Many pre-war card collectors are familiar with Allen & Ginter’s popular N28 and N29 World’s Champions sets. However, one you may not have heard of is the 1888 N43 Allen & Ginter release. Here’s a look at this oversized tobacco issue from the late 1800s.
The N43 cards were released at or around the same time as the company’s N29 trading cards. They include the same images and checklist, but are different in a number of ways from their smaller counterpart.
First, the cards are significantly larger, measuring at approximately 3 1/4″ wide x 2 7/8″ tall. The N29 cards were only slightly shorter but only about 1/3 of the N43 size in terms of width. While the images of the players were the same, the N43 fronts also had extra space. This was utilized for generic color artwork of athletes.
The backs were similar but different as well. Allen & Ginter kept the same heading at the top: “Second Series – The World’s Champions.” They also included a full checklist of all 50 athletes as well. However the N43 checklist was displayed over three columns instead of only two from the N29 cards. In addition, while the N29 cards were “Packed in each box of ten cigarettes” as stated on those cards, the N43 cards declare that they were packaged with larger boxes of 20 cigarettes. Given the larger size, packaging them in what would presumably be larger boxes makes perfect sense.
As is the case with the N28 and N29 sets, the N43 set includes a total of 50 cards.
Since the checklist is the same as the N29 cards, the N43 release included six baseball players. That lineup was headlined by William “Buck” Ewing. Others in the set included James Fogarty, Charles Getzein, George Miller, John Morrill, and James Ryan. Only Ewing is a household name out of that group and, accordingly, his card is the most desired in the entire set.
Despite only having six baseball players, Allen & Ginter still didn’t get everything quite right and three of the cards had errors. James Fogarty is given the middle initial of ‘H’ while it should have been ‘G.’ Charles Getzein’s name was misspelled Getzin. In addition, John Morrill’s last name was also misspelled Morrell.
While all fine players, none had the importance of Ewing, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A career .303 hitter, Ewing was a stellar offensive and defensive player that was one of the biggest stars of his day.
The N43/N29 set checklist isn’t as strong as the N28 edition for good reason. It is termed as the ‘Second Series’ by the company and was printed after most of the initial stars were featured in the N28 set. But there are a few cards aside from the baseball players that are considered to be key to the release.
As always, the set included world champion athletes from a variety of sports. The boxers/pugilists remain popular as there’s a strong market for those tobacco cards. As a result, Johnny Murphy, Patsey Kerrigan, Frank Murphy, Patsey Duffy, Billy Edwards, Jack Havlin, George LaBlanche, and Jack McGee are all among the more sought after cards.
Famous figure skater Axel Paulsen, too, is one that collectors buy and trade with some frequency.
The five baseball players not named Buck Ewing all bring approximately the same premium. Unfortunately, these cards are not very plentiful. eBay, for example, generally has only one or two dozen for sale at any given time.
When you can find them, however, the prices aren’t usually insane for the non-baseball issues. Those generally command around $75 – $150 in decent condition. However, they can be found for even less if you are willing to buy low-grade cards. Baseball players are where the money is and can be several hundred dollars, depending on the exact condition. An SGC 40 graded Ryan, for example, sold recently for $700. Ewing is the most expensive and his cards are often in four figures. An SGC 35 sold last year for just over $2,200. There are currently a couple of Ewing cards listed on eBay.
A near set consisting of 44 cards (without Ewing) in low-mid grade condition sold a few years ago for nearly $6,000.