While it is difficult today to imagine a world without card collecting, it is worth noting that not all believed the hobby would be around for the long haul. An early newspaper article demonstrates that belief.
In the early 1900s, tobacco card collecting was getting to become quite popular. An article appearing in the September 15, 1910 Pottsville Republican newspaper made it pretty clear to their readers that they were not high on card collecting. In fact, the author viewed it only as a passing fad.
That, of course, wound up being completely wrong.
A Prediction Gone Wrong
“We in Pottsville see the boys collecting cigarette pictures,” the article mentioned. “So earnest are they in their desire to secure a greater number than others of their gang that they are alert night and day to add to their treasure — they have in one instance even gone to the extreme of committing larceny to get the coveted cards.”
All of that sounds fine and good. But then the newspaper levied a rather bold prediction for the hobby. And it would end up being one that wouldn’t stand the test of time.
“This fad will die away and another one will spring up to take its place.”
Further describing the situation, the newspaper goes on to mention that the next fad that would overtake children was the collection of stamps.
Keep in mind, this was at a rampant time of card collecting. 1910 was arguably the height of the popular T206 set, which was produced from 1909 through 1911. Not to mention, early candy and caramel cards from companies such as American Caramel were being produced. Many other sets, including T204 Ramly and others were also issued around the same time. The 1909-12 stretch produced many of the most popular pre-war cards. In short, the card business was booming.
So why declare such a thing at that time? After all, that would be like a newspaper editorial today predicting the demise of the smartphone.
A Look Back at Card Collecting
After somewhat of a respite during World War I, card collecting was back in full force in short order. In the 1920s, there was a boom of candy and strip cards. The hobby got even hotter in the 1930s with gum cards, such as Goudey, National Chicle, and Play Ball. World War II would bring another break in the hobby. But Bowman gum cards were produced in 1948 and soon after, Topps entered the market.
The rest is history.
A lot of well-intentioned predictions have been made all throughout the course of history. I have little doubt that this particular one was even made to assuage some of the fears and annoyances that card collecting had brought.
While card collecting was very popular with children and even adults, there is no question that some problems were being experienced as a part of the hobby. We know that from many other old accounts in newspapers.
Some stores, for example, were being robbed for the cards. Children would break in, ripping open cigarette packages, and running away with the cards. Other kids were lined up in front of stores, on the sidewalks, and in the streets, pestering smoking adults for them as they entered and exited stores. Heck, some kids even took up the use of tobacco at young ages to be able to get hold of the cards. While we can dispute the severity of some of these problems, there is no disputing that they happened. Lots of issues to be sure.
Simply put, many adults were sick and tired of the premiums that were bringing about some unneeded problems. And many adults and, in particular, religious groups, decried the inclusion of these inserts into tobacco products and were none too pleased that they existed. In that context, it becomes a little easier to see why the newspaper may have made such a bold claim. But in the end, it turned out to be completely wrong.
The hobby more than 100 years later has never been hotter. And some of the cards that sold for pennies at the time can be worth six figures today, if found in the right condition. Save for the bust in the 1990s, the hobby of card collecting has been on a mostly upward trend practically since the pre-war era. The hobby has not only remained strong with a healthy number of collectors involved, but values in particular have been on the move.
Talk about predictions gone wrong.