Obscure Card of the Month: 1928 Cine Manual / Amatller Basse Ball Card

The Obscure Card of the Month is a tough international baseball issue

Wait, Basse Ball? Surely, that’s one of the many typos you’ll find on this site, no? Actually, for once, it’s not.

The Obscure Card of the Month is a rather unique card that depicts the sport of baseball and most consider it to have come from Spain.

The 1928 set from which this card originates is referred to by at least two different names. Some refer to it as the Cine Manual set as those words appear on the backs of those cards. Others call it an Amatller Chocolates set as it is believed they were the distributors of these cards.

The release is a set of playing cards. Like regular playing cards, these have four different suits with the same numbers being repeated within those suits. There are a total of 48 cards in the set (Cards 1-12 in each suit). They depict all sorts of sports and non-sports activities and personalities. Some have generic subjects and others picture actual people with their names. Boxing Hall of Famer Max Schmeling is probably the most famous of the athletes while Charlie Chaplin headlines the non-athletes.

Despite the presence of real personalities, my interest has always been drawn to a card supposedly depicting baseball. It’s a card I’d wanted in my collection for a few years but I’d never found one for sale. Recently, I picked up an entire set and was thrilled to get one.

So, what is this card exactly? Is it even baseball? The short answer to that second question is yes.

Basse-Ball, as it is called on the card, was actually an alternate spelling in Spanish for baseball. The sport is more commonly called beisbol in Spanish now but if you Google the term ‘Basse Ball,’ you will see other references to it being spelled that way. The suit for the Basse-Ball card is a trophy and the number is five — hence, we’ve got five trophies pictured.

So why the confusion? Mostly because the picture depicted on the card is a poor representation of the sport. Instead, of a pitcher, a traditional playing field, a batter, and a catcher, we’ve got three guys with clubs.

Anyone seeing this card would probably be more inclined to call it a golf card but it certainly is not that. The outfits look more like golf outfits but there are two things to note about that. First, we’ve clearly got two different ‘teams.’ One team has burnt orange jerseys and the other team has green jerseys. second, this sort of uniform was actually worn by baseball players in other parts of the world. The 1936 United Tobacco card of a baseball player, for example, is a good example of this — with a similar cap and baggy outfit.

So why is the depiction so strange? I mean, why doesn’t this look like baseball at all? You’ve got to remember, in the 1930s baseball was not much of a worldwide sport. Even Japan, which has become a country where baseball is prominent, was just learning the sport. There are several tobacco cards depicting that. And in some parts of the world, baseball was barely even heard of.

Consider things like the Babe Ruth and Grover Alexander cards in the 1930s Sociedade Industrial set, which are an absolute mess. There are other odd international depictions of the sport in the pre-war era.

The card is not an easy one to find and putting a price on it is virtually impossible. In a straight auction, it could sell for a smaller amount just because most collectors are unfamiliar with it. However to dealers with knowledge of the set, you could expect to pay a strong amount.

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