I'm into sports and I like to collect stuff. A few months ago, I wrote about Cricket Attax trading cards produced by Topps featuring players from the Indian Premier League. And, yes, that's the same Topps that's made baseball cards since 1951. Sadly, that 2017-18 set looks like it might be the last one that Topps produces for a while. I contacted the company asking if they were planning on any upcoming IPL or World Cup sets and the response was a cryptic, "Thank you for your inquiry. It's not finalized yet."
The memorabilia collector/amasser/hoarder in me was not deterred. I jumped onto eBay -- my go-to for all the weird stuff I'm into…from early 20th century boxing cards to mid-century Japanese baseball cards.
Happily, there's a whole world of cricket cards out there -- early tobacco cards and regional sets from the 80's and 90's right up to the multiple years of Topps Cricket Attax sets. And -- at least compared to comparable vintage baseball cards -- stuff is reasonably affordable.
I was able to buy the 50-card sets of tobacco cards that John Player & Sons released in 1930, 1934, and 1938 for less than $40 each. And all three sets included cards of the legendary Don Bradman.
The 1930 set, in particular, was in incredible condition for its age leading me to believe that perhaps there was a semi-recent warehouse find of uncirculated cards that have now made their way into the hobby.
The 1930 set is also the coolest visually of the three -- action shots of the players versus the more generic portraits.
Of course, not everything is so affordable and easy-to-find. One of the cooler sets from that same era is The Prominent Cricketers of 1938 produced by Ogden's Cigarettes. I think the use of actual photography over drawings is what makes it so interesting. (The McCormick card below is super cool.) These are a step up price-wise over the cards from Player & Sons, but still doable if you want to build the set over time.
Some of the oldest cricket cards can be found in Ogden's General Interest set which was released in 1901 and 1902. At a time when most cigarette card sets were far smaller, the General Interest set weighs in at a cancer-causing 1,500 cards. While the set covered everything from sports to entertainment to military and political figures, almost 80 were devoted to cricketers.
If you have a ton of dough and a ton of time, this would be an amazing set to attempt to put together.
Unfortunately, I have neither.
While it's amazing that so much of cricket's history has been preserved in these pieces of cardboard, because of the era in which they were produced, they only give us a look at players from England and Australia. As far as I can tell, cricketers from India, West Indies, and other areas didn't make it onto cardboard until the 1980s. I'll be covering those sets in a future blog!
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