Cycling Cards of the Legendary Major Taylor Draw Heavy Interest
Pre-war cards of the early star sell for relatively strong prices
When it comes to pre-war cards, the most popular sports issue is baseball by a landslide. Others have drawn interest, too, however, and that even counts for more obscure sports, such as cycling.
While some can be pricey, many cycling cards are pretty cheap. Even most cards of early greats of the sport such as A.A. Zimmerman or A.A. Chase don’t command too much money. But cards of Major Taylor sort of buck the trend and are very popular with even non-cycling enthusiasts.
Taylor’s story, sadly, is not all that well known to many collectors. But he became a world champion cyclist, breaking several records along the way. Taylor became only the second African American to be recognized as a world champion in any sport, just behind George Dixon, who was a Canadian bantamweight champion in 1892. He gained worldwide prominence, besting cyclists all over the world, before retiring in 1910.
Most recently, Taylor got back into the news as part of a 2018 advertising campaign by Hennessy. This commercial that was shown repeatedly was the first time many had even heard of Taylor.
Cyclists were repeatedly featured in card sets. In the massive Ogden’s Tabs General Interest set, for example, there are dozens of cards of cyclists, including Zimmerman, Chase, and Taylor. Taylor has two cards in the set, both in the tougher higher number part of Series C and the difficult Series F.
While you could get the cards for under $100 not too long ago, those prices have skyrocketed. As of 2021 pricing, these now start around $300-$400 in lower-grade condition with nicer examples easily soaring past $500. And when you consider that most of the other cycling cards in the set are $5-$10 in similar condition, you get an idea of how popular Taylor’s cards are compared to those of others.
The pose of Taylor is a popular one. It was used on other cards and collectibles of him as well. One of those is the similar but different Ogden’s Cigarettes cards. While the aforementioned Series F cards were made for Ogden’s Tabs cigarettes, these (card on right) do not have the Tabs name on the backs and, in a different font, merely state they were for Ogden’s Cigarettes. These cards also call Taylor an ‘American Champion’ on the front and have blank backs.
When it comes to other ‘standard’ types of cards, Taylor has two more that are found in the massive Felix Potin set, issued in three series’ from 1908 through 1922.
Like the Ogden’s cards mentioned above, these cards were part of a large, multi-sport set where numerous non-sports subjects are included. These cards are a bit larger in size (though, still not all that big, measuring approximately 1 1/2″ x 2 5/8″) and also have black borders.
The more common of Taylor’s two cards in the set (both are found in the second series) is this one shown here, with Taylor’s picture at more at an angle. The second card is seen less often and is a front facing pose.
Pricing for these cards is all over the map but they typically exceed the Ogden’s cards — often by a large margin. A Felix Potin surfaced on eBay in November 2021 and sold for more than $1,100. The front facing card of Taylor is rarer and could conceivably sell for even more. I have not seen one for sale in a while. The Felix Potin cards were often glued into scrapbooks and, as a result, often have back damage.
While cycling cards are often left behind by sports collectors, Taylor’s have brought some much-needed attention to them and sell quite well.