1915 Obsequio de Susini Football Card Remade in 1929 Churchman Set
A rare football card from 1915 was used as the basis for a more popular issue in 1929
The 1915 Obsequio de Susini set was a massive issue consisting of 1,300 cards. Similar to the equally large Ogden’s Tabs General Interest cards produced around the turn of the century, sports are a very small part of it. The Obsequio de Susini set checklist is separated by topic and cards numbered 201-250 make up the sports subset.
Most famously in the set are three baseball cards and a card of boxing legend Jack Johnson. Of the baseball cards, one featuring the legendary Tris Speaker is the key. Some collectors have come to learn about the baseball cards in it but almost all stop there and could tell you little else about even the sports cards in it.
But, well, ‘stopping there’ isn’t really a part of my vocabulary. I don’t collect a ton of non-sports issues but am interested in most sports cards beyond baseball. That led to me to dig a little deeper into the checklist of the sports subset.
And once I did, one of the cards looked rather familiar.
The set includes an American football card, though, even if you saw one, you might be inclined to dismiss it. Instead of referring to the sport depicted as football, it is instead called ‘Football – Rugby’. That could lead collectors to classify it as a rugby card instead of American football but it clearly depicts the latter, as evidenced by the uniforms/equipment.
The card does not provide the names of the teams shown, though some sleuthing could potentially reveal that information, I suppose. And even the scene shown is a bit jumbled with bodies all over the place. Really, though, it’s a fantastic image of the sport in its earlier days.
Now, I suppose the image wouldn’t mean much to a lot of collectors. But I’ve seen enough sets that as soon as I saw it, it immediately became clear — I’d seen this picture before.
See, the card was used in a later set issued out of the UK — the 1929(ish) Sports and Games in Many Lands set. Most collectors that are familiar with the set can tell you precisely two things about it. The first is that it contains a Babe Ruth card, which has become somewhat popular in pre-war circles. Ruth is not named on the card but the image certainly pictures him and it’s bought and sold as a Ruth card. Second, they often will refer to it as the Churchman set. Churchman is the tobacco advertisement most commonly seen on the backs but parallel sets were also actually created for British American Tobacco (in 1930) and Edwards/Ringer/Bigg (in 1935 and, like Churchman, an Imperial brand).
The sets include a total of 25 cards depicting various sports from around the world and, surprise, American football is one of those.
The card shows a color lithographic depiction of the original photo used in the Obsequio de Susini set. And the title of the card, likely due to the increased popularity of the sport, actually refers to it as ‘American Football,’ appropriately ditching the rugby moniker. Behind the Ruth card, it is probably the second most sought after card in it with a card for ice hockey checking in at third.
Having this card in my collection, I instantly recognized that Obsequio de Susini image as the only real difference is a minor one in that the Churchman picture is slightly cropped, cutting off one of the players to the far left — pretty cool.
This reuse of images was a fairly common practice in early cards. And at least one other Obsequio de Susini card image was used elsewhere — the card of Tris Speaker. Speaker’s Obsequio de Susini image would be later repeated in the slightly more common (but still somewhat rare) 1934 R&J Hill tobacco set — a topic I also wrote about here. Based on that, it would not be a surprise at all if other images from the Obsequio de Susini set were reused, too.