The Obsequio de Susini tobacco card set is one of those international issues that doesn’t come up a whole lot. The lack of baseball cards in it is a contributing factor for its relative obscurity. Nevertheless, there are plenty of great sports cards to be found in it. Let’s take a deeper look at this rare set.
About the Obsequio de Susini set
Obsequio de Susini? That’s a mouthful, right? Well, this is a set based out of Cuba and that title roughly translates to, ‘Gift of Susini.’ The Gift of Susini moniker is questionable when trying to determine a formal set name for this issue. After all, it’s really just a mention that the cards were a gift. But it is typically the name assigned to this set for lack of a better one.
Even the exact distribution date on these cards is a bit up in the air. They are sometimes considered to be a 1915 set while others state they are from 1916 instead. It is usually one of those two dates, however, that is attributed to this series.
Susini was a tobacco brand of Henry Clay and Bock & Co., which was based in Cuba. That company is the issuer of this massive set for its Susini brand products. The cards are distinctive for their thin black borders and real photographic images. Pictures in the set appear in both black and white and in a colorized form. The name of the subject or topic is printed in a small white box at the bottom and cards measure roughly 1 7/8″ wide by 2 1/2″ tall. Backs of the cards are cream colored and include a card number as well as the Susini name. The backs also mention that an album was available for them.
The cards or ‘pictures’ as some might call them at the time of their distribution were meant to be pasted into a collectible album. Collectors often did just that and today on the backs, you can sometimes find residue, paper loss, or remnants of the pages to which they were affixed. The cards are not paper thin as some other album style of cards were. However, along with a glossy finish, they are printed somewhat thin cardstock.
The set, at least under its N230 American Card Catalog designation, includes a whopping 1,300 cards. In all, there are six different subsets that were listed in the book authored by Jefferson Burdick:
- N230-1 Celebrities (Cards 1-100)
- N230-2 Means of Transport (Cards 101-200)
- N230-3 Sports (Cards 201-250)
- N230-4 Dances (Cards 251-300)
- N230-5 Peculiarities of World (Cards 301-800)
- N230-6 The War in Europe (Cards 801-1,300)
While only 50 sports cards are in the overall set, that subset is clearly the one that attracts the most attention to the majority of collectors.
It’s important to recognize that, despite the N-Card designation, these are not 19th century cards. In recent years, collectors have assigned the N-Card designation to the 19th century cards identified in the American Card Catalog that did not previously carry a letter designation. However, Burdick did indeed have cards he identified as N-Cards in that book. N-Cards, by his definition, were cards issued in Central and South America, starting roughly in 1895 (the earliest issues he was aware of) and continuing to the time the book was issued. Thus, while they are classified as N-Cards, that is a different classification from the N-Cards collectors think of today.
About the Sports Cards
The 50 sports cards in the set include a number of subjects and a wide range of athletics.
Baseball collectors will be drawn to the three cards represented by that sport. The most popular card is one showing Hall of Famer Tris Speaker at bat (pictured above). Several of the pictures in the set were reused in later sets and Speaker’s is one of those as it was reused in the 1934 R&J Hill Sports Series tobacco card set nearly 20 years after the fact.
A second card pictures Red Murray and a third features a baseball scene where the players have not been identified. Cards for Murray and the anonymous scene typically start around $50 while Speaker’s card commands significantly more.
But collectors shouldn’t stop there. There are plenty of other great sports represented in the set.
The most popular of those is Hall of Fame boxer Jack Johnson. Johnson’s card is heavily sought after and he’s joined by another boxer, Bombardier Wells, as well as legendary wrestler and strongman George Hackenschmidt, who is represented on three cards. Hackenschmidt has been identified as the subject, even though his name is not found on the cards. A lawn tennis scene is included on a card, too, which appears in the later 1924 Cavenders Homeland Series set. Unfortunately, the athletes depicted are not named, which is kind of a shame. Similar images found in another 1920s Homeland set for Wills (another tobacco brand) picture some tennis stars and Hall of Famers that were actually named on the backs.
Some other popular sports are found in the set, too, even if the athletes depicted on them are not mentioned. Collectors will also find cards for American football, ice hockey, and golf. Other less popular sports in the set include running, automobile and motorcycle racing, rowing, curling, skiing, track and field, soccer, field hockey, polo, cricket, and rugby. It is possible, however, that some could feature star athletes that were simply not named, a la the cards for Hackenschmidt. However, the set is so obscure that few have likely attempted to identify these athletes.
Obsequio de Susini Pricing and Rarity
Cards in any of the Obsequio de Susini subsets are all rare and that’s bad news for collectors trying to get their hands on them. The sports cards do show up a bit more than some of the others, simply for their ability to easily be bought and sold. But that still doesn’t mean they’re easy to locate. eBay will usually have a few and, the baseball cards, in particular, sometimes find their way into the auction houses. However, these are cards where patience is required if you’re looking for them.
Prices for commons in the sports series are often quite low given their rarity. The minor sports cards start in the $5-$10 range but prices escalate quickly for the baseball cards, Johnson, or Hackenschmidt. Even in lower-grade condition, Speaker and Johnson can command $150-$250 as a starting point.