100+ Years Later, E98, E101, and E102 Set Distributors Remain Anonymous
The distributors of three caramel card sets remains a mystery to collectors
We know a lot about pre-war cards and, well, we should. These cards were made a long time ago and thanks to the help of early hobby pioneers like Jefferson Burdick, we have quite a bit of information on most of them.
Some mysteries remain, however. And that even includes actual distributors of sets.
Three caramel card sets in particular have unknown origins. We have the checklists for the E98, E101, and E102 baseball card releases. However, who created them and who distributed them is not clear.
As a brief introduction, all three sets are relatively small and are known simply as Anonymous followed by how many cards were in the set. For example, the 1910 E98 set is known as the Anonymous set of 30 since 30 cards were in it. E101 and E102 are both believed to have been issued in 1909. E101 is known as the Anonymous Set of 50 and E102 is the Anonymous Set of 25. E101 and E102, pictured here, look pretty similar.
Notably, images in those sets were used elsewhere. You’ll find some pictures in the E101 and E102 sets, for example, also found in the E90-1 American Caramel set, E92 Dockman/Croft/Nadja sets, E105 Mello-Mint set, and E106 American Caramel set. But that is no guarantee that any of those companies producing those sets also issued E101 and E102. It merely means that images were shared.
The sharing of pictures across sets was a common occurrence. Many times, you’ll see pictures used in several different sets as it was easier for a company wanting to create cards to use artwork that had already been completed than to try to make a new set from scratch.
Give that, we know that we can’t credibly link the images in this set with another one and determine who issued them. But do we have any other clues about them?
The E98 set might provide the best example.
E98 (a Wagner from it is shown here) is an interesting one to consider for two reasons. For one, there’s the Black Swamp Find. The find, if you’re unfamiliar with it, was a large discovery of cards that were in tremendous shape and were believed to have never been issued. Many high-grade cards came from it and that even included some PSA 10s. According to this article, the cards were discovered by a family that had once owned a meat market and it was believed they were to be distributed to customers. They were also found in Defiance, Ohio where a candy company once resided and since they resemble other candy cards, it’s possible they were a product of that company.
The second example to note is that these cards were also used by a tobacco product called Old Put. We believe that because several cards have been found with an Old Put advertisement stamped on the back for their cigars.
Putting two and two together, it seems likely that the cards could have been produced and then peddled to various businesses. That, by the way, was also something that happened elsewhere.
The best example of that is the Mendelsohn M101-4 and M101-5 sets. Felix Mendelsohn created these sets and then peddled them to all kinds of businesses, which then used them as giveaways or premiums.
A similar example is seen in the E92 sets. In all, there are four of them issued by Dockman, Nadja, Croft Candy, and Croft Cocoa. While those checklists vary a little, most of the cards are the same across the other sets. They are basically the same set issued for four different products.
The fact that the E98 cards are found with tobacco advertisements and also were discovered by a family with a meat market leads us to believe that a similar scenario played out here. In short, they may never have been intended for only one business and that is possible for the E101 and E102 cards as well.
We may never pinpoint the exact origins of these cards but the potential for them being distributed by more than one business is a strong possibility.