Tobacco companies had been including baseball cards in their packages as an incentive for more than 30 years when the Ligget and Myers Company decided to use a similar promotion inside its tins 100 years ago. These were a little different, though. Instead of individual photos, they used posed team pictures. There’s no party planned, but the underrated 1913 Fatima team cards celebrate their 100th anniversary as a realistic set-building opportunity for collectors.
Fatima issued a card for all 16 big league teams; eight National and eight American. That gives us 369 players, managers and mascots and a total of 33 Hall of Famers. Produced in a rather odd size of 2 5/8” by 4 ¾” and printed on thin cardboard with black borders, they’re susceptible to wear and high grade examples are rare. The best set in PSA’s Set Registry has a rating of 5.53.
In the lower right corner is the date of issue and ‘C Pictorial News Company’ is credited with the image.
Known as T200 in the American Card Catalog, 1913 Fatima team cards are a fascinating look at baseball’s past and some of the great teams of the era. The Philadelphia A’s card includes five Hall of Famers: Chief Bender, Eddie Collins, Connie Mack, Eddie Plank, and Home Run Baker. Joe Jackson, just a couple of years into his big league career, appears on the Cleveland Naps card along with Nap Lajoie and Ray Chapman, who would be hit in the head with a pitch and die several years later. The New York Giants photo includes not only Christy Mathewson, but the great Jim Thorpe as well. Honus Wagner is on the Pittsburgh Pirates card, Ty Cobb on the Tigers photo and Walter Johnson on the Senators card.
Despite the number of big names and the age of the issue, recent sales and auctions won’t knock you off your feet. A PSA 3 graded A’s card sold for $190. The White Sox card in lower grades, can be had for around $200. An SGC 30 New York Giants issue recently sold for $280. The Fatima Cubs card, which features the likes of Johnny Evers, went for $187 at auction in SGC 40 rated condition.
Judging by the roster of players on each card, it’s evident that the photos for the Fatima set were taken after the start of the 1913 season and rushed into tobacco products before the end of summer.
Here’s the checklist:
Brooklyn Nationals (Dodgers)
Chicago Nationals (Cubs)
Cincinnati Nationals (Reds)
New York Nationals (Giants)
Philadelphia Nationals (Phillies)
Pittsburgh Nationals (Pirates)
St. Louis Nationals (Cardinals)
Boston Americans (Red Sox)
Chicago Americans (White Sox)
Cleveland Americans (Naps)
Detroit Americans (Tigers)
New York Americans (Yankees)
Philadelphia Americans (Athletics)
St. Louis Americans (Browns)
Washington Americans (Senators)
Not all T200 cards are created equal. The New York A.L., the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals and the Boston Braves are among the toughest cards to find, for some reason, with the New York A.L. and Browns cards considered the rarest. Some of the more rare and star-studded cards from this issue have sold for more than $10,000 in NM/MT condition, so clearly chasing the more readily available lower grades is a far easier task.
The backs of the cards have a Fatima logo and a slogan: “No gold tips but finest quality”. They also contain an offer where a smoker could send in 40 Fatima coupons for an oversized card. Not many took Ligget & Meyers up on the offer. Today, those premium cards are very rare—and very expensive.
You can find Fatima cards, especially higher grade examples, in major auctions on a regular basis. Here’s a look at 1913 Fatima team cards on eBay right now. Can’t swing the real deal? You can buy a reprint set for $9.95.