Obscure Card of the Month: 1923 Sarony Origin of Games — Rounders/Baseball
This rare tobacco card depicts baseball in its early form
The 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set is really a fantastic issue. I hesitate to call it one of my favorites because I have so many of those these days. But it’s a tremendous set that sort of gets lost in the madness of so many international tobacco card sets. As you can tell by the name, the cards picture image depictions of the beginnings of sports.
Sarony was a UK cigarette company and they produced several card sets. A lot of collectors are not familiar with them and sometimes you’ll see these listed as candy cards as opposed to tobacco issues.
There are a total of 15 cards in the set and while some, like the cards depicting tennis, golf, soccer, and even cricket, are keys, the most important card to most American collectors is the card depicting a sport called rounders.
Rounders is not entirely baseball but it is seen as a predecessor of sorts. It has similar rules and, beginning in England, most people feel that is where baseball got its origins. The card depicts a man wearing what looks like a powdered wig. Some would equate him to George Washington, I suppose, though it’s clearly an English man and not an American one since Rounders began in England.
The back explains the origin of the sport as well as its ties to baseball. While the picture on the front depicts rounders, it is generally seen as a baseball card because of the similarity in nature to the sport and because the back discusses baseball evolving from the sport.
The very popular and inexpensive game of Rounders was, so far as can be ascertained, first played in England in the Eighteenth century. It still retains its popularity, but only as a juvenile pastime. Baseball, which started in the United States of America some fifty years back, and is now the great national game in that country, was a development of the game of Rounders.
In addition to the more common smaller version shown above, a large one exists, too. These cards are more like a square than the thin rectangular smaller version.
Many UK sets, in fact, produced smaller and larger cards. The larger ones are almost always rarer and that is no exception here. It should be noted, though, that even the smaller cards are not easily found and both variations are quite tough.
The large and small versions of the Rounders card are virtually identical. There are some differences, however, and that holds true for all of the small and large cards in the two sets. For example, the batter in the larger Rounders card is smiling while the one on the smaller card is not. The images are cropped differently. And the larger cards often exhibit a bit more detail (i.e. see the grass near the batter).
That difficulty in finding them has proven challenging to type card collectors or collectors seeking early baseball images. Even though this card was printed in the 1920s, its depiction of early baseball in the 1700s makes for an attractive card.
The cards are fairly rare but not terribly expensive. The small Rounders card is often in the $25-$50 range, though some sellers will ask more because of its rarity. The larger card can also be in that range and, in some cases, more expensive.