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 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 most. 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. Taylor 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’s Ogden’s Tabs card from the final series (Series F), shown here on the left, is probably the most common.
Despite that, the card is not particularly cheap. Starting at around $30-$40 in lower-grade condition, it’s hardly an outrageously priced card. But when you consider that most of the other cycling cards in the set are $5 or less 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. Despite being considerably rarer than Taylor’s Series F Tabs cards, these sell for about the same price.
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.
These cards are similarly priced compared to the Ogden’s cards. The front facing card of Taylor is rarer but I have not seen a significant difference in price for it. The Felix Potin cards were often glued into scrapbooks and, as a result, often have back damage.
In addition, you’ll find Taylor on any number of other types of collectibles, including postcards, supplements, and pins. Some of those items are rarer than these fairly common cards and, subsequently, worth more money, often topping $100 in price.
While cycling cards are often left behind by sports collectors, Taylor’s have brought some much-needed attention to them and sell quite well.