It’s one set you might not even find in the most comprehensive price guides. Many advanced collectors have never seen one in person.
The 1910 A.W.H. Caramels set is one of the tougher early candy / caramel card issues dating to the pre-war era. Here’s a closer look at this incredibly rare 12-card release that was distributed only in a small portion of the U.S.
About the A.W.H. Caramels Set
A 12-card issue that was distributed by the Arthur W. Havens (hence the AWH name) Caramel Company. the set included players from five teams in the Virginia State League — Lynchburg, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Roanoke. Given that the Arthur W. Havens Caramel Company was based in Richmond, it’s easy to see why they included five players from the hometown team in the set.
The set is listed as E222 in Jefferson Burdick’s American Card Catalog. Perhaps in the dark himself in an era when gathering knowledge on trading cards was a painstaking process, Burdick offered little information on the set in the catalog, only citing that it was a Virginia League set.
The cards feature single-tint color portrait images of players on the front inside of white borders. Backs include advertisements for A.W.H. Caramels but there are an assortment of different styles, including different font and border types. As stated on the backs, the cards were printed by Fulton Press, another company located in Richmond.
While there are only 12 cards in the set, a master set includes many more than that. That is because cards were produced with a variety of tint colors and variations to the A.W.H. advertisements on the backs. However, the cards are so rare that determining a true number in a master set would be difficult, if not impossible. It is not entirely known which tint colors and which advertisements can be found with different players. However, worrying about a master set is kind of pointless for set collectors, anyway. Completing even the basic 12-card set is challenging enough.
Dating for the set is also a bit of a mystery. While the set is generally dated to 1910, it was possibly distributed in 1909 based on where certain players were at the time. Fully confirmed dating for this rare set has eluded collectors.
Almost all of the known backs have the A.W.H. name used. However, a handful of known cards have an A.W.A. name instead. Some believe this to be a typo but another theory that Havens used initials for himself and two of his three sons (Wilbur and Arthur), exists too.
Even collectors only vaguely familiar with this set may see some players they recognize. Eight of the 12 players in the set were featured in the T206 set. In those cases, images found in the A.W.H. set were the same ones used in that popular tobacco card issue. That is why the artwork for many of the cards will be instantly recognized by T206 collectors.
However, as I recently wrote here, four of the players in the set were not found in T206. That caused a bit of a problem in trying to create the artwork for this release.
This thread indicates that headshot images for those players were taken from a team photo for Richmond (all four players played for Richmond in 1909). Shoulders and chests with uniforms were then drawn on to match the portrait style of the other cards in the set.
Shown here is a card for Arthur Smith, one of the four players with his upper body drawn. The upper body portion of Smith’s card has a bit of a cartoonish feel as the jersey buttons were crudely drawn.
As the set includes only minor league players, most of the names will not be familiar to collectors that do not know the T206 set well. Shag Shaughnessy’s card is likely the most desirable but any card from the rare set is highly desired. The checklist for this rare issue includes the following players:
- Tom Guiheen
- Bock Hooker
- Jim Ison
- Perry Lipe
- Pat McCauley
- William Otey
- Dutch Revelle
- Ray Ryan
- Shag Shaughnessy
- Paul Sieber
- Arthur Smith
- Guy Titman
Rarity and Pricing
As stated, cards from this early caramel card set are quite rare. PSA, SGC, and Beckett have combined to grade only 24 of these cards to date with SGC grading nearly all of them. Additionally, the cards are rarely seen on eBay and even advanced collections often will not include any.
When the cards are for sale, you can expect the prices to almost always be steep. Even low-grade commons generally top $1,000. A modest PSA 2 of Arthur Smith’s card sold in 2016 for more than $1,500.