Sports Intrigue Buried in the Duke N145 Actors and Actresses Set

FOMO. Fear of Missing Out. I’ll admit it — it’s gotten me more than once.

Collecting pre-war cards tends to give you that concern. Some things like T205 and T206 baseball cards, for example, aren’t all that hard to track down. But other things can be quite rare — even scarce. Anyone that’s collected an assortment of pre-war stuff likely has something in his or her collection that they’ve rarely seen, if at all. Sometimes, as I’ve written here, those things aren’t even necessarily all that valuable.

I’ve got lots of things like that in my collection — some quite valuable and others much less so. Even things where I’ve seen no other examples. And if I find something I want badly enough, I’m all in.

That was the case recently for this hard-to-find card of (wait for it) — two women sled riding. More specifically, tobogganing.

Now, why did I want this card? It’s age? Well, it does date back to about the 1880s, but that was only a part of it. The reason I wanted it is that it’s technically a sort of sports card. And, well, I had absolutely no clue what it was. All told, it cost me about $50. That was more than I wanted to pay but I was so fascinated by it that I had to have it.

So, um, what is it?

I was hoping it was part of some rare multi-sport set containing other minor sports (think swimming, horse racing, etc.). It is certainly rare — in digging around online, I’ve seen only one other example and that’s in the MET as it was part of Jefferson Burdick’s iconic collection. More surely exist but that online images of them aren’t easy to come by, you get a good sense of how difficult it is. I have seen other cards in the set with this same image (more on that in a bit) but have only seen one other No. 166 Tobogganing card.

But it’s actually part of a set of actors and actresses. A rather large set, in fact. Specifically, it’s in the N145 Duke Tobacco Actors and Actresses set. The set included popular actors and actresses of the day, though many do not have too much value. Some are worth more, obviously, such as those that depict Lillian Russell. But commons start at only about $5. With its real image on a sepia toned card, it mirrors that of the Old Judge cards. But this one was issued by Duke Tobacco and there are hundreds of cards in the set — possibly over 1,000. A unique thing is that these are numbered and there are eight different types for Duke products, including Cameo and Cross Cut cigarettes.

What I’ve found is that they are also similar to Old Judge in the sense that, while it is not hard to find any random card from that set (great if you’re a type collector just looking to get your hands on one), finding a specific card can be extremely difficult just because of the large checklist size.

Once getting my hands on this card and finding out what set it was from, two immediate questions came to mind. First, why tobogganing? And second, are there other sports cards in it?

To the first question, I’ve got not clue. But other cards in the set — one using this same picture and other using a slight variation at least explain why it belongs in a set of actors and actresses. Probably, anyway. My card is No. 166 and there is a No. 165 with a picture variation. But that one also is titled ‘Tobogganing’ so that does us little good. However, other cards picturing these sled-riding women have different captions. One has the caption ‘Deitz’ and the other ‘Lepori.’ While I am not familiar with those names, they would appear to be the name of actresses, making them an obvious fit for this set.

So are there any other sports cards? I’ve scoured the internet and searched a few hundred cards. But while I have seen some that have some images that could depict minor sports, I’ve not yet found any with sports titles like this card. All of the other cards I’ve seen have either the name of an actress or, less often, no title.

In such a large set, I’d expect at least a few more to exist. But, if nothing ese, it appears to be one of the few, rare cards with a sports or activity title.

And you can bet I’ll be looking for more.

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