I was browsing in my favorite collectibles place this afternoon, Royal Collectibles in Forest Hills, N.Y. Once a month or so I try to stop by this gem of a store to satisfy my fix for hording ephemera . Baseball cards, sports yearbooks and magazines, comic books (my preference is golden age and silver age DC’s). More often than not, I stumble across something unique and unusual and am compelled to buy it. Like the Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio postage stamps from Ajman in the United Arab Emirates (I have no idea who came up with those). Or the set of JFK assassination trading cards, appropriately titled “Coup D’etat” for the conspiracy nuts out there. I’m not one of them (I’m more like a conspiracy theorist) but I had to have the cards anyway.
So today, while peering into the glass case that holds old baseball cards — the ones I crave, like 1950’s-1960’s Topps, preferably Hall of Famers — when something caught my eye: a handful of T201 tobacco cards, issued by Mecca Cigarettes in 1911. I’ve been collecting tobacco cards for the past three years or so, mostly from the T206 series. I have several in my collection — which does not include the Holy-Grail-of-cards-Honus Wagner, in case you’re wondering. I’ve been captivated by tobacco cards ever since I bought my first one at the old Antiques Armory on Thames Street in Newport, RI. Since then, I’ve scooped up several more on ebay and at Royal. These roughly 1.5″ by 2.5″ pieces of cardboard, rich in color and detail, are miniature works of art, portraying ballplayers of the early 20th Century as reserved gentlemen of the game.
The T201 cards are new to me, however. Like some exotic plant, I had never seen or felt one in person. What makes them unique are that are “double folders” — on the front is one player, and then you flip up the card to reveal another player (with the same feet and sanitary hose as the first player). It’s two cards in one. I bought two — one with Arthur Hofman of the Cubs, who flips up to reveal his teammate, Hall of Fame pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. The other featured John Barry of the Philadelphia A’s, who flipped up to reveal his teammate, John Lapp.
I don’t think double folders would work in today’s game. After all, what player would want to share his card — or his feet — with another?