It’s also interesting to note that the image of the Yellow Kid is connected to the well-known term “yellow journalism.” This denotes publications that contained very little news, but used flashy graphics and gripping headlines to accompany less than newsworthy features simply to sell more papers. Both Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal ran cartoons featuring The Yellow Kid, and these papers are legendary for unethically using sensationalism to drive up circulation.
Hake’s Americana & Collectibles notes that High Admiral Cigarettes began giving these 1 1/4” buttons away with their product in 1896. It’s interesting to note that there is a gap in the numbered sequence which goes from one through 94, and then resumes using flags as a theme from numbers 101 through 160. So, there are only 154 buttons in a complete set rather than 160. Some have an open back with paper inserts promoting the company’s cigarettes. Others have a tin back with promotional text stamped within referring to High Admiral, the New York Journal and Yellow Kid. Numbers 101 and up are marked “Yellow Kid Collection.”
To see a single example of a Yellow Kid button referencing the New York Journal, click here.
How Much Are Yellow Kid Cigarette Buttons Worth?
A complete set of Yellow Kid cigarette buttons sold for $22,278.62 (including 15 percent buyer's premium) at Hake’s Americana & Collectibles auction in January, 2010. Only four complete sets are known to exist, according to Hake’s. The smaller grouping shown here sold in August, 2012 for $390 at Morphy Auctions.