The T227 Champions set is one of the earliest notable multi-sport tobacco issues of the 20th century. Issued in 1912, the series included various ‘champion’ athletes in their respective sports. Tobacco advertisers on the backs included both Honest Long Cut and Miners Extra.
While most of the athletes featured were those participating in individual sports, some were a part of teams. Notably, a total of four baseball players were featured, including Ty Cobb, Rube Marquard, Home Run Baker, and Chief Bender. But while the baseball cards are the focal point for many collectors, the set includes a lot more than that sport.
24 cards are known in the set, even as 25 were advertised. The debate surrounding a potential 25th card has existed for some time. It isn’t even known if a 25th card was ever printed. But 24 or 25, there are still plenty more cards beyond the baseball issues in the set that are worth a look.
While there are four baseball players in the set, boxing is actually the sport most represented.
A total of five boxers are included and, given the popularity of the sport at the time, that isn’t a huge surprise. While boxing is kind of an afterthought for many these days, it was just as big as baseball (if not bigger) in the earlier part of the century.
Leading the way in terms of boxers is the legendary Jack Johnson. Johnson’s card is one of the keys to the set and it even tops the baseball players aside from Cobb in terms of value. A low-grade PSA 1.5 sold in 2016 for nearly $700.
Another notable boxing card is that of Abe Attell. While Attell was a boxer, he actually has some baseball ties as he was linked to the infamous 1919 World Series fix. He is commonly cited as a middleman in the fix as members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw several games. Because of that, Attell’s cards are sometimes sought by baseball collectors.
Other boxers appearing in the set are Johnny Coulon, Frank Klaus, and Ad. Wolgast. All three are Hall of Famers.
Golf isn’t nearly as represented as either baseball or boxing in the set. But with two cards of key players, the sport was included, which is more than can be said for other popular sports such as hockey or tennis.
Most notably, Hall of Famer Harold Hilton is found in the release. While golf cards were popular in other international tobacco sets in the early 1900s, there aren’t many such U.S. issues. The T227 set, in that regard, is one of the few exceptions.
Hilton won the British Open / The Open on two occasions and also won a total of five British and U.S. amateur titles. He later became a golf writer and also designed courses.
Also in the set is John McDermott. McDermott twice won the U.S. Open but had his career cut short due to mental illness. Neither card is worth as much as the baseball cards but both still start around $100-$150 in decent shape.
T227 Rarities and Others
In addition to the key cards already mentioned, two of the cards in the set are extreme rarities. And they aren’t household names, either.
One is aviator C.P. Rodgers. While we don’t really think of aviation so much as a sport today, it definitely was considered a sport in the pre-war era. Cards of aviators were frequently included in sports sets, such as this one. The other is race car drive Bruce Brown.
While you might expect these cards to be towards the bottom end of the price guide for this set, nothing could be further from the truth. They aren’t necessarily big names but their cards are ultra rare. To date, PSA has graded a grand total of only three of each. Because of that, prices are through the roof for them. A modest PSA 4 Rodgers card, for example, was sold for $3,600 by REA in 2016.
Others in the set are not typically as valuable. However, it is important to include a mention of them, if only to show the depth of the entire issue. Among those sports included are track and field, wrestling, billiards, swimming, boat racing, and horse racing. Among the more unique cards are those featuring horses (Uhlan and Ess H.K.) as well as motorboats Dixie IV.
Common cards in the set in decent condition typically start around $75 – $100.
You can see 1912 T227 Series of Champions cards on eBay by clicking here.