Pre-war baseball card collectors will find most of what they need domestically. However, there are some scarce (but affordable) international tobacco and cigarette cards that are worth your time as well. Here are five interesting releases of American baseball cards that were packaged with tobacco products in other countries.
The Ruth 1929 Churchman’s from the United Kingdom is one of the most recognizable foreign pre-war baseball cigarette cards. Interestingly, there isn’t even a mention of Ruth on the card. The card is one of a number of various international sports (in this case, baseball) featured in a set of 25. While Ruth’s name isn’t on the front or back, there’s little doubt that the picture depicts the former slugger.
The great thing about this card is that it’s one of the most affordable contemporary Ruth cards available. It can be purchased in mid-grade condition in the $200-$400 range.
The former batting champion and 1922 Most Valuable Player was honored among England’s 1925 Turf Cigarette cards. Like the Ruth card, Sisler’s issue was included in this release featuring various sports. However, the set focuses on records and Sisler is cited on the reverse for holding the league batting average record. Playing from 1915 to 1930, Sisler has only a few dozen known contemporary cards and his appearance here is welcome. Better yet, the card won’t cost you an arm and a leg, either. With mid-grade copies starting around $50, Sisler’s card will fit into most collector budgets.
If you’re interested in an entire international baseball tobacco card set, look no further than the C46 Imperial issue out of Canada. The 90-card set is scarce and features mostly minor leaguers. However, most players included appeared in the majors and Joe Kelley and Joe McGinnity even became Hall of Famers. Kelley is an interesting subject as he starred in both the late 1800s and early 1900s. He had an excellent combination of power and speed, finishing in the top ten in home runs in five different seasons while leading the league in stolen bases with 87 in 1896. The card is also an uncorrected error as his last name is misspelled.
This card is much harder to find than the American tobacco issues (Kelley was also included in the T206 white border set) but not too pricey when you come across it compared to other rare issues in similar condition. A PSA 5 Kelley sold in 2014 for the relatively modest price of $300. If that’s out of your price range, commons in decent condition often can be found for $50 or less.
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth 1928 Tabacalera La Morena Card
How about two legends on one cigarette card? That’s what you have, after all, in the Lou Gehrig/Babe Ruth 1928 Tabacalera La Morena card. The back states that it is card No. 116 and identifies Gehrig and Ruth in the Spanish inscription. Both Hall of Famers are pictured on the front among a few others.
Unfortunately, there simply aren’t many to go around and when you do find them, expect to pay a steep price. One graded by a 40/3 by SGC sold last year at auction for nearly $1,800. Ironically, the same exact card is also currently up for auction on eBay.
The lone truly generic product that makes the cut on the list is Wills’ baseball card from its Sports of All Nations cigarette cards set produced in England. The baseball card is included among a set of other sports played around the world and doesn’t feature a specific player. A color picture of two players is one front with the United States flag and ‘America, Baseball.’
The back features an ad for Wills.
It’s also one of the older international baseball cigarette cards available, produced in 1901. It isn’t the easiest card to find, but does occasionally come up for sale. The good news is that it’s a very affordable card. A PSA 5 sold on eBay for only a little over $40.