To collectors, Old Judge Cigarettes are most famous for being home to the massive N172 set, which was distributed in packs and spanned several years in the late 1880s. While that set is one of the most popular pre-war sets of all time, a much rarer Old Judge issue was created, around the same time as that one began – the N167 Old Judge set.
1886 N167 Old Judge Set Basics
The N167 Old Judge set is believed to have been produced in 1886. The cards feature only one team: the New York Giants. Their selection as the subject for the cards makes sense as Goodwin and Company, the producer of Old Judge cigarettes, was based in New York. This is often considered to be the first true tobacco set featuring individual cards of real players rather than generic player or comic-type illustrations.
The cards have a distinctive look with portrait photos of players from the team. The Old Judge name is on the front at the top, although it exists in various formats. Some have the name centered, while others have it off to the left and with a narrower font. Others have it centered but in a bowed manner, similar as to how it would be found on a banner.
Similar to the later tobacco cards which would surface in the 1900s, the cards have a thin white border surrounding the card. They look markedly different from the other Old Judge cards that would appear later, using real sepia photographs with a beige border. The N167 cards display the player’s name, position, and team at the bottom.
Backs of the cards carried an advertisement for Old Judge Cigarettes, as well as a mention of the maker, Goodwin and Company. Interestingly, the cards are include a mention that photographs were provided by Joseph Wood, who had a studio in New York. Wood’s images were also included on a separate set of cabinet photos featuring the team. Featured in the set are numerous stars, including Hall of Famers Buck Ewing, Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, Jim O’Rourke, Mickey Welch, and John (Monte) Ward.
N167 cards are exceedingly rare with only about 50 graded copies in all between PSA and SGC.
More than Baseball
Boxers are also known to be in the set, including Jim Carney, Jem Smith, and Jem McAuliffe. The sport was a popular one in that era and finding boxers in this set isn’t too big of a surprise. Several also appeared in the later Allen & Ginter Champions sets (N28 and N29). In addition, other N167 cards featuring actresses and other famous people exist.
Notably, these non-baseball cards have different backs and, in the case of some actresses, even different cardstock. There are at least four total advertising backs but the cards were lumped into two different types by Jefferson Burdick in the American Card Catalog – a thicker, larger type (only actresses) and a thinner, smaller type including more actresses, boxers, other celebrities, and the baseball players.
The cards, as you might imagine, are not cheap. And even if one has the funds to purchase them, their rarity means they are often not available.
Baseball commons are generally more than $10,000 with price dependent upon player and grade. Stars are significantly higher. A modestly graded Buck Ewing SGC 45 sold in 2016 for $51,000. The baseball cards are scarcely available at common, non-traditional auction houses, such as eBay. However, collectors will sometimes find boxers and actresses on the site for far less, often starting under $1,000.