Vintage Non-Sports Cards
Buy/Sell/Trade Vintage Baseball Links Gallery of Non-Sports Cards
Vintage Non-sports Forum
Sign up Calendar Latest Topics
 
 
 


Reply
  Author   Comment  
MorrellMan

Avatar / Picture

Senior Member
Registered:
Posts: 246
Reply with quote  #1 
I've been collecting tobacco non-sports cards for about 20 years, compared to 60 years for sports cards, so I consider myself a relative newcomer to N and T card collecting.

My attraction to these gems are mainly the beautiful artwork and historical subject matter.  I know these cards were not "collector issues" - they served (at least) two primary purposes.  One was to stiffen the tobacco product packaging and the other was to advertise the product.  Manufacturers happened upon a brilliant idea to keep the product alive in memory.  Long after the cigars were smoked and the pack was discarded, the product lived on in the household on these lovely little cards with an interesting front and product advertising on the back.

Even after pursuing these things for 20 years I still come across cards or groupings that I like, but I invariably walk away when I find that they are "blank backed".  I know the learned scholars of N/T cards legitimatize these blanks backs as often seen on cards (if not outright skinned), but I don't buy it. 

I can understand blank backs being cut from a test sheet or a banner.  I understand that some processes allowed for backs to be applied or stamped later.  And of course the dreaded skinned backs, however....

Why would a manufacturer place a card (essentially an advertising piece) in its product without the advertising?  That doesn't make sense.  Can the experts here on this board set me straight?

__________________
Mark Hellman
monsterwax

Avatar / Picture

Member
Registered:
Posts: 85
Reply with quote  #2 
Expert, I'm not... especially when it comes to tobacco. But a "test sheet" can be a rather misleading term in non-sports because we have "test sets" (which are not at all the same thing, and didn't even apply to tobacco) and there is not really any test involved in a test sheet. They are really called "make ready" sheets in the printer biz. It takes a few hundred sheets running through the press to get all the colors properly lined up and at the right levels. They run the fronts first, because those have the most colors and are the hardest to do. Then they let them dry for a day or two. Then they load that stack upside down into the same press and start to print the other side. They will essentially waste hundreds of sheets lining up the color and cards on the backs with the fronts. But before they even engage the plates, many are run through before the printing plates are engaged (because you never want those plates running when no paper is present-- it would leave ink all over the rollers that would contaminate the other side.) All those first sheets will have blank backs. Also, since there is no way of predicting how many it will take to get it right, the printers always deliberately print several hundred sheets of "overage". If they get the sheets lined up sooner (rather than later) in the process, the printers often don't bother printing the backs of the sheets remaining after they have reached their sheet count. The client is only paying for so many sheets, so why waste the time and money? What happens to those one-sided sheets of overage is anyone's guess. If they are cute girly cards, for example, you can bet several get taken by employees. It's not really stealing, because it's basically trash. In fact, what isn't taken by employees for themselves or their friends, or given away to other visitors and potential clients will be put out in the trash, and there's nothing to stop a dumpster diver from rescuing them for collectors all over the world. (These same dumpster divers often return to the same trash bins, again and again, because its like vultures returning to certain well traveled roads through game reserves.) I hope that helps!


__________________
a.k.a. KurtK
forbesrs

Avatar / Picture

Member
Registered:
Posts: 75
Reply with quote  #3 
Blank backs occur on tobacco cards for three main reasons. The first, as Kurt expertly described, is due to the printing process. In the tobacco era (I would speculate) the printer probably just processed and cut these blank back sheets (printer warm-ups) with the rest of the batch that had back advertising or just missed some of the sheets while printing the backs after the fronts had been printed, thus resulting in a number of blank-backed examples getting out into circulation. Remember, they were printing thousands and thousands of these cards to be stuffed into 5 or 10 cent packs of cigarettes (mostly) so there wasn't a high degree of quality control (see also crooked cuts and uneven measurements between examples of the same tobacco series...).

Second, blank backs come from either someone cutting apart a banner or an album or skinning a card that originally had a back. These are not truly blank backs as they were not how the original card was made but are sometimes passed off as such to unsuspecting buyers.

Third, blank backs were sometimes caused by the tobacco manufacturers' decisions. There are a number of "stock" issues where the same fronts were used by multiple companies (N488, N500, N532, T132 as examples). In some cases (as I again speculate) the company buying a batch of these stock cards didn't have the money or didn't want to spend additional money to get their advertising printed (a separate print run would cost a lot more particularly if low volume compared to just buying a pile of the stock cards). Thus, they might have just issued the cards with blank backs. An additional theory holds more with some of the T-series where you can find blank backs (T68 for one). The tobacco company might not have known how many cards to order for each brand/factory and just 
purchased some blank-backed cards to give them some flexibility. When the American Tobacco Co. was broken up in December 1911, there was a period of several months where Buck Duke was divvying up the companies and brands which likely led to some uncertainty in the distribution of a number of brands and factories for some of the T-series cards.

A whole lot of speculation here, based on my relatively decent knowledge of tobacco cards, and we'll probably never know the real truth as nobody is still around to explain what really happened!  

Bob
monsterwax

Avatar / Picture

Member
Registered:
Posts: 85
Reply with quote  #4 
Some readers may also wonder, "why would anyone WANT a blank back sheet, especially way back when there were no card collectors? We're talking over 100 years ago!" The answer is, they made GREAT posters! I have several uncut sheets I rotate on my walls to this day. Dinosaurs Attack, Classic Pulps, JRS (and several of my own). They never seem to get old!


__________________
a.k.a. KurtK
g1911

Member
Registered:
Posts: 30
Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MorrellMan


Even after pursuing these things for 20 years I still come across cards or groupings that I like, but I invariably walk away when I find that they are "blank backed".  I know the learned scholars of N/T cards legitimatize these blanks backs as often seen on cards (if not outright skinned), but I don't buy it. 


There are many legitimate blank backs.  First, there are many sets where blank backs are the normal form of issue, especially among N cards.

There are some where it was not the normal form of issue, but were clearly released this way, like the T29's that have the factory stamped on the front for legal compliance but blank backs.

Cards cut from posters and banners are easily distinguishable in hand from actual blank backs.  Many of the real ones are handcut, and were presumably backdoored.  On T cards, American Lithography may have printed the backs of the sheets with some delay; we don't really know the details of the relationship and how ATC placed orders.  It may have been some time before brand arrangements were worked out and the backs printed to pre-printed front sheets.  There are numerous avenues of speculation, but these undoubtedly exist (of course, there are or can be fakes of anything, but this category is not entirely false at all).  I can post numerous examples of authentic ones to 'legitimize'
FrenchQuarterCards

Member
Registered:
Posts: 23
Reply with quote  #6 
Here is an T29 blank back card.  If you look closely you can see the factory number in the bottom right corner.  The N29's were issued with an advertising back,  a text back Image (18).jpg  Image (24).jpg  Image (20).jpg  Image (9).jpg  , and a blank back.  The blank back is the only version that has the factory number on the front.
Irishjohn

Member
Registered:
Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #7 
Great information and explanation from Bob & KurtK on test sheets and some of the reasons for blank backs. Thank you. Just to add a little here, I have a set of blank backed Wills "Boxers" issued overseas in 1911. The regular issue had two different printings, Green "Wills" backs and "Scissors" backs. I bought my set about 20 years ago from a British dealer who advertised them as a test/proof set. There are two interesting things about the cards, (1) some have the printers name on the back "J. Oppenheimer & Co. 103 Newgate Street, E.C. - Designers and Colour Printers", and (2) Many of the cards show significant blood on the bodies of the boxers. The name plates at the bottom of the cards were blank. However, when the cards were issued in cigarette packs, all the blood had been removed from the boxers. So it appears that someone at Wills product control decided the "gore" might offend the sensibilities of the consumers. This validates KurtK's great explanation. Anyway, even though the backs are blank, the extra gore on the fighters make for a great variant for a collector.

Thanks for all the great info on reasons for blank back tobacco cards.
John.       
Previous Topic | Next Topic
Print
Reply

Quick Navigation:

Easily create a Forum Website with Website Toolbox.