Just as the famous T-206 white border card is a staple among collectors of tobacco cards, so is the E90-1 American Caramel set for caramel/candy cards. Here’s a bit more on the popular card set from the same era.
Produced from 1909 to 1911, the E90-1 American Caramel cards were available during the same years as the American Tobacco Company’s T-206 set. Unlike those cards which were found with tobacco products, though, the American Caramel cards were targeted to youngsters.
At first glance, the cards look to be about the same size as T-206 and other tobacco card issues. However, the American Caramel cards measure slightly bigger at 1 1/2″ wide x 2 3/4″ tall. The card fronts feature a colored picture of the players with a white border. At the bottom, the player’s last name, team, and position are found.
The reverse of the cards is the same for every one in the set. In bold letters are the words “Baseball Caramels” in the middle. “Baseball Series” and “100 Subjects” (more on that in a bit) are at the top and the bottom reads, “Mfg. by American Caramel Co.” and “Phila, PA.” The entire backs of the cards are printed in black ink.
In a mystery that has confused collectors for a very long time, the backs of the cards state that there are 100 subjects. However, the full checklist includes 118 total cards, not including variations. And while several players have more than one card, there’s still no way to get to a logical explanation for 100 players as there are more than 100 different players. The closest you can come is by counting only the different number of last names found in the set (some different players share the same last name), which gives you 102.
So what’s the explanation? Collectors will likely never know for sure. Perhaps the company simply miscounted. Or maybe they used 100 as a ballpark number. They also possibly started out with 100 cards and added more later since these were printed over a three-year period. In any event, though, the release includes more than that stated number advertised on the back.
There are several known variations in the E90-1 American Caramel card set with two believed to be error cards of sorts. First is the card of Hall of Famer Fred Clarke. Clarke played for the Pittsburgh Pirates but was listed as playing for Philadelphia on the front. The corrected version that states he played for the Pirates is the more scarce of the two. The other involves the portrait card of Hall of Famer Willie Keeler. Keeler’s card can be found with a pink background and a dark red background, the latter of which is harder to find.
Aside from those errors, several variances in player poses can be found. Kitty Bransfield cards depict him with different backgrounds and with either a “P” or no “P” on his jersey. George Gibson, George Stone, and Harry Howell each have different action poses on a pair of cards. Roy Hartzell, Tommy Leach, and the legendary Honus Wagner were given batting and fielding versions. Keeler and pitcher Addie Joss both have action and portrait cards, as does Cy Young, who has separate cards with both Boston and Cleveland since he was traded to the Naps before the 1909 season.
There are plenty of big names to keep collectors coming back for more here. The E90-1 set includes the aforementioned Clarke, Keeler, Wagner, Joss, and Young. There’s the big fish, in Joe Jackson, easily the biggest card in the set. It’s considered Shoeless Joe’s rookie card, valued at around $10,000 at the lower grade level and hundreds of thousands for one of the few high-end copies.
In addition, there’s Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker, Chief Bender, Roger Bresnahan, Eddie Collins, Sam Crawford, Hugh Duffy, Nap Lajoie, Rube Marquard, Christy Mathewson, Eddie Plank, Tris Speaker, Joe Tinker, Bobby Wallace, Ed Walsh, and Vic Willis.
And aside from Jackson, those are just the Hall of Famers.
In other words, this is a loaded product.
E90-1 American Caramel Prices
Set collectors should also be aware that a few cards make completing an E90-1 set extremely difficult. In addition to some of the big name cards such as Jackson, some of the toughest cards are those of lesser players. At the top of the list is the elusive Mike Mitchell card. His rarely comes up for sale and is mostly found available via auction houses. A low-grade example sold for more than $1,000 at auction last year.
These cards aren’t terribly cheap, but with only 118 in the entire set, collectors can piece together a big chunk of it without too much trouble. Commons in decent condition can be found for $50 or so and are a bit less if you are willing to settle for a lower grade. Hall of Famers vary greatly by scarcity.
Complete sets of 1909 E90-1 American Caramel cards are rarely are made available for sale, but they can be found occasionally. One selling several years go topped $50,000.
You can see what’s currently available for sale and auction on eBay by clicking here.