It’s a general consensus that the T206 Honus Wagner is the most significant card in the history of the hobby. Ongoing publicity surrounding the scarcity and value of the card is such that even many non-collectors have heard of it.
The card was shortprinted with several theories abounding as to the reason why. But one of the more common reasons cited is that Wagner was against cigarette cards or didn’t want children to be encouraged to find his card in cigarette packages. It is difficult to say that Wagner was anti-tobacco himself since pictures of him using tobacco are known. The 1948-49 Leaf card even shows him about the shove a pinch between his cheek and gum. But he could have been against the idea of his picture appearing on cigarette cards that many believe enticed children to smoke.
While Wagner is the most cited case when it comes to players being concerned about their pictures being used on cigarette cards, he couldn’t have been the only player with those thoughts. Hall of Fame pitcher Eddie Plank was said to be famously anti-tobacco and it isn’t surprising that he is not found in many tobacco card sets himself.
About Eddie Plank
Plank was a legendary player who often doesn’t get the credit he probably deserves. Even as a Hall of Famer, Plank’s name is usually left out of discussions of the best pitchers of all-time.
Overall, Plank finished with 324 career victories and a 2.35 ERA. His 17-year career included 2,246 strikeouts and two World Series titles. Plank won 20 games eight times and nearly did it in two other seasons when he won 19. Now, Plank was only 2-5 in the postseason. However, his minuscule 1.32 ERA is plenty evidence that he dominated his opponents. He seems to have been more a victim of lack of run support than anything else.
Plank and Tobacco Cards
Considering Plank’s most famous card is a tobacco issue, some collectors might find the anti-tobacco stance hard to believe. After all, Plank’s T206 card is one of the set’s ‘Big Four’ cards and is one of its most valuable. In fact, it is one of the more iconic pre-war cards of all time. But the reason the card is so valuable is because, like the Wagner, it was shortprinted. If that weren’t the case, of course, it would not be nearly as valuable.
The precise reason it was pulled from production is unclear. But some have pointed to his desire of not wanting to be associated with tobacco cards. Other reasons, it should be noted, have included a broken or damaged printing plate or some other technical issue. Whatever the reason, the T206 Plank is among the cards T206 collectors have to pay a pretty penny to acquire.
In general, Plank’s anti-tobacco stance seems to marry well with the fact that he’s rarely seen in any kind of tobacco sets. In addition to his T206 card, his most prominent one may be the T204 Ramly card. Plank is also found in the T5 Pinkerton set and the T216 Peoples Tobacco set.
In addition, you’ll find him in the T208 Cullivan’s Fireside New York Giants set and Derby Cigars Philadelphia Athletics set, too. As team issues, though, his appearance in those sets makes sense.
But the star is nowhere to be found in other far more common tobacco issues, including the American Tobacco Company’s T205 or T207 sets. Nor is he in others, such as the T3 Turkey Red set, T201 Mecca Double Folders set, the T202 Hassan Triple Folders set, and the T213 Coupon Cigarettes set. He also isn’t found in other tougher (and considerably large) sets, such as the 100-card T222 Fatima set, the large T330-2 Piedmont Art Stamps set, or the massive 180-stamp T332 Helmar Stamps set, either. Additionally, he is not in the rare T214 Victory or T215 Red Cross/Pirate releases.
By comparison, Plank was in plenty of sets for early candy cards. So what gives? Tough to say.
While it’s easy to point to his supposed aversion to tobacco, that doesn’t explain the fact that he still appears in several tobacco sets. Contrast that with Wagner who is barely found on any tobacco issues. Plank isn’t in a ton of tobacco sets but does appear enough times that the anti-tobacco argument isn’t a slam dunk.
The counter to that, however, would be that it is remarkably odd that such a prolific player would not have been included in the most common tobacco sets of the time period — particularly when many of them were so large with checklists including even inconsequential players. When you take that into consideration, his apparent disdain for being associated with tobacco, while not a definitive explanation, seems to make sense.