The 1929 Liebig Humorous Sports Set is Bonkers. That is All.
This rare trade card set is ridiculous by any reasonable standards — and it’s glorious
With 100 eBay searches for pre-war cards at any given time, I’m constantly coming across all sorts of interesting stuff. And recently, I may have just stumbled upon the strangest pre-war sports cards set of them all.
Sure, the more mainstream N184 Kimball Champions set from the 19th century is an odd one. But at least that one has many ‘regular’ sports featured with even many popular athletes. It doesn’t come anywhere near the bonkers 1929 Liebig Humorous Sports card set.
Some pre-war collectors are famous with the Liebig name. Advertising a meat extract brand, the company produced a gaggle of trade card sets (often in batches of six cards per set) of all sorts of subjects. While it was a popular product, they were probably almost as well known for their cards just because they made so many of them. Thinking off the top of my head, I’m not sure another manufacturer not solely printing cards (like Topps) can boast as many issues, to be honest. Most are non-sports sets but some sports cards are found scattered in Liebig’s sets for popular sports like hockey and tennis.
Liebig was based in London, sold all over Europe, was created by a German chemist, and the cards were printed in several languages, including French and Italian. Got it? It’s worth noting that some of the French Liebig cards like these have a phrase on them, ‘Reproduction interdite,’ which might give the assumption that they are reprints. That, however, is not the case. Liebig had issues with competitor products and the phrase merely means ‘Reproduction forbidden.’
At any rate, I stumbled upon this strange set purely coincidentally. And, well, I’m kind of glad I did.
First things first. The cards are printed in French. Thus, the title of Sports Humoristiques is translated for us to Humorous Sports. That name, we’ll soon see, is entirely, 10000% appropriate.
This is technically a sports set, though something like ‘games’ is probably far more accurate. Pictured here are contests you’d see at your standard midsummer church picnic or, you know, in your nightmares. Think I’m exaggerating a little? Let’s see what we got.
Concours Hippique avec Poupées (Horse Show with Puppets)
For me, this is the card that really got me hooked.
Look, we’ve all seen those dumb medieval fairs with horseback and riding and such. And at a glance, this kinda looks like that. But there’s so much more here.
Yes, it’s a horse race. But look closer — the riders are carrying puppets with them. And to the right of the card, we’ve got some very attentive and costumed individuals or, more likely, lifesize replications of clown dolls.
Why are the riders carrying dolls and why are dolls in the crowd as spectators? I’ve got zero idea of what’s really going on here and frankly, I don’t want to know. The speculation is so much better. This is hands down the best card in the set and if you want to call it the greatest pre-war sports card of all time, you’ll get no argument from me.
Tournoi en Barquettes (Tournament in Trays)
My guess here is that Google Translate is not so hot with this one. But the idea is that the picture on this card looks like some kind of water jousting of sorts. The ‘trays’ obviously refer to the boats.
Here, we’ve got competing boats with riders looking to knock their opponents overboard using their paddles and it’s clear to me that the red team is not so good at this. But honestly, this type of sport doesn’t even look too far out there even though I’ve never seen anything like it. If this were something on, say, American Gladiator, would anyone really bat an eye? This could totally be a sport in my book.
My absolute favorite part of this is that, in addition to the spectators, we’ve got these totally random people also in boats in the background that do not in any way appear to be participating. In fact, it looks like they have somewhere to go. Almost as if this was a regular waterway used for regular travel and the competition sort of just broke out unexpectedly.
I’ll take it.
Course d’obstacles en Angleterrre (Obstacle Course in England)
So, this is a traditional obstacle course card. Well, traditional in the sense that there are people climbing through suspended barrels.
In all seriousness, once you get past the absurdity, kind of dangerous, no? It looks like you could get all kinds of splinters trying to dash through these barrels, for one thing. I also imagine overweight participants could get stuck or, just as worse, send the barrel hurtling towards the ground while they’re inside. And then there’s the fall and trying to brace yourself for it should you miraculously get through the opening unscathed, anyway.
No thanks, folks. No freaking thanks.
Course en Brouettes (Wheelbarrow Race)
If you’re looking for the most ordinary card in this set, I’m guessing this is it?
A wheelbarrow race is kind of standard. About the only real action is we’ve got two teams running into each other. But aside from that, this is pretty ordinary stuff.
Somewhat, noteworthy, I guess is the fact that these look like sailors. They not only have that appearance from the uniforms but you can see a large ship in the background and this looks like it’s on a dock area.
Other than that, this card kinda sucks if we’re being honest with each other here.
Chasse aux Têtes de Turc (Hunt for Turkish Heads)
Okay, back to nonsense. This card is just … out there.
For one thing, it’s called the Hunt for Turkish Heads. And if you’re wondering, that’s not a code for something else a bit less threatening. Literally, we’ve got people hanging out of card trying to stab Turkish heads that are situated on posts with a stick.
Folks, I’ve got no clue here. I don’t know if this is real, imagined, or what. And the fact that the spectators are dressed up for this as if it were a prestigious event is even more disturbing. I mean, I’m keeping this card because it’s in the set but, let’s just say I won’t be looking for duplicates.
Course en Sacs (Sack Race)
Like the wheelbarrow race, this is one of the more straightforward cards. Sack races are still held at picnics today and this, unlike most of the stuff here, is something you’d see and not be confused.
The idea is simple, of course. Hop in a sack towards a finish line faster than your opponents. We’ve all seen it and most of us have done it. Nothing special, right?
At first glance, this card looks kind of normal. But upon further inspection, you’re left scratching your head.
See, four of our eight competitors are upright and in good position for a potential win. Great! One guy that was a contender near the front has stumbled and, well, he’s basically out at this point. But what are the other three people doing. One dude is sitting up but on the ground near the starting line and two others are laying down as if they are getting out of bed. I’m not exactly up on my sack race etiquette but, like, aren’t most of these things started with participants standing up?
This sort of looks like contestants were forced to start the race completely flat on their backs. And if that’s the case, then the two that have not even gotten up yet appear to be in a lot of trouble.
Send help (for me and for them, I mean).