A Cricket Card in the Wills Sports of All Nations Set Appears to Depict the Legendary W.G. Grace
While the Wills Sports of All Nations set includes generic subjects, at least one looks like famous cricketer W.G. Grace
The 1901 Wills Sports of All Nations set is one of many similar international releases. In a nutshell, the cards depicted sports that were popular in various countries around the world. Several of these types of sets exist, though the Wills offering is one of the earliest and most popular.
The cards are known for their colorful images and assortment of back advertisements for tobacco and cigarette brands issued by Wills. These cards, like others, were placed inside of the tobacco product packages and 50 are included in the set.
While the baseball card is the most valuable and the most sought after in the United States, many of the other cards are popular — especially in other countries. The cricket cards, in the set, are desirable among international collectors.
A simple look into the checklist provides a glimpse into just how popular that sport was. While baseball and all other sports received only one card, cricket is pictured on three cards in the set. Even the wildly popular global sport of soccer was limited to a single card. So Wills made it pretty clear that cricket was a focal point.
The three cricket cards at least offer different player positions. One is a bowler (essentially the pitcher) while another is a wicket keeper (think catcher). The third is a batter and while all three of the cards look great, it’s this one that we’re most interested in.
The batter is, like other subjects in the set, unnamed. But it is evident to most collectors that the card pictures the legendary player W.G. Grace. Grace was the top player in the sport when the set was released and still considered to be one of the greatest players in cricket history more than 100 years later.
The card pictures ‘Grace’ in a batting pose and the dead giveaway, of course, is the face, which includes his iconic beard. Again, Grace isn’t named on the card. But it’s a case similar to that of Babe Ruth, whose image and likeness was sometimes used on cards that did not bear his name. It’s pretty obvious that this is a depiction of Grace, even to novice collectors who can simply Google his other cards and make the connection.
As a result, the card is routinely (though not always) bought and sold as a Grace card. The card does tend to sell for more than the other cricket cards in the set but because he is not named, prices have not gotten out of hand. Other commons in decent lesser condition in this set typically start around $7-$10 but the other two cricket cards are roughly double that amount. The card picturing grace usually starts around $50-$75. That is a significant jump from where the card used to sell, often starting around $15-$20. But collectors have begun to recognize its importance and, like other Grace cards, has been on the rise lately.