Reviewing Jesse Owens’ 1936 Reemtsma Olympia Cards

Jesse Owens and his seven cards are the highlight of this German tobacco set

While tobacco cards were mostly phased out in place of gum cards in the United States by the 1930s, they were at the height of their popularity at that time in Europe.

German distributors took advantage of the fact that the 1936 Summer Olympics were held in Berlin. Several card sets were created that featured the Olympians from that year. And while a number of key subjects are included, as well as some early cards for major sports, such as basketball and hockey, the cards of the legendary Jesse Owens are at the forefront in many of these issues. That includes the 1936 Reemtsma Olympia set.

In case you didn’t know, Owens starred in the 1936 Olympic Games. He won four medals in those games and all were gold as Owens took first in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay races, as well as the long jump event.

Many athletes have dominated Olympic games over the years. But Owens’ victories were extra special as they happened in Nazi Germany in front of Adolf Hitler shortly before World War II.

Owens has many cards from the 1936 games and some of his most common ones are from the Reemtsma Cigarettes Olympia set.

For starters, these aren’t your traditional types of trading cards. Measuring about 3 1/8″ by 4 3/4, they’re slightly oversized and about the size of an index card. They’re also quite thin, which was by design. These ‘cards’ were really more like miniature photographs and were intended to be pasted into a special album designed to hold them. Today, finding albums full of the cards aren’t too uncommon.

The Owens cards are sometimes referred to as rookie cards. Owens, though, does have an earlier card in his 1935 Muratti. Those cards were printed prior to the Olympics and feature Owens as a track and field star at Ohio State.

Most of the cards in the Reemtsma set are fairly inexpensive. Individual commons can sell for $1-3 but if buying in bulk, you can often get them cheaper.

To the Owens cards, specifically, there are seven of them in the set. Germany clearly understood the importance of his feats by picturing him on so many cards.

Owens has three cards that are individual cards — meaning, he is the only subject pictured. In general, those are his more desired cards out of the group of seven. One of those is a horizontal shot showing Owens participating in the long jump. The other two feature Owens as a sprinter with one card picturing him going left and the other facing right. Both are shown here.

The remaining four cards picture Owens with other subjects. Two of those picture Owens with other male runners — one in a 100m race and a second with all of the subjects seated.

The third card shows Owens relaxing with German long jumper Luz Long. Long and Owens actually remained in touch after the Olympic Games, and Long finished second at the event, winning silver. The final multi-subject card pictures Owens along with gold medalist sprinter Helen Stephens.

In terms of value, the cards have always been affordable. And even today when prices have been inflated, the cards are still fairly inexpensive for such an early card of one of the most iconic track and field stars of all time.

Typically, the cards with many subjects start at lower prices. Often, those cards will sell for $10-$20 at auction. The Owens cards where he alone is pictured usually start in the $30-$40 range. It should be noted, however, that these prices fluctuate wildly. At times, the cards with multiple subjects can sell for as much as the individual Owens cards. Similarly, it is not terribly uncommon to see the single Owens cards topping $50.

The prices, specifically on eBay, are often dependent upon who is watching those auctions at the time.

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