The N28 and N29 Allen & Ginter issues are among the most breathtaking 19th Century trading cards. Using beautiful lithography, the company produced some of the more attractive early cards. The cards weren’t the only thing produced by Allen & Ginter, though. A special premium offered by the company was a special collectible for each set – the A16 and A17 Allen & Ginter albums.
Printed in the late 1880s, Allen & Ginter produced two card sets featuring athletes in a variety of sports. Baseball was by far the most popular, but the sets also included boxers, wrestlers, and more. The cards were packaged with Allen & Ginter’s tobacco products and were significantly thicker than cards with tobacco products in the early 20th Century.
The sets both had the same general look with some slight differences. The N28 set was printed first (believed to have been printed in either 1887 or 1888) and is considered the first series. Series two, the N29 set, was printed a year later. Fronts included a white background and a lithograph of the athlete in question. Backs were helpful in that they included a full checklist of each series. Each series contained 50 cards and the baseball players in each series were the most desirable. The N28 set is headlined by Hall of Famers Cap Anson, Tim Keefe, and King Kelly, among others. The N29 issue isn’t nearly as star-studded but still has a big name in Hall of Famer Buck Ewing. In all, 16 of the 100 cards in the two series feature baseball players.
A16 and A17 Allen & Ginter Premium Offer
In addition to the cards, customers also received coupons inside of Allen & Ginter’s packages. These coupons could then be redeemed by mail for the A16 and A17 albums once a collector had accumulated enough of them. It was sort of the company’s way of saying ‘thanks for buying so much tobacco.’
The A16 Album was issued for the N28 set while the A17 Album was with the N29 set. Each album was paperback and included pictures of all 50 cards in the series with several being printed to a page.
While the albums were sent to consumers in one piece, many didn’t stay that way. Albums were often cut up for the cards – likely for an assortment of reasons. Perhaps, some consumers were missing a few cards for their set and cut out the ones they needed. Perhaps others simply wanted a set of cards instead of seeing them in a book. For whatever the reason, albums sometimes ended up in pieces.
The cards in the albums, however, weren’t exactly the same as two significant differences existed. First, the Allen & Ginter logo was not found on the fronts. This likely made some collectors very happy as there were no doubt some that were not thrilled with the tobacco name being present. This is evident from N28 and N29 cards that are found trimmed with the Allen & Ginter logo removed. The other main difference is that the cards were printed without checklists on the back.
For those two reasons it is easy to tell them apart, in addition to the obvious hand-cutting, which often left them with wavy borders.
A16 and A17 Allen & Ginter Album Prices
The A16 and A17 Allen & Ginter Albums will generally be found in one of three ways. First (and most rare), there are still complete albums out there. Second, individual pages are sometimes found as albums have been separated. Finally, there are the album cuts.
As you would imagine, there are varying degrees of value. Starting with the album cuts, despite not being actual cards, they still hold value. Commons are generally in the $10 range or so while baseball players are significantly more. The biggest names such as Anson, Kelly, and Keefe can fetch up to $100-$200 if in good condition.
There are currently several individual album pages listed on eBay.
Complete albums are rare, but do show up for auction. An A16 album sold a few years back for a little more than $2,000. Meanwhile, an A17 album (note that the auction title is incorrect) sold a few years ago for about $700.