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. Here’s a closer look at that set.
N162 Goodwin Champions Basics
The Goodwin set (classified as N162 by Jefferson Burdick in his American Card Catalog) 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. A complete checklist is found on each of the backs of each card. Unlike some later sets, these cards were printed on relatively thicker stock making them a little more durable than 20th Century tobacco card issues.
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.
# 1 Ed Andrews
# 2 Cap Anson
# 3 Dan Brouthers
# 4 Bob Caruthers
# 5 Fred Dunlap
# 6 Jack Glasscock
# 7 Tim Keefe
# 8 King Kelly
However, there’s a lot more to the N162 set than simply baseball. A few key cards exist that help to make this a popular release among collectors.
While cards of Cap Anson and King Kelly are heavily desired, most notably the set also includes what most collectors consider to be the first football card ever issued. Harvard and Princeton played in what is seen as the first collegiate football game back in 1869. It took about 20 years later for the sport to produce its first card of an actual player. The N162 Goodwin card features Harry Beecher, who is shown clutching an oversized ball as a college star at Yale. To this day, he is considered one of the top players in the history of the program.
Beecher was a suitable pick for the first player featured on a football card. He was one of the top players in the game and, according to this publication, was college football’s Player of the Year in the season before the N162 Goodwin set was released.
Beecher’s card is by far the biggest non-baseball issue in the set, but a few other notable ones exist as well. Among the other key cards are Buffalo Bill and boxer Jack Dempsey. It should be noted that Dempsey is ‘Nonpareil’ Dempsey and not the later, more well known, Jack Dempsey. Nonpareil Dempsey, however, was quite the fighter in his own right. He had a career 51-4-11 record, was a middleweight champion, and ended up in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Only a few collectors have tried to complete the whole set. Even in low-grade condition, the set is not an easy one to acquire. 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, although Beecher’s card is not far behind. A Cap Anson PSA 7 brought more than $26,000 in a 2015 auction. Mid-grade copies of both Anson and Beecher are available for much less, though. Depending on the exact condition, those cards can be bought starting in the $3,000 – $5,000 range.
Cards of Hall of Fame baseball players 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.
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