As collectors chase down the latest version of the newly-minted trading card sets designed after their 19th century originals, the vintage originals are gaining respect among a new generation of collectors being introduced to issues like the 1888 Goodwin Champions set for the first time.
The Goodwin set (N162) consists of 50 unnumbered cards, each measuring 1-1/2” x 2-5/8”. The cards were distributed inside packages of Gypsy Queen and Old Judge cigarettes and are among the most beautiful trading cards ever issued.
Athletes are identified at the top with the tobacco brand along the bottom. Representative of the time, long before baseball was really considered the dominant sport, a total of 18 different sports were represented. Eight baseball players are included in the checklist, four of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
The set also includes the first football card ever issued, Harry Beecher, who is shown clutching the oversized ball as a college star at Yale.
The portraits show players against a cloudy sky and offer a classic presentation of 19th century athletes. A checklist can be found on the backs of the cards.
Only a few collectors have tried to complete the whole set. Just one 100% complete set exists on PSA’s Set Registry (Don Spence’s 6.56-rated collection), but it’s a favorite among those who track down the eight ballplayers.
Prices depend hugely on condition. The Cap Anson card is usually the most expensive. A PSA 7 Anson sold for $23,184 at auction three years ago. However, last month, a PSA 3 sold for $2,656 on eBay, the lowest price the card has sold for during the five years Vintage Card Prices has tracked sales.
Cards of Dan Brouthers and King Kelly trade in the $7-12,000 range for higher grade examples while mid-grade copies bring $1,800-3,500.
Click here to see what’s available now.