When most collectors think of Jefferson Burdick’s American Card Catalog designations, the most popular types of cards are T-Cards (Tobacco issues), E-Cards (Early Caramel/Candy issues), or R-Cards (Later Gum/Candy issues). One designation that you don’t hear much about are U-Cards.
What are they? Let’s take a closer look.
Essentially, Burdick said these cards were ‘folders’ and miscellaneous issues. That didn’t mean folders in the way we think of them today. Instead, he meant items that folded – in particular, matchbooks that sometimes featured pictures of baseball players on the covers. Additionally, these would be folders that weren’t already cataloged elsewhere. For example, the T201 Mecca Double Folders cards or the T202 Hassan Triple Folders cards were folding issues but already have a home in the Tobacco Card section of Burdick’s book.
In addition to those, however, Burdick used the classification as a sort of catch all for everything else he hadn’t covered already. As a result, the classification can loosely include all sorts of cards that don’t fit under other classifications.
Most Popular U-Cards
The most popular U-Cards, without question, are the 1930s Diamond Matchbooks. These were one of the few U-Cards for which Burdick assigned actual numbers for.
Diamond Matchbooks are books of matches with pictures of athletes on them. The popular series includes three of the four major sports, baseball, football, and hockey. A variety of types exist but, in general, they would feature a player’s picture on one side of the matchbook and a biography on the back.
The matchbook covers are inexpensive and often under $15. Most have been separated from the matches that were originally enclosed but matchbooks that are fully intact are significantly more expensive. In general, though, these are among the cheaper pre-war collectibles you can find.
U1 through U4 were assigned to the 1930s baseball Diamond Matchbooks. U5 through U8 were given to the football Diamond Matchbooks (professional players and college rivalries, respectively). U9 and U10 were designated as the 1930s hockey issues.
UO-designated cards were for oil (gasoline, specifically) issues. The UO categorization was a subset of U-Cards to help collectors classify these a little better than just mixing gasoline cards in with other types of U-Cards. Ideally, all U-Cards would have similar designations. One example of these are the cards produced in the 1930s and 1940s.
So what else could fit in this category? All sorts of things, actually. Tobacco cabinet cards, photos mounted onto a backing to serve as a display piece are usually classified as H-Card (Trade/Advertising) or N-Card (19th Century) issues but what about other cabinets? Cabinets were often used by families to feature photographs of family members or other famous people and plenty were not affiliated with tobacco products.
Movie theaters also released card and premium issues but have no formal categorization. These include things such as the 1920s Babe Ruth Headin’ Home cards used to promote one of his movies. Along those lines were the cards designated as UT for miscellaneous theater cards.
There are also political campaign cards that were used to promote people running for office. Many former players and baseball personalities, such as Cy Young, decided to run for public office and had cards created.
Additionally, there are numerous issues centered around clothing, such as the 1935 Rice Stix Dizzy Dean and Paul Dean photos (one is shown here), which were given away as premium items with Rice Stix shirts (Burdick classified these as UM7). Other clothing-related items could also fall under this classification and, specifically, UM was termed as items for various manufacturers that had issues not cataloged elsewhere in the book.