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The hell with the cigarettes, where is Honus? ...

Scot Reader, a well-known name to SCD readers and serious tobacco card collectors, came up with one of the coolest news clips I’ve ever seen. The 100-year-old news article from the Charlotte Observer is entitled “The Small Boy’s Mania,” with subheads reading “Pictures of ‘Baseball Men’ More Sought After Than Gold,” and “The Small Boy’s Greatest Desire is to Secure Pictures of Ty Cobb and Hans Wagner.”


I used to get a kick out of reading old newspapers, which might have nearly a half-dozen headlines detailing important details of the story, and this particular story makes it clear how that style of journalism would have carried such currency in those days.

Reader, who authored one of the great reference features in recent years in our pages of Sports Collectors Digest: The Monster: A Collector’s Guide to T206,” deserves kudos for finding this ancient news piece, which offers a wonderful view into the earliest days of collecting by young boys eager to cast aside the smokes in favor of pictures of their favorites.

Second paragraph: “Since the beginning of summer when the American Tobacco Company commenced putting the pictures in their packages of cigarettes, the small boy has been more or less of a nuisance by stopping young and old men as they walked along the street begging for “baseball men.”

It detailed how the collections had become a mania, adding that whenever a new shipment of cigarettes is opened, the boys besiege those around the “stand” trying to get the pictures from them. At no point in the article are the T206s referred to as cards; they are pictures.

Fourth paragraph: “Saturday a frying-sized kid purchased $1 worth of cigarettes, and after securing the desired pictures, peddaled the smokeables to the passers on the streets. Often two packages of cigarettes were offered for 5 cents, but the pictures had always been extracted.”

Hell, that’s wonderful stuff and I’m not even sure what a “frying-sized kid” is. This is such an intriguing story, I am going to stretch it out a bit and come back with Part II on Monday.

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