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Lot # 287 (of 1807)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1910 T209 Contentnea Cigarettes "Photo Series" Souvenir Album (Erwin-Nadal Tobacco Co.)

Starting Bid - $2,500.00, Sold For - $29,625.00

Presented is an exciting, newly discovered example of the T209 Contentnea Cigarettes "Photo Series" souvenir album. To us, this is a completely new item, as we were totally unaware of its existence when it was consigned. This album is among the most substantial and rarest of all tobacco-card companion pieces within the hobby. To the best of our knowledge, only one (or possibly two) other examples of this rare album are known to exist. The offered album has been consigned to us by a family with close ties to Danville, Virginia, which was home to one of the teams depicted in this album. Our consignor's great-grandfather was born in Danville in the 1870s, and his grandfather was born in Danville in 1900. The family lived there until 1915, and based on stories passed down and several of the grandfather's personal writings, they were very big baseball fans as well as regular tobacco smokers. This album was almost certainly acquired by one of the family members in 1910 through a combination of regular use of the Contentnea brand and a strong interest in minor-league baseball, including supporting their home team, the Danville Red Sox of the Virginia League. Issued by the Erwin-Nadal Tobacco Co., T209 Contentnea cards were produced in two different series: 1) T209 Series One, issued in 1909, is comprised of sixteen color lithograph cards of Virginia League, Carolina Association, and Eastern League players, and 2) T209 Series Two, the T209 "Photo Series" set issued in 1910, is comprised of 224 different players from the Virginia League, Carolina Association, and Eastern League. The second, much larger series of T209, to which this album is related, poses a far great challenge to collectors due to the number of cards in the set, their scarcity in general, and the extreme rarity of some cards. T209 Contentnea "Photo Series" Tobacco cards have long captured the imagination of many of the most legendary collectors, from the earliest days of serious collecting. This is no doubt due in part to the fact that many of the players in T209 "Photo Series" are featured in few or no other sets, and the photos featured are unique to the set. One of the most interesting and unusual cards in the set, that of B. E. Thompson, has long intrigued collectors and even casual observers as it is unlike any other baseball card ever produced, featuring Thompson, a non-player, dressed as Uncle Sam. Printed on the reverse of each Thompson card is text which reads “Be Sure and Save B. E. Thompson’s Picture. Ask Your Dealer About It.” The text implies that Thompson's card should be of special importance to collectors who discover it inside a pack of Contentnea Cigarettes, but the exact reason as to why was not clear until recently. An article in Old Cardboard (issue #28) by collectors Michael Peich and Tim Newcomb, both true card scholars and avid researchers of this set and others, establishes that Thompson's card was used in conjunction with a redemption offer by Erwin-Nadal. The premium for which his card was to be exchanged is, in fact, the souvenir album presented in this lot. The concept of offering premium prizes in exchange for specific cards or a complete set was not a new one engineered by Erwin-Nadal. Decades earlier, Allen & Ginter and other tobacco companies offered decorative albums to customers for numerous sport and nonsport sets, including the N28 and N29 series, which featured several baseball players among their subjects. The twenty-page Contentnea album, housed inside a string-bound green jacket, contains pictures of players from the eighteen teams featured in the set, all members of the minor-league Carolina Association, the Virginia League (Class C), and the Eastern Carolina League (Class D). A title page bearing an image of B. E. Thompson as well as a second page featuring a company statement about the album and the T209 cards is also included. A total of 212 players, all of whom are depicted in the set, are represented in the album. Twelve players do not have their likeness included in the album despite appearing in the set. The images in the album are the same as used in the set, a mixture of studio and stadium shots, so the album could also serve as a visual checklist of sorts for those pursuing completion. While condition is not usually a primary concern when discussing rare, nearly unique, items, this album has survived in exceptional condition over the past century. The jacket displays faint wear along with minimal staining on front and back. Minor separation is present along the spine, and wear at the corners and along the edges, consistent with handling and age, is visible but not pervasive. The interior pages display beautifully with the important card images undisturbed except for tiny pencil notations of each player's position along the nameplate of all but seventeen cards. The album is entirely free of heavy creasing, rips, and other major technical flaws that might be expected on a delicate item such as this. This is an extraordinarily attractive example of this very rare and extremely significant item. Though we may never know for sure, it is possible that the extreme rarity of the album is directly related to the fact that few people saved the card of Thompson, a non-player who likely elicited little interest compared to the more recognizable, or at least more interesting, baseball players featured throughout the set. It is also possible that getting the Thompson card was just one hurdle collectors had to jump (perhaps a small charge or coupons were also required) to get the album. Whatever the case, this album is an incredible new discovery, extremely important to both collectors of the T209 set and prewar cards alike, in outstanding condition and representing a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire this exceptionally rare companion piece. Our special thanks to Michael Peich for his assistance in our research, understanding, and presentation of this outstanding rarity! Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000+.
SOLD FOR $29,625.00

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