1910 Sporting Series Preceded Quirky 1923 Godfrey Sports Set

The rare 1910 Godfrey Phillips Sporting Series set is significantly more valuable than its more popular parallel 1923 set

A while back, Todd Tobias, a well-known lacrosse card collector, had gifted me about half of a 1923 Godfrey Phillips Sports card set in exchange for a lacrosse card I found for him. I figured it’d be a pretty easy one to finish but didn’t realize that it was one of the tougher UK sports issues where finding singles was not easy.

Technically, I never finished the set and was a few cards shy. I stumbled upon a complete one that I picked up last year instead. But I learned a lesson about the difficulty of that set compared to many other UK issues, which aren’t as challenging. Calling it ‘scarce’ would be a stretch. But the cards are by no means seen all that frequently.

The set features numerous comical scenes of an assortment of sports, including golf, tennis, cricket, and more. And Godfrey Phillips was one of the more well known tobacco brands in the UK that printed cigarette cards, offering more than 100 different sets.

But until recently, I wasn’t even aware of an earlier parallel set that Godfrey Phillips had also issued.

A few weeks ago, I found a collector that had some of these 1910 Sporting Series cards for sale in a small lot that I quickly scooped up. The funny thing was, they were labeled as the 1923 Sports cards and I didn’t even realize they were from the earlier set until they showed up. I bought them assuming they were the more common type and simply wanted a few extras. But when they arrived yesterday and after researching them a little, I realized these were the 1910 cards.

The images on both card sets are the same, making them easy to confuse. However, they are ‘flipped,’ as shown here. Yes, you can lay them out so they are both facing the same way. However, in doing that, you’ll notice that one of the backs is upside down. The way the fronts are laid out here demonstrates each facing the correct way so that both backs are right side up.

The backs, though, really demonstrate the differences.

The back of the more more common 1923 Sports variation (left) includes a description of the sport in question. The 1910 Sporting Series variation (right) is more of an advertisement for Godfrey Phillips with no description. You’ll also notice that the card numbering is not the same in both sets. This tennis card is No. 19 in the Sports set but No. 9 in the Sporting Series set. Both sets have 25 cards but present them in a different order.

Ink color varies across the backs of the two sets. The Sports cards are printed with backs consisting of black ink. The Sporting Series cards use blue ink on the backs.

A final difference is seen/felt in the card stock. The later Sports cards have a more appropriate thickness when it comes to comparing them with other cigarette cards. By contrast, the Sporting Series ones were printed on a paper that looks off-white or beige and the stock is noticeably thinner.

Assuming they are rarer, the London Cigarette Card Company’s catalog cites contrasting values for each. My 2015 catalog lists a price of about $5.00 for commons in very good condition in the 1923 Sports set. Meanwhile, the catalog values the 1910 Sporting Series cards at about $25 each.

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