The T218 Champions set can go a bit unnoticed by your everyday collector. Issued in or around 1910 (most sources list it as a 1910 set but it was possibly produced over a few years), even most pre-war collectors probably can’t tell you too much about it as it doesn’t include athletes from the four major American sports.
But the set does include plenty of intrigue. Much of the set is made up of boxers and track and field stars. On top of those, you’ve got a random assortment of various other athletes from all sorts of things, including roller skating, auto racing, and even walking, where the participants were called pedestrians. Here are five unique cards from the set.
Johnson is easily the set’s biggest star. The former boxing heavyweight champion is actually found twice in the set. One card has a side pose of Johnson while the other features him from the front. Adding to the popularity of his cards is that he was the world’s heavyweight champion at the time of the distribution.
The side view shot is a popular picture of the fighter and a horizontal pose. Both are considered the keys to the issue and are the most expensive cards found here. The side pose is more common but also my favorite picture of the two. Of note here is that Johnson was often dismissed in card sets being scarcely featured by comparison or, in some cases, not at all. That was not the case here as no other athlete has more than two cards and most have only one.
Neither is very expensive. Mid-grade cards usually start around $100 on eBay.
Edward Payson Weston
Who? Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone in asking that question. Few not collecting the T218 set have likely heard of him. Weston is a champion pedestrian that is found in the set.
If the sport of walking sounds silly to you, you are excused for your potential dismissal of it. In reality, however, it was a very popular sport, largely made so by Weston.
The man was a walking machine. In 1867, he trekked from Portland, ME to Chicago—a trip of over 1,200 miles—in 26 days, earning $10,000. In 1909, he walked over 4,000 miles from New York to San Francisco, covering the country in just 100 days. Gamblers who bet on such things sometimes made death threats against him but Weston kept moving.
Unfortunately, he was struck by a taxi in 1927 and never walked again, dying only two years later.
Weston’s card starts at about only $15 or $20 on eBay and can sometimes be found for even less.
A book about his life written in 2012 was called called “spectacularly entertaining.”
Jeffries, like Johnson, is considered among the issue’s key cards. His cards aren’t as expensive as Johnson’s but he’s one of the more recognizable athletes found here. Termed ‘The Great White Hope’, Jeffries came out of retirement in 1910 to fight Johnson, only to lose their famous bout coined, Fight of the Century.
Without coming out of retirement, he may not have been found in the set. But he has two cards in it – one with a horizontal fighting stance and a second, admittedly less appealing vertical card with his arms crossed. Both are about equally rare and the card with the fighting stance is one of my favorites in the set.
Each card is affordably priced, starting around $40 in mid-grade condition.
Despite being one of the acclaimed roller skaters of his time, Joseph Jordan has been nearly forgotten about by now. But in the early 1900s, he was recognized enough to be included in the T218 set.
Finding information on Jordan these days isn’t terribly easy as the sport has sort of faded into obscurity. But at the time of the set’s production, Jordan held every roller skating record from 1/2 mile to five mile distances. In 1906, 1907, and 1908, he won championships in the sport at distances of 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, one mile, and five miles.
He’s pictured with his medals on his T218 card. Decent copies have often sold for under $10.
Alfredo de Oro
Alfredo de Oro was one of several billiards players in the set. If you are a collector of other pre-war multi-sport pre-war sets, his name might be familiar to you as he also appeared in the N162 Goodwin Champions set as well.
Alfredo was one of the world’s top billiards players. Born in Cuba in 1863, he made his professional debut in the sport in 1887. He lost only once in approximately 40 games of continuous ball pool at events from 1887 to 1908. In 1910, he was declared the world’s champion. Since then, he has been hailed as one of the greatest billiards players of all time and he is a Hall of Famer in the sport.
Today, de Oro’s T218 cards are very affordable.