Cycleback's PACK SECRETS

august 11 2003


QUESTION: How common was it for famous people to autograph their business cards? When I see one should I be extra wary? This sounds kind of fishy to me.

ANSWER: I see (and own) a good number of authentic autographed business cards, particularly from politicians. Upon an autograph request, a business card was a natural item sign. And for politicians, who were almost always running for the next election, a business card was like miniature campaign ad.

For autograph collectors, business cards are strong provenance. While a signature on a business card could be a counterfeit or secretarial, and the buyer should take the normal precautions when buying, an authentic business card almost necessarily came from either the famous person, his secretary or office. When buying or assessing autographs, provenance like this is highly desirable.

The only drawback for signed business cards is that they’re small.

As a side note, politicians running for office have long been amongst the most enthusiastic and polite signers. Autographing a photo or campaign pamphlet is as natural to wooing voters as handing out campaign buttons and kissing babies. Some politicians will thank you for asking for an autograph.



QUESTION: I sometimes see old cigarette packs for sale and the owner often claims that there’s a good chance that there’s a T206 baseball card in there. I would really love to buy a pack with a baseball card in there, but don’t know if you should take the seller’s claim with a grain of salt.

ANSWER: Unless the seller is Bill Mastro, Lew Lipset or Rob Lifson (all famous baseball card experts), I would take the sellers’ T206 claim with a bag of salt.

Old cigarette packs can be nice display items, and many people collects them knowing they’re nothing inside but cigarettes or tobacco. Many collectors of T206 baseball cards will buy relevant-brand packs (Sweet Caporal, Piedmont, Drum, etc) to display with their packs. However, when buying one of these old cigarette packs, price it as if there is not a card in there. Almost none of the cigarette packs will have a t206 card or other card of significant, and buying into the eBay seller’s hype is usually a costly mistake.

There are some markers for judging the date, but dating cigarette packs is an inexact science. Sweet Caporal ( a cigarette pack that T206s were sold in), used the same design for over twenty years. So a 1909 (T206 era) Sweet Caporal may look essentially the same as a 1920 pack.

There are datable tax stamps that were put on packs, but these too are inexact markers. A tax stamp often was issued for a several year period. Further, tobacco stores often saved stamps and used in later years. For example, it is possible to find a 1909 tax stamp on a 1917 cigarette pack.

A guide to tax stamps is at the following link:

So, the rule of thumb is to price an old unopened cigarette pack as if it doesn’t have a T206 Honus Wagner inside, as it probably doesn’t.



QUESTION: My wife bought me a bunch of inexpensive play and musical advertising posters, all but one from the 1990s-2002. All are artistic, like drawings or paintings, and not photographs. How can I tell if any of them are handmade prints, instead of photomechanical reproductions of original drawings or paintings. As I said, these were all inexpensive. I know they’re originals, but am just curious as a collector.

ANSWER: Take a strong magnifying glass and examine the art graphics. If they are made up of a tiny dot pattern, they are reproductions of the original art. I would have to examine them personally to determine for sure, but without the dots there would be a good chance they are handmade prints. I recently looked at some local (Seattle) advertising posters for a play, and they were reproductions of original paintings.



QUESTION: I have heard more than once that autographs on signed contracts are almost necessarily authentic. Why is this?

ANSWER: I wouldn’t say ‘almost necessarily authentic’, but the reason that authentic contracts are so desirable is that a contract was only legally binding if the actual person signed it. That’s the nature of a legal contract. Tom Seaver might have his secretary sign his name on a letter to a fan or local radio questionnaire, but he had to sign his Mets contract himself if he expected to get his salary. Similarly, to make sure Tom was under contract, the Mets’ lawyers were going to make sure that was Tom’s signature on the dotted line and not his 10 year old daughter’s.

There will be counterfeited or secretarial signatures on contracts, but, as you can see, the significance of a legal contract puts it on a whole different level than a baseball or mini-helmet.


(c) cycleback

Cycleback's PACK SECRETS