Tolstoi Backs are a Tough Find in the T218 Champions Set

Tolstoi backs are rarely seen in the popular multi-sport tobacco card set

The T218 Champions set is known for its various athletes. At 153 cards, it’s somewhat large. But like other tobacco sets, it is also known for its various back advertisements.

A total of three American Tobacco Company brands distributed these cards – Mecca, Hassan, and Tolstoi. There are more than three different backs due to them having various factory numbers and other slight differences. However, in terms of brands, we’ve got three to focus on here.

This set does not include any baseball cards but most pre-war baseball card collectors should at least recognize those names, anyway. Mecca is known for other sets, including the T201 Double Folders release. Hassan is also found elsewhere — perhaps most notably from a baseball card vantage point in the popular T205 Gold Borders set or the T202 Hassan Triple Folders set. Tolstoi backs were seen in other places, including T206.

Here’s a look at all three brands on the backs of T218 cards.

You’ll find advertisements for each sprinkled on the backs of these cards. However, while Mecca and Hassan backs are plentiful, finding cards with Tolstoi backs is much more difficult.

Part of the reason for that is how the cards were distributed. While Mecca cards were issued for all three of the set’s series and Hassan cards were issued for two of them, Tolstoi cards are only found in Series 2. Thus, almost all of the T218 cards will be found with either a Mecca or Hassan advertisement.

Just how rare are the Tolstoi backs? On eBay, you’ll hardly ever see them. But can we try to pinpoint how many there are compared to the more populous Mecca and Hassan cards?

T218 Billiards Cutler

Jack Johnson T218 Front

Unfortunately, PSA’s pop report doesn’t separate their grading out by back so we don’t know how many of each back they’ve graded. But eBay gives us somewhat of a decent glimpse.

Currently, eBay has about 1,300 T218 lots for sale. While not all titles of those lots indicate the brand on the back, about 2/3 do. Approximately 550 listed were Meccas while about 250 were Hassans. Tolstoi? Only a single, solitary card was listed. In other words, we’ve got only about .001  of the cards listed there as being Tolstois – much less than even one percent.

Is that indicative of the entire bunch? Probably. In fact, since sellers would be more liable to call out the rare Tolstoi backs, you could even suggest that the .001 rate is a little on the high end. But even if you disagree with that math, we can certainly say that Tolstoi cards appear to make up fewer than 1% of the entire population.

Personally, I’ve got over 300 T218 cards in my own collection with a complete basic set. These are cards that I buy with some degree of regularity. Not only do I not have a single Tolstoi in my collection, but I have barely seen them for sale.

So what kind of values are we looking at for them? Because T218 isn’t a baseball set, it isn’t collected as much as those cards. And because of that, their values are somewhat muted. But the cards are still certainly worth significantly more than the Mecca/Hassan card. Low-grade Tolstoi commons start at about $15-$20 while low-grade Mecca/Hassan commons start closer to the $2-$3 range.

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