240, a complete ungraded set sold for over $500, and a complete 25 card set graded by SGC sold of over $830!

The sets popularity comes in part from the small set size, (easy to collect and complete), the detail of the pictures and the use of color. This is one of the first sets to have full color card fronts.

Similar to other cards of the era, the back simply contains the list of card subjects, (cards were not numbered) and basic branding of the cigarettes they were packaged in. Except for just a couple of examples, one is pictured above, information and details about the subjects pictured really did not appear on card backs for another 20 years!

While there is no paper loss from being mounted and removed from a binder with my wolf card, the biggest reason why my card was graded a 3 is all four corners are soft and rounded.

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Now for something a little different and yet pretty special to me.

1910 Imperial Tobacco Company (ITC) Silk - National Animals and Flags - Siberia, Wolf

OK, so not a true "card," but silks were issued in packs of cigarettes, had lots of different sets with pictorial subjects to attract and hook collectors, and were a branded/marketing/PR ploy. Silk 'cards' were produced between 1908 and 1912. Silk cards are all blank back so there is usually no copyright or printing date on them anywhere. Most collectors who collect silk cards usually identify them as 'circa 1910' or just straight 1910 issues. Both the American Tobacco Company (ATC) and International Tobacco Company (ITC) produced several sets during this time. These companies were kind of related and shared similar design and printing elements. Think how like a Lincoln Navigator and Mercury Mountaineer are both Ford and basically just swap logos and branding. A lot of silk cards were all a standard size of approximately 2.5"X3.5" but there are many different sized examples. Sometimes even the same set of subject just in a larger size. This is especially true for the flag sets. Set subjects include animals, birds, butterflies, fruits, flowers, state flags, national flags, world military medals and honors, world leaders and rulers, US presidents, sports figures, baseball players, actresses, Indian chiefs and even pin-up style girls in bathing suits. Zira cigarettes were identified on a few sets but this was still under the ITC umbrella. Just like Bowman is still a Topps brand. PSA does not grade silks because they are not really a card. I mean, how do you judge the corner sharpness of a piece of fabric? Despite this, silks remain relatively popular among pre-war tobacco card collectors, nostalgia buffs and vintage set collectors. The artwork and coloring, especially for being printed on fabric over 100 years ago, retain a lot of eye appeal. This is one of my favorite wolf cards.

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1910 T57 Fable Series "Turkish Trophies"

These were cards that I debated for a while if I should even consider and include them in my "wolf" set. You can read why a "wolf" set in post #1 and see that my including these cards in the set almost contradicts the the rules and guidelines that I said need to be met. These do NOT depict 'just' a wolf nor do they include statistics or a factoid about wolves. They are essentially a pictorial representation of an Aesop fable. Ultimately I did decide to include them in my set though are they represent both a culturally and historically significant period of time in the hobby.

From Roughly 1886-1909 there were effectively NO cigarette cards set that were produced. During this time there were several industrialists that created massive "trusts." Which subsequently brought about the anti-trust laws. In order to dominate market share and control entire industries, individuals like John Rockefeller (oil), Andrew Carnegie (steel), and J.P. Morgan (banking) created monopolies buy buying out their competitors. Monopolies also affected the sports world as well with Albert Spalding consolidating early baseball leagues and being their contracted equipment dealer. He set the price for the supply for the demand he created/owned. Also during this time, Tobacco baron James Duke bought several of his competitors and soon had the biggest names in cigarettes at the time, Allen & Ginter, Gimball, Goodwin and Company, and Kinny all under the umbrella of his American Tobacco Company (ATC). With the ATC securing nearly 90% of all tobacco sales in the US there was no need to advertise and lure customers away from your competitors. No cigarette advertising = no cigarette cards.

It was not until 1909 that the federal government started breaking up these major monopolies to protect consumers and ensure fair competition. It ultimately took over four years to break up the ATC. Starting in 1909, Duke started a massive advertising (cigarette card) campaign to shore up consumer's brand loyalty. He wanted to make sure people knew who was the king of cigarettes in the US. He knew he would eventually lose his monopoly and smaller independent firms in New York were starting to import much cheaper Turkish tobacco blend cigarettes. The product was imported and then re-packaged with ad cards by the New York firms. As much a fable and legend itself now as much as it is fact, is the reason for the choice for one of the ad cards in these Turkish imports. It was widely considered that corporate monopolies were all about big money for the wealthy few owners and that because they were greedy and did not want fair competition, were considered swindlers and not having good morals. So, again according to some legend, Turkish Trophies incorporated Aesop's fables not only as a way to market a cheaper product, but also a passive-aggressive way to take the "moral high-ground" over the ATC monopoly.

The T57 card set is one of the most popular vintage non-sport sets out there. The set totals 100 cards issued in two series. The cards are not numbered other than "Fable Series 1-50" or Fable Series 51-100.". The colored drawings were typical of of lithograph printing technology of the time. The gold borders and larger size than standard cigarette cards quickly identified them from other non-sport Aesop fables cards of the era. There are several, some of which will be highlighted in later posts. The gold border is also a bane for anyone wishing to grade the cards. Chipping and layering are two very common issues with the set. There are actually five "wolf" cards that I have in the set. "The Wolf and the Shepard's" is not pictured here.

There are usually a couple hundred examples listed on bay speaking to their popularity among vintage collectors.
 

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