The Unusual Story of an Expensive Uncle Sam Card in a Rare Tobacco Issue

This pre-war Uncle Sam tobacco card in rough shape will cost you four figures

Most collectors couldn’t tell you much, if anything, about the T209 Contentnea set. And almost all of the few that could have probably bypassed it, avoiding the pursuit of the cards.

Believed to be issued in 1910, the T209 set isn’t much fun to most folks. T209 really consists of two sets if we’re being specific – a color one and a black and white one. The color one consists of 16 cards but the black and white one has more than 200. If this were a major league issue, it would probably have much more appeal. But with minor league players and the card being so rare, it’s just not worth the trouble for most.

That’s not to suggest that the cards have no value. Even low-grade ones will almost always run you at least $100. But there’s just limited appeal with such a set.

One card, though, is plenty desirable – good ol’ Uncle Sam. Yes, that Uncle Sam. Well, kind of.

See the card features a man named B.E. Thompson dressed as the fictional Uncle Sam. But who is Thompson and what is the deal with this card?

Thompson is named on both the front and back of the card. And the back makes it clear that this was a special card, asking collectors to save it.

T209 Contentnea Uncle SamThe card is as rare and valuable as it is intriguing. Its rarity, however, is a point of discussion. The card is certainly rare and that is backed up by the fact that only 12 of them have been graded by PSA and SGC combined. However, the other subjects in the Contentnea Photo Series are quite rare, too, having been graded no more than a few times. Many, in fact, have only been graded once or even not at all.

The Thompson card is not necessarily more plentiful than all others in the set. After all — its value would lead collectors to grade it more often. However, the point here is that determining how rare it is compared to others, if at all, is nearly impossible to tell.

So who was he? Thompson appears to be a prominent tobacco farmer but conclusive evidence of why he was included in this set or why collectors should hang onto his card is not fully known. This site offers some excellent information on the set and suggests that an album was the redemptive prize. While certainly possible (even perhaps, likely), any ironclad evidence of that is still yet to be found. And unfortunately, backs of the cards only advice that collectors ask their tobacco dealers about the card, leaving any mention of a kind of a prize unsaid.

While the card remains somewhat of a mystery, its value is unquestioned. Even in very low-grade, it almost always sells for more than $1,000. The price jumps exponentially from there. For example, even a low-grade SGC 2 sold for $3,000 in a 2017 REA auction.

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