Obscure Card of the Month: 1916-17 Sports of the World (Baseball)

The baseball card highlights the 1910s Sports of the World sets

1917 Village Maid BAT MacRobertson Wills HeaderMany early tobacco and candy card sets focused on introducing collectors to various sports being played around the world. The majority of these sets originated overseas and baseball was often the sport that was used to depict American interests.

One of my favorite examples of these sets is one called Sports of the World. Dating for these sets is generally cited as 1916 and/or 1917 but I do not know if I have ever seen conclusive evidence for that. This unique set featured various sports and games from around the world and includes this baseball card pictured here. It’s just an excellent early image of the sport being played complete with players in a full uniform and an umpire.

The Sports of the World set is found with several different backs representing British American Tobacco, Macrobertson’s (a candy company), Wills (a tobacco company), and Village Maid (I have seen this mentioned as both a confectionery company and a tobacco company).

One of the unique things about this set is that, while it might seem like there would be only four types (based on those three companies) there are a couple more. In all, there are six different versions of this set:

Sports of the World Backs

  • British American Tobacco – full color and blank back
  • British American Tobacco – two-color (brown and white) and blank back
  • MacRobertson’s Confectionery – two-color and MacRobertson’s ad on back (these are darker in color than the two-color British American Tobacco ones mentioned above)
  • Village Maid – full color with Village Maid stamp in gold foil area on back
  • Anonymous – full color with no stamp in gold foil area on back
  • Wills Tobacco – full color with Wills ad on back

While I have listed six backs, technically, seven could be counted. Some Village Maid cards were redeemed for some purpose and include a stamp on the back that reads, ‘Presented and Cancelled.”

I have been chasing these cards for some time and I would say the Wills, Anonymous, MacRobertson’s, and Village Maid cards are the easiest to find, though, none are all that common, to be honest. I have had the most difficult time tracking down the blank-backed British American Tobacco cards with the blank-backed two-color version easily being the toughest. To date, I have managed to find all of the baseball cards except for that version, which I have never even seen.

Sports of the World Village Maid BackEach set includes a total of 50 cards and the baseball card is easily the most valuable. Others in demand include cards for golf, tennis, and cricket, among a few others.

Taking a closer at the baseball card, the back has a nice writeup of the sport.

Baseball, now looked upon as being the nation game of the U.S.A., is really a glorified development of the old English game of “Rounders.” It is played upon a diamond-shaped field, at the end of which is the “home base,” the other angles being the 1st, 2nd and 3rd bases. A rounded wooden club is used to strike a hard ball.”

One thing of note is that while all 50 cards in the sets are the same in terms of the sports represented and pictures shown, the card numbers vary a bit across the different sets.

So what are these cards worth? The price can fluctuate quite a bit. I’ve seen some low-grade ones sell for as little as $25 and others command much more than that because they are pretty tough to find and desired by baseball card collectors. Since they can be difficult finds, it is not uncommon for sellers of these cards to ask for much more.

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