The E101 Anonymous Set of 50 is an interesting candy issue produced in 1909. While theories abound, no confirmed distributor is 100% known for the set. The cards were, however, used by Niagara Baking to promote its bread products.
1909 Niagara Baking Basics
The 1909 Niagara Baking set was a spinoff of sorts for the E101 issue. Cataloged by Jefferson Burdick as D355 in his American Card Catalog, the set is essentially the same as the E101 issue with one unique, hand-made difference.
The cards are so scarce that many collectors probably have never even heard of them. They’re colorful, like other candy and caramel issues of the period, and with white borders and player names, positions, and teams at the bottom, they looked a lot like other candy and tobacco releases as well. Backs of the cards mentioned they were part of a set of 50 baseball (er, ‘Base Ball’) players that were ‘prominent members of National and American Leagues.’
The set checklist for E101 has plenty of heavy hitters, including Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Cy Young. Wagner is featured twice in the set in both a batting and fielding pose.
The primary difference between the Niagara Baking issue and the E101 set is an overprinted stamp and so far only a small number of Niagara Baking cards have been found. Burdick had only six in his massive collection, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Daniel Murphy, John Knight, John Lobert, John Miller and two featuring Chief Bender.
Niagara Baking Stamp Overprint
The E101 set, as mentioned, includes a total of 50 cards. A theoretical checklist for the Niagara Baking set should then include 50 cards as well, but it is not known if all 50 cards can be found with the stamp. As a result, the fully confirmed checklist for this issue remains up in the air. In fact, only a handful of different cards bearing the Niagara Baking stamp are known to exist today.
The purple ink stamp, as shown here, was printed onto the backs and simply read: “One of these pictures given with Tip-Top, Family, Butternut, or Homestead Breads. NIAGARA BAKING CO., Lockport, N.Y.” How long the cards were distributed or precisely when is unclear. Lockport is a small city located north of Buffalo and the company is no longer in existence.
Other small businesses pulled similar stamping tricks, likely (at least, in part), likely taking advantage of an offer made by a distributor to have a giveaway item that didn’t involve any real production costs. The idea was to take an already established set of cards, simply add their business name to them, and then distribute them to customers as a form of advertising. We’ve seen this sort of thing with other sets, including with strip cards (such as the W514 issue), for example. It was common for strip cards to be used because most of them had blank backs, affording a great deal of space to add a stamp. The E101s provided limited room and, as a result, the stamp for Niagara Baking is quite small.
Niagara Baking Prices
E101 cards are not abundantly plentiful but the availability of the Niagara Baking cards pales in comparison to them.
As stated, only a few different players are known with the stamp and whenever they appear at auction, the prices are considerably higher than standard E101 cards. A common Otto Knabe card, for example, sold for $4,200 in 2016 by Robert Edward Auctions. There are few sales of these cards with many of the known copies existing in Burdick’s collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Should a major star card with the stamp surface at auction, such as a Cobb or Wagner, five figures would probably be not out of the question for a mid-grade copy.