Six early golfers highlight the T218 Champions set
The T218 Champions set included some of the country’s best golfers
The T218 Champions set is home to all sorts of athletes. And while no baseball players are in it (technically, there are some, of a sort), it is popular for its cards of boxers and all sorts of other athletes, including golfers.
There are six golf cards in the 153-card set and while none are really big names, their careers were notable.
Alex Smith was arguably the most successful of the golfers featured in the set. He won the 1906 and 1910 U.S. Open majors and also had a top ten finish in the 1916 PGA Championship to go along with eight career victories.
Gil Nicholls was another one of the more successful golfers. He won more than a dozen tournaments, including five PGA wins. And while he didn’t win a major, he did finish in second place in the U.S. Open in 1904 and 1907.
Findlay Douglas was another. On the course, he won the 1898 U.S. Amateur championship and also recorded a top ten finish in the U.S. Open in 1903. But he is perhaps best known for later becoming the president of the U.S. Golf Association.
Fred Herreshoff is in the set, too. Though, unlike others, he was not actually a majors champion.
Herreshoff came agonizingly close to winning a major, though, twice finishing second in the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1904 and 1911. Similarly, George Low won a few tournaments but could only manage a second-place finish at the U.S. Open. Low’s son (George Jr.) would also become a golfer and became a renowned putting instructor, tutoring the likes of Arnold Palmer and others.
Finally, Jack Hobens is the sixth golfer in the set. He came close to winning majors, recording several top ten finishes in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Hobens never got all the way there but he did finish with three career wins.
A Strange Checklist?
At first glance, the player selections seem curious. After all, there were so many more successful players out there. Few collectors have even heard of these players.
Even if you aren’t familiar with early golf stars from that era, I’m here to tell you that much bigger names certainly existed. Seven-time major winner Harold Hilton is one of those. Hilton won five amateur championships, and also two Open titles before ultimately finding his way to the Hall of Fame.
Then, of course, there was the Hall of Fame trio of James Braid, Harry Vardon, and J.H. Taylor. I’ve written about these three that all appeared in earlier tobacco card sets. The six golfers featured in the set were all fine players but none were on the same level as these four greats.
So why were those players not selected for the set instead? Well, a closer look reveals the likely reason. None of those players were Americans while the six golfers included were, having been born here or being emigrated to the U.S. And, well, good American golfers were not too easy to come by. Simply put, the sport was dominated by players from Europe — particularly Scottish and British golfers.
Prices and Rarity
Despite the lack of big names, the golfers in the set fare quite favorably when it comes to price in comparison to other cards. While the most inexpensive cards, the track and field athletes, start at about $5 per card in low-grade condition, the golfers are closer to $10-$20 as a starting point. Nice examples can top $50.
The golf cards are not all that rare by comparison. But they are not going to show up in every card shop or show that you frequent. You can usually find a few on eBay.
As stated, there are no wildly big names from the world of golf in this set. But for golf collectors, these are cards worth tracking down as some of the early notable American golfers.