A Rare eBay Find of Ogden’s Tobacco Cards Brought Plenty of Surprises
Finding a complete subset of Ogden’s Tabs General Interest cards yielded some surprises, an elite athlete, and a bit of information
If you’ve been following this site at all, you are probably somewhat aware of my affinity towards the Ogden’s Tabs General Interest cards. Now, there are lots of Ogden’s cards but the ones I’m mostly collecting are the ones for their Tab Cigarette products that were part of Series A through F. In all, there are nearly 1,600 of those cards and, well, I think it’s one of the greatest sets of all time.
Now, if you aren’t aware of the Ogden’s cards, here’s a bit of an introduction. These were black-bordered tobacco cards issued from the UK by Ogden’s for their Tab Cigarettes packages and the cards were distributed in 1901 and 1902. The biggest characteristic is just the absolute swarm of subjects. There are athletes, non-athletes, animals, buildings, landscapes, musicians, actors/actresses, and a lot more.
Somehow, I’ve gotten the crazy idea to begin collecting the entire set, even though that is a mostly unreasonable goal. Some of the cards are easy to find (Series B and D seem the easiest) but others are harder. The high-number cards from Series C and Series F seem particularly challenging.
An eBay Find
I had nearly completed Series B and am close on Series D. But other than that, I was pretty far away on everything else. Recently, though, I spotted a low-number set of Series C (cards 1-200) on eBay and I knew I had to have it.
The cards are not always easy to find on eBay, though there are generally a decent number of them there. In browsing my searches the other day, I found a seller offering the full Series C low-number cards.
Finding Ogden’s singles is not too hard but finding complete series’ is. You just don’t see that too often and I figured if I was going to make this silly chase a reality, finding some complete series’ along the way was going to be necessary.
Only one problem. This particular auction ended sometime around 5:00 a.m. Now, that might not be a problem if you’re accustomed to waking up early. But if not, well …
Typically I would set my snipe on Gavelsnipe and call it a day. But the site has been experiencing issues with eBay bids and that means being at the ready to place a manual bid all the time. So, with a bit of complaining, I set my alarm five minutes before the end of the auction, dragged myself to the computer, put in a bid and won, and promptly went back to sleep. Ultimately, I got the cards for $100 and while you can sometimes get Ogden’s for a little less than fifty cents a piece, as stated, it’s very difficult to get this many different cards all at once from Series C. That, to me, was a bargain.
Pins and Needles
Shortly after winning the auction, I discovered what could be a problem. The seller’s settings indicated that the cards would be on a delayed handling. Coming from the UK, I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. Most packages I order from there arrive in 7-10 days and sometimes, I’ve waited a few weeks. But the listing indicated it could take up to six months for delivery for extended handling.
I immediately began kicking myself for not reading the fine print. Soon, that turned into acceptance as I didn’t technically need the cards right then. I figured extended handling meant that the seller needed to track down the cards and I was a little concerned. But the cards were marked shipped a few days after purchase and I received them in about two weeks, without issue.
The next big hurdle, of course, was ensuring all 200 cards were there. I’ve bought lots like this before that claimed to include a set number of cards but that ultimately had some missing. If a few were missing, that would have been fine by me.
Ogden’s card numbers are notorious for sometimes only being partially printed, making it sometimes difficult to read them. But after a few numbering mishaps of reading them incorrectly on my end, I soon discovered that all 200 were there and accounted for.
And what the seller didn’t mention is that there were some extras.
Oh, and yes, that is a card of elephants bathing. That sort of gives you an idea of the range in this set.
As I’ve written before, there are a bunch of errors and variations in Ogden’s Tabs cards. I’d found a couple of cards in the past with numbering issues and this lot included a few more I did not know about. The great thing is that the seller threw these cards into the lot free of charge.
First, card No. 7 has an error. Card No. 7 is a card called, Naval Warfare. However a different card, Card No. 9 called Battleships in Action, also is found with Card No. 7 and the seller included both versions. Shown here are these two cards that both have No. 7 on the back.
This sort of instance is found on other Ogden’s cards, too. That has led some to believe that there are other complete parallel sets with different card numbers. However, I do not believe that is the case.
I say that because, in all, including my duplicates, I have nearly 1,500 Ogden’s General Interest from Series A-F and have seen only a handful of cards sharing numbering. If there was a completely parallel subset, more card number variances would be seen.
But this wasn’t the only extra card included in the lot.
Additionally, another error is found in cards No. 190 and 191. Those cards both feature two different pictures titled, “Howarth’s Midgets.” While the cards have the same title, they have different images and are clearly two different cards. One is No. 190 and the other is No. 191.
However, both cards can be found with both numbers. Thus, there are two No. 190 cards and two No. 191 cards. Both cards are shown here.
The funny thing, of course, is that with no checklist, it is impossible to tell, which card is supposed to be No. 190 and which one is supposed to be No. 191. Even if you could determine which card was rarer with which back combination, that still would not present us with the necessary evidence to determine, which card number those cards really belonged to.
I was very grateful for the seller for not only including cards as extras but also because they provided some more information about the set I had not previously had or seen elsewhere.
I was really curious which sports cards would be in the series. The biggest reason for that was because I had never seen a full checklist. The Series C checklist I had begun assembling had most cards as TBD as I had not seen them.
This series does not include the popular boxing cards but it did include several sports cards, mostly including track and field.
One of the first sports cards one stumbles upon in the set is one for water polo. The unique thing about the card (by today’s standards, anyway) is that the participants are outdoors, as shown here.
And then on other cards, of course, we’ve got some individual athletes.
Perhaps the most famous athlete in the set is Alvin Kraenzlein. Now, I initially wondered why he was in the set. He was a track and field star at Penn and is pictured in a Penn sweater while this was a British set. But, come to find out, he was an Olympic champion and a pretty important one at that.
Kraenzlein is all but forgotten these days outside of the track and field world but he set many world records and was the most successful athlete at the 1900 Olympics, winning four gold medals in sprinting, hurdling (110m and 200m), and long jump. He is also famous for developing the modern way of hurdling, using a straight lead leg when jumping to avoid losing significant speed. In short, he was probably the top track and field star of his time.
Another famous athlete in the set is Montague Holbein. Holbein was a champion swimmer and cyclist and while he set many records in both sports, he is probably most famous for his attempts to swim the English Channel. He was unsuccessful in those attempts and a notable moment came after the first try when the salt water harmed his eyes so much that he couldn’t see for several days afterward. Whoops.
Finally, in terms of sports, there are a few other cards. One of the more unique ones is the card shown above for the Lipton Cup trophy. There are other trophy cards in the pre-war era but I had not seen many, if any, in my Ogden collection. This is the trophy that was given by Sir Thomas Lipton to the New York Yacht Club.
There is a similarly named cup called the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy. That one was the for the winner of a 1909 and 1911 soccer tournament, which is sometimes regarded as the first World Cup. This is a different award altogether, however.
There are no really great sports finds, like you see in Series F with a Major Taylor card or with the golf cards found in it that are more valuable. But there are a few athletes here that were worth learning about, I found.
I expected the Ogden’s lot to bring about some great stories and a few surprises, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.