Generic Subjects Doesn’t Always Equate to Inexpensive Cards

While cards picturing generic subjects are often cheap, that isn’t always the case

Much of the time, cards picturing real athletes are the ones most liable to sell for big money. But one of the most common misconceptions about pre-war cards is that ones that don’t feature real athletes can’t be valuable.

Now, most of the time, cards with real athletes are almost always going to sell for more money. And there are plenty of cards with generic subjects that have limited values. But the idea that all cards with generic subjects aren’t worth much is a complete falsehood that’s mostly due to a lack of knowledge. Many collectors simply couldn’t tell you about most of them.

By ‘generic subjects,’ we’re talking about any number of things here. First, these could be subjects depicted as athletes in a lithograph or drawing. Postcards with drawn pictures of children playing a sport would be an example. But generic subjects can be real people, too. Perhaps these are models merely dressed as athletes or even someone playing a sport recreationally. Essentially, we’re talking about subjects on cards that are not real athletes.

N48 The Champion BatterWhile many cards bearing these types of subjects are not worth a ton of money, many are quite valuable.

Among those are the female baseball players depicted on 19th century tobacco cards. As I’ve covered before, women were subjects on numerous sports cards, even if they weren’t necessarily athletes.

Take, for example, women pictured on the N48 Dixie/Virginia Brights cards or the closely related N508 Sub Rosa cards. These 1880s cards used pictures of real women that were not real baseball players. You might be inclined to think something like this isn’t worth much money. But, to the contrary, these cards fetch hundreds of dollars — even more than $1,000 if in condition that warrants it. The same goes for rare cabinets or larger cards of similar sets. Those are even rarer and collectors will pay good money for them.

Even cards with lithograph artwork of female athletes can be worth a lot of money. The N360 Baseball Scenes cards or the baseball card from the N557 Little Rhody set are usually at least a couple hundred dollars in decent shape.

But it’s not just cards of women that can command good money.

N135 Talk of the Diamond Duke HonestTobacco cards featuring strange baseball scenes are also quite desirable. A good example of this is in the Duke/Honest N135 Talk of the Diamond set. One of the cards from it is pictured here.

This 19th century issue combines baseball with non-sports scenes referencing a common phrase. You can expect to pay $100-$200 for decent copies of each card. The same goes for cards from the rare T203 Base Ball Comics set.

Other tobacco sets prove that generic athletes from other sports can do quite well, too. The T6 and T51 Murad College Sports sets picture generic subjects in a multitude of sports. Among the most common are cards for the University of Michigan football team and the Williams Basketball team. While those were real teams, the athletes shown on them are not. In particular, the larger T6 cards of each sell for a few hundred dollars in decent condition. Even in low-grade shape, you will not usually find them for under $100.

Along those lines of college issues are the B33 College Pennants/Felts. These also featured generic subjects representing real colleges. Collectors are kind of waking up to the rarity of these and while the lesser sports don’t command as much, it isn’t too uncommon to pay $100 for one featuring baseball or football.

Many early trade cards from the same time period sell quite well, too. Some common trade cards from the 1800s are cheaper and can be bought in the $10-$20 range. But many trade cards of generic subjects found in tougher sets can easily sell for $100 or more. Very rare ones with intense bidding can sell for hundreds. The baseball cards promoting mechanical toy banks, for example, can go for $500 or even more in strong condition. A good many others are in the $50-$100 range. Trade issues in this price range are really too numerous to mention.

Wills No CaptionSports of the World - Baseball Wills Back #1 (1917)International cards are in the mix as well.

A popular theme, for example, in many international sets was one showcasing sports all around the world. Whenever baseball cards made their way into these sets, they attracted American collectors. In better condition, cards such these shown here from Wills UK sets can top $100. Even in lower-grade condition, they are not easy to find for much under $30-$40.

In addition to these, there are all cards of generic cards that will cost you in the $50-$100 range.

Cards with generic subjects are often quite inexpensive. When it comes to things like postcards and game cards, you can often get these for $10-$20 or even less sometimes. But there are a host of cards that don’t picture real athletes and that won’t come cheap.

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