Through a lot of legwork, many collecting mysteries of the pre-war era have been solved by both older and newer hobbyists over time. Some questions remain, however. One notable mystery, for example, is the identification of three caramel card sets from the early 1900s – E98, E101, and E102. Here’s a closer look at these three anonymous E-Card issues.
The origin of the 1910 E98 cards remains unknown. This set of 30 cards features color lithographs of players and more than half the set is comprised of Hall of Famers. No identifying marks are printed on the cards and a checklist is printed on the backs.
While we can’t yet identify the maker of these cards, they were thrown into the limelight back in 2012 when a large find of high-grade cards was discovered as part of the famous Black Swamp Find. That, unfortunately, did not reveal a positive identification of the cards. However, they were discovered in Defiance, Ohio as the property of a family that once owned a meat market. PSA speculates this issue was sold by traveling salesmen to candy companies and other businesses for distribution (a candy company was also in the vicinity). That would explain the lack of a sponsor name if they were to be used by numerous businesses.
The E98s also are tied to a business in a way. Old Put Cigar stamped their name on some of these and was apparently one of the businesses that used them for their own.
The sponsor and manufacturer for the 1909 E101 cards is also a mystery that has eluded collectors. However, the issue is closely related to the E92 series. E92 has four different advertiser backs and the fronts of those cards were the same ones used in the 50-card E101 set.
Further linking the two sets are the backs. The E101 backs state that there are 50 cards in the set and that the release include prominent members of the National and American Leagues. Three of the four E92 backs have different advertisements but the E92 Dockman cards have the same message, also mentioning the Dockman Gum name and that the cards were wrapped with their product.
Considering the same front images and the similar backs with the Dockman issue, E101 appears to be tied to the E92 set in some way. But without an advertiser name, exactly how is anybody’s guess.
A third E-Card issue catalogued by Jefferson Burdick in his American Card Catalog is also anonymous. The E102 set is also unknown but has some ties to other sets as well. Images of the players on the front were used in other sets, including E92 and E101. However, while those sets were larger, E102 boasts only 25 cards.
The backs are also different from those issues. Instead of a mention of prominent players or advertiser backs, the reverse included a checklist of players in the set, similar to the aforementioned E98 issue.
This set offers arguably the least amount of clues of the three. Without a major find, it may be difficult to ever determine the set’s manufacturer or distributor(s).