Early 20th-Century American Tobacco Card Collection

Value (2010) | $19,300 Auction$26,000 Auction
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GUEST:
They were an uncle's. They were in my mother's attic when she died almost 20 years ago. I had apparently brought them from Baton Rouge in about 1940 after my grandmother broke up her house after my uncle had died and so on. That's really about all I know of them.

APPRAISER:
They've been dormant for all that time. Was your uncle from Baton Rouge?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
These are tobacco cards. They're from about 1910 to '13. You brought in six cards. I kind of randomly selected them due to condition and names that I halfway recognized. I'm not a baseball fan particularly. There are about 75 or 80 different cards, though, in the bunch. These aren't the typical tobacco cards you see. There were tobacco cards issued all over the country, particularly the East Coast, but also the West Coast. And there was also tobacco cards issued in the South. And they are the rarest tobacco cards that were issued, primarily because there was a limited supply made and also because the weather down here isn't conducive to paper surviving. And a lot of these were issued in New Orleans and in Louisiana, so it makes sense that these would be from Baton Rouge.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
This here is a sample of something called the T213 set. And it looks very similar to the T206 set. That's the famous set with Honus Wagner. You brought a card, which I will just flip very quickly. This is also a Wagner, but it is not Honus Wagner, it's Heinie Wagner. But what's interesting about this is the back. And you can see here it's "Coupon Cigarettes... Made in New Orleans." So that shows these were made in the South. And you just typically don't see them very often. Here you have another set, it's called the T215 set. Again, they look like the T206 cards, which most people have in collections out there, but again, these are much, much scarcer. And this particular set has the Red Cross back. And you have a great one here, you have John McGraw. And he's, of course, a Hall of Famer, so a great card you chose there. Now here you chose two cards from a set called the T207 set. And these are known for their brown or sepia backgrounds. You brought Ward Miller and Louis Lowdermilk. Now, was there any particular reason you chose those two?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
Ward Miller and Louis Lowdermilk are two of the rarest cards in that set. Since the 1930s, when cards started to be cataloged, these two cards were known as real rarities. So the fact that you brought those two in out of all the ones you have is pretty remarkable. Now, what makes this even more remarkable, the back of this card also exhibits the Red Cross back. That's of profound rarity. There are less than ten Red Cross T207 backs known. Louis Lowdermilk is one of the rarest cards in the set. This card may be unique. I would estimate your two T213 cards at auction at around $300 to $500 for the pair. For these two right here, I would estimate them at $2,500 to $3,500 for the pair.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
For the Ward Miller, I'd estimate that card at $1,500 to $2,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
The Louis Lowdermilk card, we were all pretty stunned when we saw it. Because the Lowdermilk card in general is an amazing find. One with a Red Cross back, unheard of. This card that you brought in that you didn't know, you just picked it as a sample, we'd estimate it somewhere... $15,000 to $20,000 for this card.

GUEST:
(sighs) Amazing. I'm stunned.

APPRAISER:
We were stunned. I tried to keep a poker face when I saw these cards come out and you told me that you just chose them as samples, and I hadn't even seen the back yet. I was astounded. Congratulations, Ray. I mean, what an amazing, amazing find.

HOST: Okay, well, thank you very much. I am stunned.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
New York, New York
Appraised value (2010)
$19,300 Auction$26,000 Auction
Event
Biloxi, MS (July 24, 2010)
Period
20th Century
Form
Card
Material
Cardboard

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