The Strange Appearance of Hall of Fame Boxer James Corbett in a Non-Sports Set
Boxing legend James Corbett is found in the unlikeliest of tobacco card sets
Hall of Fame boxer James Corbett didn’t make his name purely on the strength of one fight. But whenever his name is mentioned among boxing fans, it’s clearly his bout with the legendary John Sullivan that comes to mind. Corbett was undefeated when he met the equally undefeated Sullivan for the title in 1892. Corbett stunned Sullivan to win the title but his career would be mostly downhill from there.
He would wait roughly 18 months to defend his title and after a win and a draw (the draw would not take place until a staggering 2 1/2 years after his initial defense), Corbett would lose the title to Bob Fitzsimmons. He would then go on to lose three of his final four fights, including two to James Jeffries in failed attempts to regain the championship.
Despite that rough end to his career, Corbett was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and will forever be remembered for being the only man to defeat Sullivan. Like those of many boxing Hall of Famers, his cards are mostly affordable — and that includes one in a pretty unusual set.
Player’s Cigarettes in the 1920s and 1930s issued numerous tobacco card sets out of the UK. With so many sets, the company was forced to get creative and in 1932, they settled on a rather unique issue called, ‘Dandies.’
A ‘dandy,’ if you’re unfamiliar with the term, refers to, essentially, a well-dressed man. It’s a term that holds little use today but was popular in earlier times. And their set of Dandies included all sorts of men wearing fashionable clothing from other time periods throughout history.
Many of the men are unnamed or would not be familiar to most collectors today. However, the set did include some notable subjects, including Julius Caesar, King George, Charles Dickens, and Sir Walter Raleigh. And there, amidst them, is Corbett, the only athlete in the set.
Corbett is, in fact, dressed fashionably on the front of the card. The back includes a biography with the title “Pompadour.” The card, of course references his boxing career. But it also speaks to his ‘pleasing appearance’ and includes his nicknames of ‘Gentleman Jim’ and ‘Pompadour.’
“The first dandy of the modern prize ring was an American bank-clerk who forsook his counter to become one o the most respected and popular of great boxers. He was Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1892 to 1897. Endowed with superb physique and standing over six feet in height, Corbett brought brains as well as brawn to the practice of his profession. An original thinker, he devoted much careful thought to boxing and ringcraft. Corbett’s pleasing appearance and charm of manner earned him the nicknames of Gentleman Jim and Pompadour — the latter because of the arrangement of his hair.”
Unfortunately for collectors, finding the card isn’t as easy as it is to find ones in many other Player’s sets. While most of their later issues are easily found, this set issued in 1932 was seemingly produced in far fewer quantities. Finding it individually can be nearly impossible as it simply does not surface often for sale. Collectors in pursuit are often better off finding a complete set, which typically starts around $25-$35. Those are actually more commonly seen than just the Corbett card with sellers not preferring to break up sets.