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Cigarette Cards

Cigarette cards, also called tobacco cards, were trading cards that tobacco companies placed in cigarette packages to stiffen the sides. They contained advertising and were illustrated with many different types of pictures. These early collector cards were the predecessors of today's baseball cards and other types of trading cards.

The Allen and Ginter Tobacco Company of Richmond, Virginia was the first tobacco company to place cigarette cards with advertising in their packages. The company began producing the cards in 1875. The cards were illustrated with pictures of famous actresses, baseball players, boxers, horses, and Indian chiefs. Other tobacco companies followed suit and the practice spread to the United Kingdom in the 1880s.

The most famous cigarette cards are called T sets. There are five T sets, all depicting baseball players. These cards are some of the most sought after for both cigarette card and baseball card collectors. Cigarette cards remained popular until World War I, when paper rationing severely limited the ability to produce cards.

Quick Facts

  • The most famous and most valuable cigarette card is the Honus Wagner card from set T 206. In 2013, a Honus Wagner card sold at auction for $2.1 million
  • Cigarette cards were usually a part of numbered sets. Collectors refer to these set numbers when referencing specific cards. Collector albums for cigarette card sets were also produced
  • While some baseball cigarette cards are extremely valuable, there are many affordable examples available. Non-sports cards can often be purchased for about $10 each

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