While traditional baseball cards (or, pictures, as they were frequently called) were extremely popular in the pre-war era, tobacco companies were constantly seeking ways to create new and unique collectibles. Egyptienne Cigarettes succeeded in that venture in 1914 with its distribution of an issue we now call the B18 Blankets.
B18 Blankets Basics
The B18 Blankets were one of the more unique collectibles to come out of the tobacco card era. Instead of cards, Egyptienne Cigarettes inserted these miniature cloths into packages of its product.
Each ‘blanket’ measures 5 1/4″ on all four sides and includes a picture of a player. They were folded in order to fit into the packages and even today, you can still find them with the original fold marks.
In all, a total of 90 players were featured in the set that was issued in 1914. The pictures of the players featured color imagery of them in a variety of batting and fielding poses. The odd square shape was meant to replicate a baseball diamond. That is evident from the background behind the player, which featured basepaths and bases with small pictures of equipment. Additionally on the fronts are names of the players as well as pennants identifying their team and league.
During the first quarter of the 20th century, these were often sewn together to create pillowcases or throws.
B18 Blankets Stars and Variations
The set features plenty of lower-level guys since only a limited number of teams was included. However, there are plenty of stars here, too. Without a doubt, the issue is anchored by Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb. Behind them is a quality lineup of other Hall of Famers, including Walter Johnson, Zack Wheat, Casey Stengel, Bobby Wallace, Rabbit Maranville, Max Carey, Frank Chance, and Miller Huggins. The lineup isn’t staggering, which is helpful when trying to assemble a set. The set is lacking a couple of giants, too. It was issued shortly before Babe Ruth items hit the market and a few years after Cy Young had retired. Also missing in action was Christy Mathewson, whose career was still going strong – he won 24 games in 1914.
The real thrill to the set, however, are the variations. While 90 different players are featured, most have more than one variation. Those variations are the various colors of the basepaths, infields, or pennants that were printed on the blankets. Various colors for those items were used and make completing a master set extremely difficult. By most accounts, the rarest variations are the ones with a red infield. Those are incredibly difficult to find and typically fetch big prices.
Counting all of the variations, the complete master set consists of approximately 200 items.
The Marty Kavanagh Debacle
While 90 is the accepted number for the total number of players featured, some checklists have referred to 91. 90, however, is correct. Marty Kavanagh, an infielder with the Indians, Tigers, and Cardinals, appears in the set with several variations. The confusion has come because the blankets only include players’ last names and there is both a Cavanaugh and a Kavanaugh in the issue.
The maker apparently spelled his name incorrectly first then tried to correct it later. Unfortunately, both attempts were actually incorrect. Any blanket with either the Cavanaugh or Kavanaugh spelling both refer to the same player – Marty Kavanagh, keeping the checklist at 90.
B18 Blanket Prices
The B18 Blankets are, by and large, pretty affordable. At over 100 years old, they aren’t as common as other vintage issues. However, despite that rarity, they aren’t wildly overpriced. The more common players and variations can sell for as little as $10-$15. More difficult variations will usually sell for more and that is the reason you’ll see some common-name players sell for $50 or more. Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb are the biggest names and their common variations will often sell in the $400-$500 range in good shape.
Those red infield variations I mentioned earlier are scarce and when you see one, they will command high prices. This one featuring George Moriarty sold for $3,000 in an REA auction.
You can see B18 Blankets on eBay by clicking here.