The Original Card Backs

The back of a card is one of the most informative places to learn more about an athlete.  When athletes first started appearing on those small pieces of cardboard in the late 1800’s, the reverse side would yield nothing more than a blank space.  As card collecting became more and more popular, manufacturers thought it would be a good idea not only to place an advertisment on the back, but also statistics on the player and a description about their history.  One of the best sets to not only describe the athlete, but to bring the sport alive in the collector’s eye would have to be 1933 Sport Kings Gum.  This 48 card set features some of the best athletes of the time.  Not only are the front of the cards great to look at, but the backs contain some of the best descriptions of the sport.  Lets take billiards great Willie Hoppe #36 for example.  Here is what the card’s back reads:

Shakespeare tells us that Cleopatra played billiards during the days of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, but probably one of the best known billiardists of all time is Willie Hoppe, who is still actively interested in the game.  He travels about the country demonstrating his marvelous ability in the interests of the game’s advancement.  Billiards are divided into several games, the most prominent being pocket billiards, 18.1 and 18.2 balk-line and three cushion billiards.  Hoppe excelled in all of these, winning the 18.1 balk-line championship in 1907, 1908, and 1910, and 18.2 championship from 1910-1920 and again 1922-1924.  He had a high run of 20 in three- cushion billiards in 1928 in American League Tournament and made a high run of 25 in an exhibition in California in 1925.

 As you can see, not only do they clearly describe the athlete, but they also touch on the history of the sport.  This isn’t something that you would normally read on the back of a modern day sports card, and is something that I’d like to see done more.  Many cards today might give you a few sentences about the player and a couple of statistics, but there aren’t too many manufacturers today that take the time to write like this.  What really surprises me is that the higher-end products contain less and less detail on the backs versus lower-end products.  I guess that will happen in an industry that loves to get “hits” and would rather read the company’s COA.


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