If you’ve never collected the 1910-1912 Sweet Caporal Pins set because they were, well, pins rather than cards, it’s time to get over it. You’re missing out on the opportunity to collect a century-old set that’s among of the coolest, most affordable, most attainable issues in the hobby.
Sweet Caporal Pins: The Basics
Sweet Caporal, of course, was a brand of cigarettes and one of the most common logos you’ll find on the backs of the T206 cards issued during roughly the same time frame. The pins were another promotional product aimed at increasing sales. Rather than tacking them up on your wall, you could wear them–or stick them on something. Unlike the ultra-popular cards, however, Sweet Caporal pins are a project most average collectors can chase without going broke.
The sepia-colored pins are about 7/8″ in diameter. Player artwork is surrounded by the player’s team on each side of the top and his name at the bottom. Jefferson Burdick referenced them as “P2” for his American Card Catalog.
There are 152 different players and a total of 204 in the set. Some players appear twice, once with with the same photo but the name and team are printed in larger letters. The pins with the larger letters are more difficult to find. Most also feel the larger letter variations were issued later than the others.
The backs of the pins come with a colored paper backing. Pins with paper that is intact and clean will grade higher and sell for more money.
Cheaper Than Cardboard
The pins are far more scarce than their cardboard counterparts of the time, yet much more attainable as a whole. Lesser grade commons are often found for $10–or less but don’t let that turn off the mint freak in you. Even lesser grade Sweet Caporal pins are generally still attractive. They’re fairly sturdy and have aged well.
With few true rarities, there are no stops for collectors reluctant to take up the task of collecting the set. Even Hall of Famers in higher grades cost only a fraction of their cardboard relatives. Consider these recent sales of Sweet Caporal Pins:
- Ty Cobb PSA 6 $383
- Cy Young PSA 8 $594
- Walter Johnson PSA 7 $408
- Christy Mathewson Large Letters $855
- Christy Mathewson Small Letters $358
The small lettered pins all are drawings while the large are actual photographs. There are three different photo variations for both the Roger Bresnahan and Bobby Wallace pins.
The T205 Twin?
Sweet Caporal Pins are almost a parallel set to the T205 trading card issue. Both sets feature many of the same pictures and all but a few players in the pin set also show up in the T205 set. Interestingly, though, two players are featured with different teams. Jimmy Austin is shown as a member of the St. Louis Browns in the pin set and as a New York Yankee in T205, while Johnny Bates is a member of the Reds in the Sweet Cap Pins and as a Phillie in T205.
There are ten players who are in the P2 set but not in T205 including Nap Lajoie and Harry Hooper.
Honus, Wahoo and Jack
The Sweet Caporal pin set does not include Honus Wagner, who by the time they were put in packs, had apparently already registered his dissatisfaction over appearing on tobacco product promotional items. Hall of Fame outfielder Wahoo Sam Crawford is also missing and so was Jack Coombs, a superstar pitcher at the time.
A Challenge Within Easy Reach
With over 150 different players in the set, it’s a fair representation of baseball at the time, yet building the set is not an overwhelming task–even if you choose to chase the variations.
While more scarce than the T205 or T206 cards, they are readily available. In fact, if you click here, you’ll see hundreds of Sweet Caporal Pins available.
Below is a complete checklist: (names as shown on pin. “L” designates “large letters” variation)
Old Cy Young (L)
NEW YORK (AL)
Eddie Collins (L)
Ira Thomas (L)
ST. LOUIS (AL)
Wallace (no cap)
Wallace (cap) (L)
Clark Griffith (L)
NEW YORK (NL)
Fred Clarke (L)
Tommy Leach (L)
ST. LOUIS (NL)
Bresnahan (mouth open)
Bresnahan (mo. closed)
Bresnahan (mo. closed) (L)