1909-1912 Sweet Caporal pins were a cousin to the era's tobacco card sets. Like T205 and T206 which were produced in the same general era, Sweet Cap pins were made by the American Tobacco Company and inserted into packs of cigarettes. Unlike those ultra popular cards, Sweet Caporal pins are a project most average collectors can chase without going broke.
The sepia-colored pins are about 7/8" in diameter and not all that rare, which keeps them affordable, except for high-grade examples of the most elite Hall of Fame players.
The pins are designated as P2 in the American Card Catalog . There are 152 different players featured and 204 pins total in the set. Fifty of the players appear a second time in the set, with the same photo but the name and team are printed in larger letters. The small lettered pins all are drawings while the large are actual photographs.
Sweet Caporal pins are almost a parallel set to the T205. Both sets feature many of the same pictures and 143 of the 152 players in the pin set also show up in the T205 set. Interestingly, two players are shown with different teams. Jimmy Austin is shown as a member of the St. Louis Browns in the pin set and as a Yankee in T205, while Johnny Bates is a member of the Reds on the pin and a Phillie in T205.
There are ten players who are in the P2 set but not in T205 including Nap Lajoie and Harry Hooper.
The backs of the pins come with a colored paper backing that often drives value one way or another. Pins with paper that is intact and clean will grade higher and sell for more money.
Collectors will chase pins of Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. However, 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.
There are a few pins with photo variations, including Roger Bresnahan and Bobby Wallace.
The pins are far more scarce than their cardboard counterparts of the time, yet much more attainable as a whole. A large letters PSA 8 Cy Young sold recently on eBay for $950. A PSA 6 Cobb large letter went for $382. Low grade examples of common players can be had for less than $10. At last check, eBay had over 700 listings for Sweet Caporal pins.
Here's a complete Sweet Caporal baseball pin checklist: (names as shown on pin)
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)