In 1910, the Philadelphia Athletics won 102 regular season games, easily winning the American League pennant. They became World Series champions after defeating the Chicago Cubs, four games to one. Even the Cubs’ lone win in that series was a struggle as the team needed ten innings to pull out a narrow 4-3 victory. The Athletics won all of the other games by at least three runs and an average of 5.25 runs per game. The Philadelphia team included several Hall of Famers, including Eddie Collins, Home Baker, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, and manager Connie Mack.
A few baseball card sets commemorated the Athletics’ title and one of those was the 1911 Cullivan’s Fireside set.
About the 1911 Cullivan’s Fireside Set
Listed as T208 in the American Card Catalog, the 1911 Cullivan’s Fireside set was a regional set with limited reach, making the cards scarce today.
The cards were distributed by Thomas Cullivan Tobacco with a business address at 610 Turtle Street in Syracuse, New York. Details like that can sometimes be difficult to track down for old baseball card sets. In this case, however, Cullivan’s name and address were printed directly on the backs of cards.
While many tobacco cards were offered inside packages of cigarettes, the Cullivan’s Fireside cards were distributed inside packages of Cullivan’s Fireside, a plain scrap tobacco product.
Each card had a color lithographic picture of a player with his name and the Athletics team name at the bottom. The are slightly different from other tobacco issues in that the name and team were printed in blue ink as opposed to dark brown or black. A ‘World Champions 1910’ print was found at the top, denoting the title win.
The cards may look familiar to you because the same pictures were used in other sets. Parallel sets were issued that are listed as D359 in the American Card Catalog.
There are two different D359 sets for Williams Baking and Rochester Baking. The Williams cards could be found in their wrapped bread products while the Rochester cards were distributed with their loaves of Gibson and Perfecto Bread. Like the Cullivan Fireside cards, both of those sets were extremely rare.
Fewer details are known about the Williams cards but the Rochester Baking cards give an idea as to why they are so difficult to find. The individual cards in that set were only offered for a single day with a new card being given the next day. And for anyone that collected the whole set, they could be redeemed for a set of “Mail of All Nations” cards or a megaphone.
Additionally, the cards are found in the E104-1 Nadja Caramels card set. The E104-1 cards are a bit different, however, in that they are found with both the World Champions print at the top and without it. It is possible that an Athletics set was printed for Nadja before the team won the World Series and then had the World Series print added after the fact.
All of the cards have the same fronts but the backs have different advertisements, corresponding with the various products.
1911 Cullivan’s Fireside Checklist
A total of 18 cards are found in the set. All five of the Hall of Fame players on the Athletics team are included in Baker, Bender, Collins, Mack, and Plank.
Plank’s inclusion here may make some collectors scratch their heads as he was believed to not want to be linked to tobacco cards. But as this set was used by several distributors, including for bread and candy products, it’s likely it was created for generic use.
- Home Run Baker
- Jack Barry
- Chief Bender
- Eddie Collins
- Harry Davis
- Jimmy Dygert
- Topsy Hartsel
- Harry Krause
- Jack Lapp
- Paddy Livingston
- Bris Lord
- Connie Mack
- Cy Morgan
- Danny Murphy
- Rube Oldring
- Eddie Plank
- Amos Strunk
- Ira Thomas
Rarity and Pricing
The Cullivan’s Fireside set and those related issues are pretty tough to track down. You can see some on eBay, although the D359 Rochester Baking cards seem to be most prevalent among the two or so commonly found there. Mostly, T208s and those related issues are seen offered through major sports auction houses when advanced collectors decide to part with them.
To date, the three major grading companies have not even seen too many of the Cullivan’s Fireside cards. A total of only about 70 have been graded by PSA, SGC, and Beckett combined. That has meant prices for them are quite expensive. Even modestly graded cards of common players found in the set usually start in the $2,000 – $3,000 range.