1901 Wills Sports of All Nations Set
‘It’s In The Details’
|Title||Wills Sports of All Nations
|Size||1 3/8″ x 2 5/8″
|Number in Set
Wills Sports of All Nations Overview
Most UK tobacco sports card issues featured sports like football (soccer), tennis, and cricket, among others. A few, though, included American baseball and that was the case with the 1901 Wills Sports of All Nations Set.
Dates have conflicted at times on these. Some sources cite them as a 1900 issue while others say they are from 1901. In any event, they are a very early 20th century tobacco card issue.
The set is a 50-card release that included a variety of games and sports around the world. The cards are a standard tobacco card size for the era and they are colorful. One distinction between this release and others is that these cards are noticeably thicker.
Collectors should also note there are several different types of backs for these cards with different advertisements, as they were distributed in different Wills products. While cards can be found with multiple backs, it may not be yet confirmed that each card can be found with each back. The ones I have seen are identified below but others may exist.
- Wills Best Birds Eye
- Wills Capstan Navy Cut
- Wills Gold Flake
- Wills The Three Castles
- Wills Traveller
- Wills Westward Ho
Of interest to many American collectors is an American baseball card. While generic, the card is impressive, featuring an early 1900s batter and catcher awaiting a pitch. In addition to the baseball card, there are a few others here that will draw some interest from non-UK collectors. Many of the cards feature things that most collectors will not consider athletic sports, such as hunting. But in addition to baseball, there is wrestling, soccer, boxing, golf, tennis, and others.
Most of the sports will be recognizable to American collectors. But several such as coaching, bowls, caber tossing, quoits, and tent pegging, among others, often not be. Many of the cards also depict hunting.
The cards are not impossibly rare but are difficult to find in the U.S.
Generic — Except for W.G. Grace?
All of the athletes pictured in the set are unnamed. And while some may bear resemblances to actual athletes, the set is generally considered to feature all generic subjects.
The lone exception to that, really, is a cricket card that almost certainly pictures the legendary W.G. Grace.
Three cricket cards are included in the set, highlighting their importance. And as Grace was the most famous cricket player in the world, it is no surprise that he is apparently featured, even though he is not named. That he is pictured for England, his own country, makes even more sense.
While not named, the card usually is bought and sold as a Grace card given the stance and the trademark large beard adorned by the legend. The card typically sells for more than the other cricket cards in the set, usually starting around $25-$50 in reasonable low-grade condition.
Wills Sports of All Nations Checklist
Below is a full checklist of the set:
- Lion hunting
- Kangaroo driving
- Pheasant shooting
- Salmon fishing
- Shooting wild fowl
- Tossing the caber
- Tandem Cycling
- Otter hunt
- Football (soccer)
- Field hockey
- Chamois hunt
- Bull fighting
- Kite flying
- Tiger hung
- Tent pegging
- Assegai throwing
- La Pallone
- Pig sticking
- Heads and posts