Tobacco companies had been including baseball cards in their packages as an incentive for more than 30 years when the Liggett and Myers Company decided to use a similar promotion inside its tins of Turkish Blend cigarettes in 1913. These were a little different, though. Instead of individual photos, they used posed team pictures.
Today, the underrated 1913 Fatima team card set, known as T200, offers a fairly realistic set-building opportunity for collectors.
Produced in a rather odd size of 2 5/8” by 4 ¾” and printed on thin, glossy cardboard with black borders, they’re susceptible to wear and high grade examples are rare. PSA has graded only one card as high as an 8 and only seven rank NM 7. There are no Fatima team cards on SGC’s pop report rated above 4.5.
In the lower right corner of each photo is the date of issue and ‘Pictorial News Company’ is credited with the image. The color and image quality can vary somewhat from one card to another.
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 card along with Nap Lajoie and Ray Chapman, who would be hit in the head with a pitch and die in 1920.
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, Hughie Jennings and Sam Crawford are part of the Tigers photo. Tris Speaker and Joe Wood show up on the Red Sox card while Walter Johnson is found on the Washington Senators issue. Eddie Cicotte and Buck Weaver are on the White Sox card, six years before the 1919 World Series scandal.
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 pushed into tobacco products before the end of summer. One of the interesting aspects of the T200 set is that the photos feature numerous players who aren’t commonly found on cards. One such player is the Tigers’ Les Hennessy of Detroit, whose entire big league career consisted of 14 games in that 1913 season.
Despite the number of big names and the age of the set, prices for many of them won’t knock you off your feet. Most low grade examples of the less popular cards can be found for under $300. Even the Cleveland card with Jackson costs far less than most of his individual cards. The same goes for the popular Giants and Tigers cards.
With only 16 to collect, assembling a complete set on a fairly modest budget is a realistic goal, as long as you’re prepared to accept cards with creases, soft corners or other issues and pay a little more for the most rare cards that we’ll discuss below. A couple of the few high-grade examples did come to auction in 2020 including a PSA 7 Cleveland card that went for $18,600 and a PSA 6 Pirates issue that netted $6,000, but that’s to be expected.
Here’s the checklist:
Boston Nationals (Braves)
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 Yankees, the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals and the Boston Braves are among the toughest cards to find, for some reason. Only 48 Braves and 49 Yankees cards are listed on the combined pop reports of SGC and PSA, with the Browns, Cardinals and Tigers falling just below those two on the scarcity meter. Those five cards will be among the biggest challenges to completing the set.
The backs 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.