Decks By The Decade - 1900's
The 20th century opened to a boom of baseball cards. Tobacco and candy companies capitalized on the countries new found love of baseball by featuring these small cards in each pack.
1909 Ramly Cigarettes T204 Walter Johnson: Turkish tobacco hit a peak in the early 1900's in popularity. To capitalize off of this, the Boston-based Mentor Company created the Ramly cigarettes. Ramly was a rip off of the popular Arabian brand name of tobacco called Ramleh. This set featured 121 cards square cards with beautiful gold accent around the card. This set omitted Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Cy Young among others, which is why this set doesn't garner as much attention. However, Walter Johnson was immortalized in the oval border of this card. A PSA 8 estimate of this card could fetch $130,000.
1909 Nadja Caramel E92: The E92 set had the classic look of the white border with the players name and team on the bottom. This set of tobacco cards featured 62 cards with 15 different Hall of Famers. Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, John McGraw highlight this set, but Ty Cobb is the most rare out of the lot. A PSA 9 estimates at $115,000
1909 American Caramel E90: Found in candy packages this set features 120 players, even though the card back claims 100. Sticking with the white border with name and team at the bottom, the E90 featured some great players. You'll find Ty Cobb, Willie Keeler, Christy Mathewson (misspelled Matthewson), Tris Speak and Honus Wagner. The pinnacle of this set is "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. This card is considered Jackson's rookie card. A PSA 8 estimates at $600,000.
T206 - Also known as the "White Border" set, the T206 tobacco card set is by far the most famous and worthy set in the hobby. Much like the above sets, this card is a 2 5/8" tall card with a photo of the player surrounded by a white border with the players name, team, and sometimes league at the bottom of the card. This set featured 524 cards all baseball players with some minor leaguers as well with 16 different backs that included different companies that sold tobacco products. Because of the different backs, there's not a total count of how many cards are actually in this set. All of the greats mentioned above were in this set; Even Ty Cobb ended up with 4 separate cards throughout 1909 to 1911. The cream of the crop of this set and the hobby is Honus Wagner with the "Sweet Caporal" back.
At the creation of the set, Wagner was considered the best player at time. The Pittsburgh shortstop is still considered tops for the position. Although Honus never won an MVP award, he led the league in hitting (OPS, 2B, 3B, RBI, SB, etc.) during the "Dead Ball Era" where pitchers had the upper hand winning eight batting titles in his 21 year career. Wagner performed this well playing in insane pitcher friendly stadiums of the Expo park (reserved for football) and Forbes Field (457' to center field with a 20' tall wall all around the park). This was accounted in his 151 OPS+ for his career.
What makes Wagner's card so rare is that it is believed only 50 to 200 were ever made. There are numerous theories about this from "the printing plate broke", to "copyright issues". The widely accepted theory is that Wagner disagreed with smoking and ask the American Tobacco Trust to take his likeness off of the card. A PSA 5 of the card sold back in 2016 for $3.12 million making it the most valuable sports card in the world.
Next up, the 1910's!