The T227 Champions Set Part I: Where’s the 25th Card?
The T227 Champions set advertised 25 cards but to date, we only know of 24
The T227 set is highly desired by collectors and was a multi-sport issue. One of its largest claims to fame is that, while 25 cards were advertised, only 24 are known. In a two-part series, I’ll discuss the possibility of a 25th card existing and then consider some ideal candidates for that slot.
The T227 Champions set is one of the tougher tobacco issues around. Despite having only 24 cards, its rarity makes completing a set a bit challenging. The cards have both Miners Extra and Honest Long Cut back advertisements as they were issued with products for those tobacco brands.
Measuring approximately 2 1/4″ x 3 3/8″, they are similar in size to today’s baseball cards and were definitely oversized for their time. The set features a variety of stars in different sports and was truly one of the more impressive multi-sport sets of the time. Printed in 1912, they were a full two decades earlier than the popular 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set.
Despite being a small set, the issue is packed with superstars. Baseball players include Ty Cobb, Chief Bender, Home Run Baker, and Rube Marquard. All four players were eventually inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
From the boxing world, heavyweight champion Jack Johnson is featured. And there are also all sorts of standouts from other sports like golf, wrestling, billiards, track and field, and more.
As mentioned, the set has 24 known cards. But the interesting thing is that a total of 25 cards were advertised on the backs. Both the Honest and Miners Extra backs touted a ‘Series of Champions’ with ’25 designs.’
So, where’s the 25th card? Was it even printed? Here are cases for both sides of the argument.
A 25th card exists but is undiscovered to date
It’s possible that 25 cards were indeed printed but that we simply haven’t discovered the final card yet. Given we’re more than 100 years after production, the card would almost certainly be a shortprint.
The cards are undeniably rare. There are cards that are much tougher to find but with only a little more than 600 in PSA’s population report to date, it’s easy to see that these are difficult to find.
Many cards have fewer than 20 graded examples and while some of that is due to the fact that a lot of the cards are not baseball-related and feature athletes in less popular sports, some is also due to the extreme rarity. Even the popular baseball cards are not graded in very high quantities. To date, approximately 80 Cobbs have been graded but the number of Bakers, Benders, and Marquards is closer to 50 each.
Also keep in mind that other shortprints in the set do exist. Race car driver Bruce Brown is notoriously difficult to find and a highly-desired card. That’s less because people consider him a star and more because his card is super rare. Only two have been graded by PSA to date and you hardly ever see his card. Aviator C.P. Rodgers is also an extremely tough find. To date, he also has only two graded specimens.
Both of these cards appear to be shortprints and with such few quantities existing, what’s to say a third couldn’t exist that has not yet been found?
Sure, it seems odd that a set printed more than 100 years ago still hasn’t had all of its cards discovered. But that is more frequent than you might think. New discoveries happen all the time. Just a couple of weeks ago, two new wrappers from the R301 Overland Wrappers set were discovered. Even cards featuring big names can go undiscovered, which was the case last year when a new Babe Ruth card in a rare set was found.
A 25th card was never printed
In 1933, Goudey is believed by most to have intentionally not printed card No. 106. That, as you can imagine, led collectors on a wild goose chase buying product and looking for the unknown card.
After receiving letters from collectors inquiring about the card, Goudey ultimately relented and printed a Nap Lajoie card in 1934, distributing it to collectors that asked for it. While many did, the card was printed in far fewer quantities than the other cards in the set and, as a result, is worth a lot of money today.
This idea to drive up sales didn’t start with Goudey, of course. Plenty of other distributors before them pulled a similar trick in drastically shortprinting a certain card in a set. Now, it wasn’t only to drive up sales, necessarily. In many cases, companies were giving away a prize for a completed set and shortprinting a single card limited the number of prizes they had to distribute. But the idea was the same — shortprint a card and send collectors looking for it. What’s to say the idea couldn’t have been duplicated here?
Even if the card wasn’t printed with ulterior motives, it’s also possible that a 25th card could have been left out for any number of reasons. Perhaps the company could not reach an agreement with a 25th athlete. Or maybe they had an agreement that fell through and it was too late to find a substitute. Possibly the artwork for a 25th subject was not up to grade and they scrapped the idea.
Whatever the reason, it remains quite possible that a 25th card was never produced.