1912 T215 Pirate Cigarettes Harry Lord, Boston Amer. (with "Chicago, Amer." remnant)

Sold For: $6,000

Auction Year: 2016 fall

Lot: 618

Item Year: 1912

Category: Prewar Baseball Cards (1900-1941)

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Presented is a T215 Pirate Cigarettes card of Boston Red Sox infielder Harry Lord. T215 Pirates Cigarettes are among the most legendary rarities in all of card collecting. They are so rare that little is known with certainty about their distribution, but they are believed to have been issued exclusively to American servicemen in the South Seas. Pirate Cigarette cards were produced by W. D. & W. H. Wells, a British tobacco company. The fronts are identical to those used in the T206 set and the T215 (Type 1) Red Cross tobacco-card set. The fact that Pirate Cigarette cards and Red Cross have both at times been identified by the same T215 catalog designation is confusing, especially since the designs of the sets are so similar (both to each other and to T206), but they are so rare that this dual listing is not really much of an issue for collectors. There is no confusing the extraordinary rarity of the Pirate-back cards. They are practically nonexistent. In 2007, an extraordinary collection of ninety-six different Pirate cards surfaced and was sold as a collection. It will remain intact, leaving the available population of sample cards from this legendary set at the same modest level. REA offered its first (and then only) example in 2008. At that time, it was the only one we had ever even seen in person, and we had only heard of the existence of a total of approximately five additional samples in the entire collecting world. In 2013, REA had the honor of offering a collection of five previously unaccounted for examples, including this very card (which realized $14,220). It has been consigned directly by the buyer at that auction. As described in 2013, those five cards (including this one) were in our consignor's collection since the 1990s when he bought them from a dealer who, if the story is recalled correctly, claimed to have traded for them with the legendary Sir Edward Wharton Tigar (one of the greatest of all pioneer collectors, whose collection is now housed in the British Museum in London). While we have no way to verify this story, we can't help but think it is certainly plausible. The rare Pirate Cigarette backs are printed in green and feature a cigarette pack with a pirate standing on a ship. This card is encapsulated as "Authentic" by SGC (it has been crossed over from PSA by our current consignor). We believe that most of the known T215 Pirates, outside of those from the large collection of ninety-six, were possibly cut from a sheet and would more accurately be described as hand-cut. This card is bright, fresh, and perfectly clean, both front and back, with four sharp corners and centered slightly towards the bottom; it is Excellent to Mint in appearance. Interestingly, this card has a faint remnant of the team identification text "Chicago, Amer." directly over and in part slightly above the text "Boston, Amer." in the nameplate. Lord became a member of the Chicago White Sox in 1910, so whether this was an attempt to correct his team, or is some type of printing anomaly that we have never seen before that just by amazing coincidence involves the text "Chicago, Amer." may never be known. But perhaps it is a clue to unlocking some the mysteries of the T206 set. This is an outstanding example of one of card collecting's rarest and most fascinating tobacco-card issues, and one of sample-card collecting's most elusive rarities. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open).

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