Obscure Card of the Month: 1901 Hill Flags and Flags with Soldiers (America)

A pre-war America card in a rare set is a nice non-sports find

Typically, the cards in the Obscure Card of the Month posts have been of the sports variety. But a recent find has me featuring a non-sports card this month.

The 1901 Hill Flags and Flags with Soldiers set was a release of 30 cards. Distributed with Hill’s Badminton Smoking Mixture packages, this UK set included exactly what the name of the set states. The cards feature flags from different countries but some of those cards also had a soldier accompanying them.

The same set was reprinted at least once — in or around 1902 by Pritchard & Burton. The cards are the same as the Hill cards but only with different advertising backs. Both types are rare but the Pritchard & Burton cards are seen more frequently.

1901 Hill Flags and Flags with Soldiers America Back1901 Hill Flags and Flags with Soldiers AmericaMany different countries are represented but the key card for American collectors is the card depicting the U.S. flag and a soldier.

The card just jumped out at me the minute I saw it and I had to have it. Commons in the set typically run between $10-$20 (the Pritchard & Burton cards are generally less) but that’s when you can find them. They are extremely tough to find and you can expect to pay more for the American flag card. The exact price depends on just how motivated a seller is.

Of note is that the flag is not technically correct. When these cards were printed, the U.S. had a flag with 45 stars to indicate the 45 states there were at the time. The one depicted, probably for the sake of making the artwork easier, shows a flag with only 28 states on it. The U.S. did have a flag design that looked like this but it was only used in 1846 and 1847 — more than 50 years before these cards were printed.

Further, you can see that the flag shows 14 stripes when it should only be 13. There’s a significant artist error even beyond that if you look close enough. If you look all the way to the right, you can see a top white stripe, giving us 14. But if you look at the top stripe at the top of the flag just beyond the blue square with the stars in it, you see it’s correctly red. The artist apparently lost track when they drew the fold in the flag since that’s where the error occurs.

I could not track down a checklist anywhere online but found an auction with all 30 cards so I wanted to document the checklist here:

  1. America
  2. Austrial
  3. Belgium
  4. Bulgaria
  5. Canada
  6. Cape Colony
  7. China
  8. Denmark
  9. Egypt
  10. England
  11. France
  12. Germany
  13. Greece
  14. India
  15. Ireland
  16. Italy
  17. Japan
  18. Netherlands
  19. New South Wales
  20. New Zealand
  21. Norway and Sweden
  22. Portugal
  23. Russia
  24. Scotland
  25. South Australia
  26. Spain
  27. Switzerland
  28. Tazmania
  29. Turkey
  30. Victoria

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