The T217 Mono Cigarettes set is one of the rarest 20th century tobacco baseball card issues. Despite a relatively small checklist, completing this rare tobacco set is extremely difficult . And in the case of assembling a fully complete set, that may be impossible.
About the T217 Mono Cigarettes Set
If obscure baseball players is your thing, the T217 Mono Cigarettes set has you covered. Several players in the set did wind up in the major leagues and go on to have nice careers. But this release from 1910-1911 features players from the Pacific Coast League minor league teams. And even in the case of those that did make the majors, many of the names are not known by your average collector.
1925 American League Most Valuable Player Roger Peckinpaugh is one of the more notable players found in the set. And if we’re being honest, even he, outside of the pre-war realm, is not a household name for collectors of newer cards.
One of the more intriguing things about this set is that it includes a couple of variations. Most players have only one card in the set. However, a couple of obscure ones have two with different poses.
One of those is ‘Flame’ Delhi, who played for Los Angeles at the time. Delhi was one of those that did actually make it to the major leagues. However, he only did so briefly, appearing in a single game with the Chicago White Sox in 1912. Why did he get two cards of all of the other players in the set? Well, he won 27 games in 1911 as an 18-year-old pitcher for Los Angeles. If the set was produced after then, it’s possible his immense potential was the reason.
Hughie Smith, another Los Angeles player, was the other player featured twice in the set and his case is harder to figure. Smith played five seasons in the minors but never reached the major leagues. Beyond that, he never showed the kind of potential that Delhi did and he was a career .191 hitter. The .212 average he posted in 1911 was actually a career-high. Smith receiving two cards is a bit more puzzling.
The set certainly was different from most others issued around the same time. Instead of bright, colorful images, the T217 cards are a bit grim in appearance. Fronts feature the same sort of layout you might see on other sets with their white borders and the player’s name/team across the bottom. But the images of the players are black and white instead of color.
Backs of the cards are similar to other tobacco cards. The cards have an advertisement for Mono Cigarettes, which is the company that issued this set. The Mono Cigarettes name is at the top and a mention that these Turkish cigarettes were ten for five cents.
The backs also present another interesting fact. While there are 25 baseball cards in the set, those backs advertise there are a total of 200. Backs also mention that the entire set consists of baseball players and actresses.
While a few collectors may have complete sets of the baseball cards, there are no known 200-card sets. In fact, only a few actress cards are known and there is nothing even close to resembling a complete 200-card checklist. The actress cards are similar to the baseball cards but, curiously, do not contain names on the front, according to that link.
Thus, while completing the baseball portion of the set may be possible, a full T217 Mono set, as advertised, is not known to exist.
The contradiction between cards printed vs. the number of cards advertised is nothing new. Sets often advertised more cards (or, in the case of the E90-1 American Caramel set, less) than appeared in an actual set. Plans change and my guess is that, given how few of the actress cards have surfaced, that is what occurred here. It is possible that the baseball portion of the set was intended to feature more players but only 25 different ones are currently known.
T217 Mono Cigarettes Rarity and Pricing
The T217 Mono Cigarettes cards are very rare. PSA and SGC have graded a total of just under 200 of them and you will rarely find these cards in rare quantities.
While lower-grade commons will not cost this much, even modestly-graded cards generally start in the $750-$1,000 range. Key players are, of course, more than that. A low-grade raw example of Peckinpaugh’s card earned nearly $3,200 in a 2005 REA sale.