Edward Wharton Tigar’s trading card collection

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2015-06-26 10:55:58

Edward Wharton Tigar’s trading card collection is one of the largest trading card collections in existence and is housed at the British Museum, London. Edward Wharton Tigar

Edward Wharton Tigar (1913-1995) was a British spy, mining executive and cartophilist.

Tigar worked for London-based international mining company, Selection Trust, in Yugoslavia before joining the Special Operations Executive.

He was instrumental in an explosion staged to destroy a cliff side house in Tangier, Morocco, from which Germans had been using infrared equipment to track vessels passing through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Tigar later organized large-scale black-market trading in currencies, jewels and other valuables in Asia, for the benefit of the Allied cause.

After the war, he rejoined Selection Trust and as managing director for 11 years he quadrupled the value of its international interests.

He retired as a director in 1984.

The collection

Tigar started collecting trading cards in 1917, at the age of 4. His first card was given to him by his father.

The collection, amassed over a period of 78 years, is regarded as “the greatest and most definitive that has ever been assembled.” It contains approximately two million cards, and around 50,000 sets.

Tigar allegedly spent £50,000 on the house next door to his own in order to store his card collection as it already occupied two whole rooms from floor to ceiling in his own house.

After his death in 1995, he bequeathed the collection to the British Museum, London. It is, numerically, one of the largest collections the Museum has ever acquired.

The collection contains, in Tigar’s own words, “every type of card under the sun”. A highlight is the extremely rare Honus Wagner baseball card.

Others include cigarette cards depicting a train passing through the Connaught Tunnel in the Canadian Pacific, Boer War heroes, Hawaiian hummingbirds, actresses and “myriad other subjects”, according to the New York Times.

A rarity included in the collection is an ‘extract of beef’ set, produced in Uruguay. The collection holds every one of the cards issued since 1865.

Also noteworthy is the Cricketers Set, produced by Churchman Cigarettes, depicting prominent cricketers of 1938.

Tigar claimed the collection was worth £2-3,000,000.

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