More than 100 years later, collectors still don’t know the origin of the 50-card 1909 E101 caramel card set. That’s part of its appeal, though. Here’s an inside look at the set that resembles several other issues.
The E101 baseball card set is a 50-card issue. That fact is stated on the back and all of them cards have been discovered. The colorful cards measure approximately 1 1/2″ x 2 3/4″. Similar to other candy and tobacco cards from the era, the fronts include a color lithograph of a particular player and his name, position, and team are printed along the bottom.
No biography or statistics reside on the backs of the cards – only the same generic message:
This card is one of a set of 50 Base Ball Players
Prominent Members of National and American Leagues
If you are a collector of other caramel and candy card issues, you will no doubt notice that many of the same images in this set appeared in other releases. This, of course, was a common practice with companies sharing images rather than forking over money for new images for every single set. Today, that might seem ludicrous. Back then, it was standard practice.
The E101 set closely resembles the E92 issue with advertisers Croft Candy, Croft Cocoa, Dockman, and Nadja Caramels. In fact, all 50 of the E101 images are found in that E92 release. Some, such as Bob Bescher and Honus Wagner, were also used in other sets, such as the popular E90-1 American Caramel issue.
It doesn’t end there, however. The same E101 images were also used in the E105 Mello Mint set as well. And if you’re looking for the set that corresponds best with the E101 set, look no further than the rare D355 Niagara Baking set. The D355 issue is exactly the same as the E101, only with a purple stamp on the back that serves as a brief advertisement for the Niagara Baking Company.
Despite the confusion over exactly what this set is, it has drawn its fair share of interest from collectors. One big reason for that is because of the presence of so many big names. The E101 set includes Hall of Famers and stars such as Chief Bender (who appears twice, actually), Frank Chance, Hal Chase, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Sam Crawford, Johnny Evers, Hughie Jennings, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Joe Tinker, Honus Wagner (also here twice), and Cy Young.
In addition to Bender and Wagner, who each have two cards, a few other players were honored twice as well. Larry Doyle has both a batting and field pose as does Dots Miller. Pitcher Boss Schmidt is in the set twice as well, but only as an error card. One of his cards reads “Smith” but it is clearly Schmidt.
E101 cards aren’t nearly as plentiful as some of the sets they are aligned with, such as the E90-1 or E92 issues. For that reason, even though the cards are virtually the same, the E101 version is more expensive. Mid-grade commons usually start north of $100 and even in decent low-grade, it is hard to find them under $50.
Prices on stars depends on the player. Cobb and Wagner lead the way in this set and, as you might expect, prices for those two are easily into four figures. A Wagner in only PSA 3 grade sold for nearly $2,000 earlier this month.
You can see graded, authenticated E101 cards on eBay here.