Pre-War Christmas Cards

A couple of late-arriving Christmas cards both showed up last Wednesday. One of those weird kismet things where both mailings worked really well together as pre-war grab bags.

The first mailing came from Anson at Pre-war Cards* and featured three cards that are perfectly tailored to my interests. The first two are a pair of aviators best known for their work with lighter-than-air flight—in part because they both lost their lives through lighter than air flight disasters.

*According to Anson it’s been en route for weeks so it must have just been waiting for just the right moment.

I’ve actually mentioned both before on this blog so this will be fast. S. A. Andrée was previously covered in my Polar Exploration post. Since this Felix Potin card dates to 1898–1908, it was printed after he and his balloon expedition had disappeared into the Arctic and entered the realm of myth and legend. Quite an amazing story to read about and a lot of fun to have a portrait of the man to go with my card of his balloon.

It is worth noting though that the Felix Potin cards appear to be photographic prints. Not cabinet cards or cartes de visite but the same mass-produced photographs that the 3D Cavanders cards are. Unlike the Cavanders though the Felix Potin has a blank back (which I’m assuming is standard rather than this being a skinned card).

Admiral Moffett is a card I actually have already. As per that previous post, I have a special attachment to him having grown up in the shadow of his eponymous naval air base. His card was printed in 1934, the year after he perished in the USS Akron crash—basically ending the United States’ lighter-than-air program and makes a fitting pair to the Andrée card as memorials of a sort.

The third card was a 1927–1932 Die Welt in Bildern card featuring a Josetti Bilder back. It’s a great image of a California Sequoia with a tunnel carved trough it. I’ve gone ahead and just included a screenshot of the Google Translate back since it seems like a straightforward translation. I’m now wondering what other cards are in this series (is it trees, USA, California?) and it kind of amazes me how there are so many sets out there with checklists that aren’t online.

The other mailing came from Marc Brubaker who stumbled into a weird cache of cards at a local store last week and proceeded to do his usual thing where when I receive one envelope from him there’s a 50% chance another is arriving very soon. He posted a photo of these in the Discord “look what I just got” channel and I immediately recognized them as being “like” the 1934 Hints on Association Football set.

Turns out they’re more than like and are in fact the same set only also released in 1934 only in China by the British American Tobacco Company. So no text and Chinese backs both otherwise basically the same aside from the decision to omit the final two cards in the British set (#49 Receiving a Penalty and #50 Goalkeeper Narrowing the Goal) and turn the Chinese set into a 48-card set.

When I looked closer though I realized that they hadn’t just removed the text, they’d modified the artwork so that all the soccer players were Chinese with rounder facial features and blacker hair. I’ve gone ahead and inserted scans of the same cards in the British set for comparison purposes. Yes here are other changes to the uniform colors and the softness of the artwork but the big change is the racial one.

No much to say about the backs except to note that there’s no obvious branding and the overall design is super simple. Just text surrounded by a border with a simple card number in one corner.

Google Translate doesn’t do well here but it does enough to suggest that the text is trying to translate from the original English. So I’ve gone ahead and included the English backs along with the screenshots. I’m mainly interested here in how Google Translate handles the top-to-bottom, right-to-left text flow by just rotating the English text so it flows the same direction as the Chinese.

Very cool stuff and I get to add another country to my Around the World post now too. Thanks Anson and Marc and have a Happy New Year of collecting.

First Hubbell!

Anson at Pre-war Cards runs a regular sale where he offloads duplicates and things from his collection. I don’t participate much—things are either way out of my price range or they get claimed almost immediately.* His most recent sale was no exception here but a couple items that were highly relevant to my interests were neither snapped up in the first minute nor obscenely expensive.

*Previous purchases include a couple soccer cards as well as a couple Zee-nuts.

Highlight of the batch was this 1937 Dixie Lid of Carl Hubbell. It’s obviously creased and there’s also a backing cardboard attached which was either intended to stabilize the crease or is just a remnant of how it was displayed decades ago. A little sad to not be able to see the Dixie branding and know what kind of ice cream this was from but as someone who’s been wanting a vintage Hubbell for a long time to add to my retired numbers project, all of those issues meant I could actually afford this.

I’m being optimistic and calling this my first Hubbell card. I’m also being optimistic about this being my first Dixie Lid. The 1930s ones are very cool alternatives to the trading cards of that decade and the 1950s ones have left/right pairs that turn into stereo views.

This 1935 Eckstein-Halpaus cigarette card featuring Herbert Hoover and his two sons is part of a set called “The Post-war Period”—making this an explicitly post-war pre-war card. Not quite a “playing-days” card of Hoover but probably as close as I would expect to get for my collection.

The text is not the usual fare you expect to see on any trading card and is best rendered as a dump from Google Translate.

December 1928: Hoover becomes President of the USA

While the first surging signs of the unhealthy global economic situation have already become visible in Germany, the United States is still experiencing an artificially-induced economic boost. On 11/7/28, Hoover is elected the new President; under him, on 10/28/29, the great collapse of the American economy began.

That this is from a 1935 set puts a lot of things into context. The Weimar Republic collapsed in 1933 after a massive depression precipitated in part by the US stock market crash. Hitler took over as Chancellor and became dictator in 1934. Googling around suggests that this set explicitly covers (I suspect it actually celebrates) the rise of the Third Reich and contains some cards that will make my existing worst cards seem benign.

Anson, as is his wont, included a couple bonus cards in the envelope. This one, from the 1926 Player’s Cigarettes Gilbert and Sullivan set, threatens to outshine the two cards I bought. It’s not just a Gilbert and Sullivan card, it’s the very model of a modern Major General card.

One of the things I love about pre-war cards is how varied the topics are. I’m not sure you could find a set for every item listed in his song but looking through all the available sets it certainly feels as if it should be possible.  Having a card of him is kind of the perfect encapsulation of what makes pre-war collecting so much fun.

This is an oversize version of sets that appear to be much more common in regular tobacco card sizes. I kind of love many of the cards in those sets but oof are the Mikado cards rough to look at.

A card of the Luft Hansa Heinkel HE 70 from the 1936 Player’s Cigarettes International Air Liners set is a fun addition as well. I’m more of a trains guy but the early aviation stuff tends to make for very nice cards too. I’m glad that this one’s livery features what looks like a Dutch flag rather than a Nazi one. Though I’m not sure why that flag is painted on the tail since it’s doesn’t match the Luft Hansa livery from that time.

Last of the bonus cards actually ties in with my first pre-war purchase a handful of years ago where I lamented how none of the Kings from Richard II to Henry VII were available. Edward IV is probably the least notable Shakespearean monarch but his coronation does end the Henry VI cycle.

Thanks Anson. Very cool stuff which I’m very happy to slide into the album.

A surprise from Pre War Cards

Last fall I finally started watching Cowboy Bebop. As much as I like anime and animation Bebop had never really appealed to me. Space ships and guns weren’t my thing and it seemed like one of those shows which was designed to appeal to the worst kind of anime fanboys. But with the live action remake providing a handy excuse, enough people whose taste I respect were able to convince me to give the show a shot.

I’m very glad I did. For whatever reason no one had properly explained the brilliance of the music and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed savoring my way through the series. No I’m not done yet. I can only watch late at night after the kids have gone to bed and as a result I’m not able to get through episodes very quickly.

Anyway, as is my wont, once I have a good template set up I’m incapable of letting it sit around unused. So I went to my Carreras Famous Airmen template and created three more cards to go with the four Miyazaki cards I had previously created.

At first these were just for fun and I had no real desire to print them. Then Pre War Cards started tweeting about ripping boxes of Cowboy Bebop collectible card game packs. So I piggybacked the cards on to my most recent Magcloud order* and cut them out.

*Not currently impressed with Magcloud’s support since they screwed up two of my items and it’s approaching two weeks now without getting to the correct support desk. 

They look like a lot of fun in my album but I went ahead and sent Anson copies for his albums too. A week or so later he sent me a nice thank you package.

First off. 6 duplicates from his Bebop collectible card game. We’ve got cards featuring the five members of the Bebop crew plus one which depicts the first episode of the show. Looking at the cards I have no idea how the game is intended to be played. And truth be told, the idea of making a game based on Bebop seems incredibly stupid unless the point is that at the end of each game you haven’t accomplished any of your planned objectives.

It’s cool to have a sample though, especially since these don’t seem to circulate too much. Every time Anson tweets about them it seems that other Bebop fans jump in with “WTF are those!” excitement.

That of course wasn’t the only stuff in the envelope. There were also these two playing cards. The 8♣️ depicts Memorial Church at Stanford while the 4♠️ shows San Francisco Chinatown. Obviously Memorial Church will slide into my Stanford album while the Chinatown one will go with my pre-war postcards and things.

One thing to note about the printing here is that the colored ovals are a solid ink color. Yes there’s a black halftone on top from the photos since in neither of them is the sky pure white, but all the color is a solid spot color. I’m sort of curious how many different colors here are and if they correspond to each suit.

These cards come from a deck which looks to have been distributed on the Southern Pacific Coast Daylight route. Based on the design of the locomotive it looks like either a GS-2 or GS-3 which dates the deck to 1940 plus or minus a couple years.

Having ridden the route as part of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service. I can easily see why it was considered America’s most beautiful train when it was running in the height of the streamliner age. Whether enjoying the coastal views from the train or just seeing that streamlined red and orange livery pass by the train is an obvious looker.

I’m assuming the deck consists of landmarks that are roughly served by the route. So a lot of Bay Area and LA scenes and probably some stuff from Santa Barbara as well. The back of the deck definitely looks like it’s included one of Mission Santa Barbara’s bell towers along with the Santa Ynez Mountains in a made-up scene for the train to speed through.

Very cool stuff. Thanks Anson!

Fascist cards

One of the things that’s difficult about collecting pre-war cards is that I can’t ignore the content and context behind a lot of the cards. I mentioned that my South African cards, as beautiful as they are depict a state that was in the process of implementing apartheid. Things like the Garbaty cards meanwhile were printed right after Hitler took control of Germany and almost every single actress I look up has a section in her bio which details what happened to her during World War 2.

Of the Garbatys I got in my last batch, many, maybe even the majority, feature an actress who refused to collaborate with the regime. Some detail actresses who had to grapple with their continuing to work for the Nazis. A few though feature women did more than just continue to work.

We’ll start with the worst card in my collection. Yes I own Curt Shilling and Aubrey Huff cards but neither of them are literally the First Lady of the Third Reich. Hanna Reitsch is a close number two on this list since she remained a confirmed Nazi after World War 2 and totally overshadowed all her aviation accomplishments in the process.

Part of me feels guilty for even scanning these cards and wants to burn them immediately. It’s not like I would feel comfortable selling these to anyone and as much as the Ted Cruz chain letter was funny these are a step beyond that. But another part of me wants to keep them as part of the context of the set itself and the way that everyone it depicts had to make a choice and live with the consequences of that choice regarding what they did about fascism.

I would never seek these cards out specifically but the fact they came as part of a random lot of 100 cards is part of their context in my collection as well.

Leni Riefenstahl is probably the most-complicated card I have. Like my Hindenburg card, she simultaneously represents the Nazi state but also sort of transcends it. She was also extremely skilled as a filmmaker and Olympia is worth watching today as a sports movie.

I also recently grabbed this 1936 Muratti card of the 1934 World Cup Champions, Italy from one of Anson’s Twitter sales. This is a card which is both from a fascist state and depicts a fascist state. It also features a damn good soccer team with players like Guiseppe Meazza and Giovanni Ferrari who would go on to win an Olympics gold in 1936 as well as a second World Cup in 1938.

Since I explicitly purchased this card it’s obvious I’m much more lenient on cards like it. The political background of the World Cups is part of their history and as a soccer fan I’m especially interested in cards depicting the early years of the international game.

I don’t know the histories of the individual leagues well enough and the nature of card production is vastly different in each country. But the international stuff which can center on the World Cup is something I can handle.

New Zeenuts

Another small pre-war card pickup from Anson. Unlike the previous Calcio Storico card this time it’s actually baseball cards. Not just any baseball cards either but Zeenuts. I have a soft spot for these due to finding a pair of 1917 ones at my grandmothers’ but they’re not that easy to find.

Both cards I got were of San Francisco Seals. It’s of course tempting to just grab any card but focus is key to collecting. Collecting the Seals makes sense since I already collect the Giants. There’s no searchlist or anything—the idea of collecting all Seals cards is ludicrous. Instead it’s an informal type collection that I’m content to add a card or two to when I encounter them.

This one is a 1928 card of Seals manager Nick Williams. It’s beat up in what I refer to as “Zeenut condition.”* A bit rough but enough photo details are still visible that you can make out his face and see the uniform details. That Seals logo in particular is one that I’ve loved ever since I first saw photos of baseball before the Giants came to town.

*I’ve proposed changing the grading scale to be less like coins and more like the Mohs scale. In this scale a 1 would be represented by the typical Zeenut condition of multiple creases, a bite out of a least one corner, and some paper loss. No idea why Zeenuts, more than any other card, seem to get beat up so badly.

1928 was a good year for the Seals. They won the PCL with one of the best Minor League teams of all time. I’m not sure how much Williams had to do with how good the teams was—it was clearly stacked with players like Hall of Famer Earl Averill. But the manager is the manager and traditionally gets a decent amount of credit.

Googling around suggests that Williams lost his position in 1931 after getting into a fight with the team trainer. Whether he quit or was fired appears to still be a point of contention. Needless to say things did not end nicely despite the on-field success.

The second Zeenut is in fact a 1931 card of catcher Pop Penebsky. Yes it appears that Zeenut misspelled his name. Penebsky is one of 5 catchers the Seals used that season as they won another PCL title. I can’t find out much more about Penebsky as a player though.

This is actually a very good condition Zeenut. The rip at the bottom is fine since it just means that the coupon got removed sloppily. There’s nothing else really wrong wit the card aside from the mistrim. Photo quality is very nice. You can make out the same cool Seals logo and see that the caps are Super-simple.

Anson also tossed in a bonus card to go with the pair of Zeenuts. This is from the 1922 Will’s Cigarettes Do You Know set and is a kind of gorgeous example of chromolithography. At first the idea of a “Blue Sky” card is kind of silly—plenty of jokes on Twitter about this being especially exotic for England—but flipping it over shows that it’s much cooler than that.

In this case the card is really why the sky is blue. This is a set designed to teach people things. Typical pre-war wonderfulness in embracing the educational potential of trading cards. Wills even ran four series of these so you can get a couple hundred mini lessons if you collect them all.

A couple pre-war pickups

I guess I’m going to just be blogging every week about pre-war card pickups. No set this time just a couple I’ve grabbed that I had my eye on for a while.

The first pickup is a 1909–11 Murad T51 Stanford card. Aside from being relevant to my collecting interests, I’ve especially liked that it features forestry as its sport and depicts on its artwork what looks like a giant redwood forest.

This is like 65 years before the Stanford Tree mascot. The fact that it depicts what would become the school mascot takes it from being cool just because it’s old (only 25 years after the university’s founding) to sort of predicting the future.

Also the artwork itself is pretty nice with its gold border ink and sense of scale in the giant redwoods and tiny horsemen. We don’t see any of forest canopy we’re just among the tree trunks. Which really is how it feels to be in those forests in California.

The second pickup is from Anson over at Prewarcards. He was clearing out some excess and one of the cards in his clear out was this Origin of Football card from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set. I’ve loved this card ever since Anson showed it off on twitter not just because I’m a soccer fan but because it appears to show a form of Calcio Storico.

While the backs don’t mention anything about the Italian version of calcio, the fact that a version of the sport which looks very much like this card is still being played in Florence is something I just can’t ignore.

Anyway because Anson is a great member of the community and has also been super generous with me in the past,* I jumped on his sale and was very happy to receive his extra version of this card.

*Including the card of cards from the Sarony set.

Anson included a second card in the envelope too. This is from the 1925 Turf Cigarettes Sports Records set and depicts sprinting and its record times. That the card is a British issue means it shows the 100 yard time instead of 100 meters so I can’t compare it to a historical record progression.

It is however an interesting comparison to the 1939 Churchman’s card of Jesse Owens which lists a speed of 9.4 seconds for the 100 yards—.4 seconds faster than the record of 9.8 seconds depicted on the 1925 card (Owens’s 220 yard speed is .9 seconds faster).

A surprise from @prewarcards

While my GiantsNOW has been my main customs card project, this past year has seen it morph into a GiantsTOTAL sort of thing* while my customs-making has expanded into new areas. It’s a fun exercise and I figured it would be especially fun to make cards for various Twitter friends. I don’t have a lot of trade bait so I figured that in addition to blogging, sending out a couple customs of favorite players would be a fun way to say thank you.

Anson over a @prewarcards is one such friend. He got sucked into two collecting black holes this past year. One is Dwight Gooden cards, the other are Ogden’s Cigarettes cards. I figured it would be fun to mash the two together so I created an Ogden’s Dwight Gooden card and sent it off in a plain white envelope.

*Just 70 cards of the guys who appeared for the team plus coaches.

I was not expecting my Cardsaver to be returned to me. I was especially not expecting it to be stuffed with a bunch of pre-war cards including a dozen real Ogdens. But it was and holy moly I can see how Anson got sucked into these. It’s not just that these are not my oldest cards—dating to 1901–1902 and passing up my Liebig set—there’s just something amazing about the variety. In this batch we’ve got sports, artists, actors, comedians, world leaders, and damaged warships.

Starting with the sports cards, we have a card of E.E.B. May who was a champion weight (shot) putter in England in 1901. Googling around pulls up some references to him competing in the hammer throw in  the US in 1902 and losing to a Harvard thrower. This card is especially interesting since it’s an action photo of a 1901 event.

Next we have a card of swimmer James Finney posing with all his medals. It’s noteworthy here that Finney’s accomplishments aren’t speed-based accomplishments but rather have to do with being able to swim the furthest underwater.

And finally we have an equestrian card of the winners of the Queens Prize at Kempton Park. Kempton Park is still a working racecourse but the website doesn’t mention the Queens Prize handicap. As for the jockey, it appears that his name is listed incorrectly on the front of the card.

The last card is of Vesta Tilley who has a wonderful Wikipedia writeup about her highly successful career as a male impersonator on stage. By the time this card was printed in 1901 she appears to have been a bona fide star for at least a decade. This may have been a pack hit back in the day.

Continuing on the performers theme, Sir Henry Irving was the first actor to be knighted and is noteworthy for being the inspiration for Count Dracula. This card came out right around the end of his management of the Lyceum Theatre and only a couple years before his death.

The card of Lily Brayton on the other hand captures her at the beginning of her career yet she’s already playing important roles like Viola in Twelfth Night.

R.G. Knowles doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry but appears to be a music hall comedian who billed himself as “The Peculiar American.” More intriguingly, googling around for “Richard George Knowles” turns up an 1896 book about American Baseball. At first I wasn’t sure if it was authored by the same guy but there’s a photo of him on page 65 and it looks awfully close to man in the Ogden’s card.

Rather than being just a musician card we’ve got a baseball writer. I’ve skimmed the book and enjoy a lot of it. The familiarity of explaining the appeal of the game (no draws, for thinking men) is great. I love the detailed instructions about how to lay out a baseball field through specifically knotted lengths of heavy cord. It’s fun to read rules written for an audience familiar with cricket.

The section on how to keep score is especially interesting since it’s not a method I’ve seen used before (also shortstop is position #5 and third base is #6) and there’s something about seeing different methods of keeping score that I particularly love.

Much of the rest of book is dedicated to describing the nature of baseball in England at the end of the 19th century. I did not skim this part except to note that the five teams appear to be vocational guilds and that one of the competitions was called the Music Hall Review Cup as well as an RG Knowles Trophy which went to the London champion.

Compared to Knowles, Gus Elen is merely a music hall performer. But he had a long career and made it into the age of sound in movies. As a result we can see him singing some his cockney songs on YouTube and really appreciate the way he performed.

Moving to politics. Mutsuhito now known as Emperor Meiji is probably the coolest card Anson sent me. The back text is a huge understatement for what happened to Japan during his era, although since this card predates the war with Russia the West wasn’t fully aware of what Japan had become yet either.

It’s cards like this that are why I collect. We know of him as Meiji and his era transformed almost everything about Japan.Having a card that dates from his era (even if it’s not a Japanese card) is a way of touching that history.

Baron Curzon eventually became the First Marquess Curzon of Kedleston. While he was Vicerory there was a massive famine in India. His “beautiful American” wife was Mary Leiter, daughter of one of the founders of Marshall Field’s who’s probably more relevant today as being part of the inspiration for Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey. Curzon’s hand meanwhile can still be seen on modern maps because the Curzon line he drew in 1919 to mark the border between Poland and the USSR is basically what Poland’s border with Belarus and Ukraine is today.

The HMS Salmon and HMS Dragon are two torpedo destroyers. Neither appears to have been destroyed by the results of what happened in the cards here and both made it to World War 1, during which they reached the end of their utility. It’s an interesting idea to have a set of cards depicting damaged vessels. It does make for more interesting stories but I also wonder if it’s also a bit of the tabloid “if it bleeds it leads” thing too.

All together this Ogdens batch is absolutely wonderful. I’ve seen cheap singles available but they’re kind of overwhelming. I love the variety and way each card is a potential rabbit hole into learning about the past.

General interest sets like this no longer exist. I don’t think it’s really even possible for them to exist now. We like our sets to be much more focused (something I completely understand) but seeing the potential for other directions the hobby could have gone 120 years ago is still enough to make me think about who would be in such a set today.

The dozen Ogdens would’ve been more than enough for a blogpost but they weren‘t the only cards in the envelope. Anson also included two 1932 Sanellas. These German cards are pretty big and printed on paper so thin it’s had to call them cards at all. But the size is otherwise correct and the artwork is all kinds of wonderful.

The shotputter is dynamically posed in the frame with a crisp and clear depiction of the Olympics badge on his uniform. The design of the badge also suggests USA to me. The crew image meanwhile is a nice tight crop and composition with the boat moving through the frame at an interesting angle and the oars balancing out the negative space perfectly.

The backs detail that both of these are from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The shotputter is indeed American and is in fact gold-medal-winner Leo Sexton who won with a throw of 16 meters. The crew are the Gold-Medal-winning German Coxed Fours team. Every Sanella checklist lists them as Der Bierer des Berliner but the five men are Hans Eller, Horst Hoeck, Walter Meyer, Joachim Spremberg, and coxswain Carlheinz Neumann.

As I noted in a previous post, one of my favorite things about these cards is the Fraktur Blackletter writing and the way that these cards remind me of the Antiqua–Fraktur dispute.

I also found two soccer cards. George Mutch is from the 1935 Wills Association Footballers set. I already wrote a little about him so the only thing I’ll add here is that as much as I like these old soccer sets it’s always especially nice when they feature a team like Manchester United which is still in the top flight.

The Willie Hall is from the 1939 Wills Association Footballers set and shows a lot more uniform detail. The popped collar is a great way of doing the portrait and it’s pretty neat to see the much fatter cockerel in the Spurs badge. That bird loses weight the longer it balances on the ball.

This card makes a nice pair with the Stanley Matthews card Anson sent me last year as well. Hall’s bio is also kind of interesting  and he seems to very much still be somewhat of a local hero as the teams in Newark, his home town, still compete for the Willie Hall Memorial Trophy.

Moving to the last two cards. The first is from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set and is a card that is literally of cards. Am I a sucker for stupid things like this? Yes I am.

Beyond that though this card is the only one of the batch which isn’t printed via halftones. The colors are super vibrant and the artwork takes advantage of this perfectly. Anson has shown a few other samples from this set. The Rounders card is pretty neat for all of us Baseball guys but I love the Football card since it looks like it’s showing some sort of Calcio Storico.

The last card in the envelope was a Don Bradman from the 1935 Gallaher Champions set. I have the 1934 set and it’s beautiful. I’ve been considering getting the 1935 one but aside from Bradman (and Stanford graduate Pete Desjardins) the set just didn’t look as nice to me.

Bradman though is a great card to have and this card shows him doing what he does best. His excellence at batting is so far better than any other cricketers’ that it looks like a mistake. He also makes a nice partner to the Larwood and Jardine cards who inspired me to pick up the 1934 set to begin with.

Anyway, wow. This was a hell of a surprise and a ton of fun to go through. Thanks Anson!

Pre-war cards from @prewarcards

One of my favorite Baseball Card Twitter people is Anson Whaley (@prewarcards). He specializes in pre-war* sports cards so his blog and twitter feed contains almost no overlap with mine; aside from my two Zeenuts, I have no pre-war cards. Yet I feel their call sirening away at me. At some level I suspect every collector of baseball cards does. It’s not just an age thing where old cards are always interesting, there’s something to getting in touch with the roots of the hobby which is deeply appealing.

*Generally defined as anything predating US involvement in World War 2.

I think every card collector is an amateur history geek. Cards connect you to over a century of collecting and the evolution of the hobby is something that you just eventually learn about. My sons, who have only just caught the collecting bug, already know about T206 and Honus Wagner. It’s just something that comes up when you get into the hobby.

Anyway, while I’m spending my time as a cheapskate collector who prefers getting cards via trade or for under a quarter on Sportlots, I’m also educating myself on pre-war issues and getting a sense of what kind of things I might one, day consider spending some money on. And I’m also educating myself on how I could do that responsibly as well as learning about what kinds of things to look for to make sure I don’t get fooled by any fakery.*

*Being a cheapskate collector does mean that my unwillingness to spend even medium money on any cards protects me from getting ripped off.

Anson’s website is one of my go-to locations for this kind of information. Plus he’s very friendly and helpful on twitter as well with regard to posting things, answering questions about them, and even discussing the best ways of storing them.

In the beginning of this month he tweeted out some photos of his set of 1928–29 John Player and Sons Footballers. It’s a beautiful set of cards. As a soccer fan there’s something about the early days of the game where everything is recognizable yet so so different. Despite the game having evolved tremendously from those days, the imagery from those decades is immensely powerful. Any team which can trace its history to those years makes damn sure sustain that visual connection to the past.

There’s also something extra special about seeing the early British uniforms since they’re the model that the rest of the world followed.* So in addition to the weight of history there’s a sense of seeing the source of the game in these old cigarette cards.

*Most famously perhaps with the connection Juventus has to Notts County.

I sent a very enthusiastic reply to Anson’s tweet observing how great the cards were and after we had had a conversation about pre-war soccer cards in general and how to find other examples.* No I’m not planning on getting into soccer cards. But you’re damn right I was curious.

*As a Barcelona fan, I was especially curious about whether there were old cards from Spain or Catalunya. Short answer, there most certainly are but they’re often chocolate cards not cigarette cards. 

Anyway during this conversation Anson asked me if I was interested in a few of his duplicates. I guess he could tell that I liked them for what they are and not as any sort of investment. I was very surprised. There’s a wonderful part of Card Twitter where people just offer to send you a plain white envelope with a few cards.* I never respond to people tweeting their cards with the idea that someone will send me things** so I’m always shocked and somewhat embarrassed*** when it happens to me.

*This is what happened with the 1954 Bowman earlier as well.

**There’s a much-less-wonderful portion of Card Twitter which presumes that anything you tweet is something you’re willing to trade or sell.

***I just respond to things which I like since Twitter is most-enjoyable when you respond positively to other people instead of succumbing to the temptation to tear everything down. I’m not in it for freebies—those are just icing on the cake—and I certainly try not to come across as a prize hound.

A couple weeks ago the plain white envelope arrived. And it was beautiful. Colors were bright and crisp. I love the brushy artwork for the backgrounds and the way the ball is always halfway out of the frame. That one of the cards is a Notts County player in that black and white kit is fantastic. Do I know anything about Paddy Mills? Nothing more than what the back of the card and his Wikipedia page tell me. But the story about those shirts and how they had become Juventus’s kit in the beginning of the century is more than enough to make this card interesting to me.

Given how two of the cards feature black and white kits, I’m glad that the Jimmy Oakes comes from a period of Port Vale’s history when they did not wear black and white. As a card this is probably my favorite of the batch since the colors and the pose with the ball coming directly out of the frame are especially striking.

John Priestley’s card is fun too. I love that all three of these feature dynamic poses which capture a certain sense of the movement of soccer’s gameplay which still feels appropriate to the modern game. I’m also enjoying that all three cards feature teams that are now in League Two since the reminder of how a team’s fortunes can change over the decades coupled with the reassurance that the teams are still in existence and playing soccer is everything that’s great about the game.

But Anson did not stop there with those three Players Cigarettes card as he included some duplicate 1938 Churchman’s Cigarettes Association Footballers cards in the envelope as well. These aren’t as graphically exciting as the colorful Players cards but they do feature early action photography. This is pretty cool and the cards are printed at a fine-enough line screen that you can see that the photos are better than newsprint quality.

As a baseball card guy I’m not used to cards featuring players running or jumping. Maybe a follow-through. Maybe. But action photos on cards were pretty rare except when used as background images, special in-action cards, or World Series highlights.

The standout card here is Sir Stanley Matthews, inaugural member of the National Football Hall of Fame and the first active player to be knighted. There’s no obvious reason why should I recognize his name as being important except that he’s just one of those guys who you end up hearing about as you follow the game. Reading about him now when writing this post and it’s clear he was one of the all-time greats of the game who retired right when the modern era really got going.

Harry Goslin is an interesting card which captures certain poignancy in focusing on pre-war cards. In 1943 he was killed in action in Italy so these pre-war issues end up representing what could’ve been had there been no war. Reading the Wikipedia article gives me the impression that many of his Bolton teammates were in the same regiment as him too and while Goslin is the only one to die in the war, it’s kind of a scary thought for me as a fan that you could have your whole team wiped out in one bad battle.

George Mutch meanwhile is notable for 1938 reasons by being the game-winning goal scorer in the first FA Cup to be televised. Yes a bit of obscure trivia. But also a fun factoid to attach to this card.

That’s not all though. That plain white envelope also included a Sanella soccer “card” from the 1932 Sanella Margarine multi-sport set. It’s not exactly a card since it’s printed on thin paper but that doesn’t make it any less cool. As a type geek I appreciate seeing the blackletter fonts since I find the whole Antiqua-Fraktur debate about fonts and national identity to be incredibly fascinating. The idea that I could have printed ephemera from less than a century ago which is printed in my native language yet uses standard letterforms I can’t easily recognize is an amazing thought.

Along with letterform change that occurs in World War 2, this card also has other interesting pre/post war implications. It features Hanne Sobek whose English-language Wikipedia page is a stub but whose German page is fascinating. He ended up in East Germany after the war. In 1950 when the team he was coaching was barred from competing in West Germany, it defected to West Berlin and founded a new club.

Thanks for a wonderful, generous, beautiful mailing!