The 1922 Fans Cigarettes set (T231) is one of the rarest tobacco card issues around. The set is so rare that only a few cards are known. That’s particularly noteworthy as at least 85 are believed to be included in the set.
To date, a grand total of three Fans Cigarettes cards have been discovered. Categorized as T231 in the American Card Catalog, it is somewhat surprising that early collector Jefferson Burdick knew of them given how few we have seen to date. One of the cards featuring Home Run Baker is pictured here.
Noted collector Jon Canfield recently acquired the rare box that could be the only known one in existence. Canfield operates the site Baseball and Tobacco, which specializes in packaging for tobacco products that once held baseball cards.
The box is not entirely a new discovery, per se. According to Canfield, it was first found at an antiques show in the Midwest in 1984 along with other cigarette packages dating to the 1920s. The original owner reportedly worked for a company that may have originally printed them. Due to its rarity, the pack was then featured on the front cover of a periodical published by the Cigarette Pack Collectors Club of America. However, after that, the trail went cold and the pack’s whereabouts were in question for many years. Canfield, however, received a letter in the mail a few weeks ago from the owner that managed to hear he had been looking for it. After some negotiations, Canfield was the new owner of the prized possession.
The pack itself looks quite interesting. It clearly targeted sports fans, as is evident by the design and, well, the name of the product.
The Fans logo is presented inside of a large baseball on the front. The side panels also include the Fans name, with each of the four letters inside additional baseballs. The back, though, is what presents the most intrigue. In addition to a baseball field, all types of other sporting equipment is featured for things such as football, ice hockey, tennis, and more.
That begs an interesting question. Could the T231 Fans set include cards for sports other than baseball? Without other cards turning up, it is impossible to say. For what it’s worth, Burdick calls this a set of ‘Baseball Players’ in the American Card Catalog. But he also did not specify how many cards were in the set so it isn’t known if he saw them all. And given their rarity today, that may not seem likely.
The packaging is, of course, exceedingly rare. Most collectors had not seen or heard of its existence. And given how rare the cards are, that makes perfect sense.
For as rare as cigarette cards are, the packages that used to contain them are much tougher to find. That’s because they typically weren’t collectibles themselves and almost all would have been discarded. But the rediscovery of this package provides a link to an incredibly rare baseball card set and with its whereabouts now known, that’s a great thing for the hobby.