The 1888 N162 Goodwin Champions set is one of the more famous of the 19th Century tobacco card releases. Known for its vivid lithography and colorful backgrounds, the set is very clearly a fan favorite. As a premium item to supplement that famous set, the company produced a complementary album for collectors (now known as the A36 Goodwin Album).
While Goodwin’s famous N162 cards (as designated in the American Card Catalog) were distributed with the company’s tobacco, albums were only available via a special mail-in offer after a collector had accumulated enough coupons.
Printed as a paperback book, the album contains pictures of all fifty cards in the set. Collectors remain a bit divided on the actual purpose to this day. Some envision the albums as a place where a collector’s cards could be mounted/affixed, over top of the image on the page. Others think they were simply a collectible book, which merely displayed all of the pictures.
The book included pictures of several cards on each page. Baseball was the highlight of the set and that is evident from the cover, which features a large baseball scene along with other pieces of various sporting equipment at the bottom to represent the other sports in the set. And as beautiful as the pictures of the card was the background artwork on several of the pages.
The pictures in the album were supposed to depict the cards. However, as they were printed on thicker stock than regular paper, they eventually became cards themselves. Known today as album cuts, these ‘pictures’ were cut out by collectors, probably for varying reasons. Some no doubt cut them from albums that were falling apart or damaged. Perhaps having the actual cards was more desirable than simply seeing them in a book. Or maybe some collectors used them to fill gaps in sets they were actively trying to complete. Whatever the reason, these ‘cards’ have made their way into the hobby and, while rare, can be found.
The cut out cards, of course, are not considered as valuable or desirable as the regular N162 cards. For that reason, collectors purchasing N162 cards should be wary of buying them and should be able to tell the difference. Fortunately, that isn’t too hard. Two main variances help in distinguishing the two types of cards. The A36 album cut cards are missing the Old Judge and Gypsy Queen brand label names at the bottom of the fronts. In addition, while the backs of N162 cards display a checklist of the set, that does not appear on the backs of the A36 cards cut from pages.
Baseball is clearly the major sport in the release and the set doesn’t disappoint with a total of eight players represented. Together, they make up nearly 20% of the entire multi-sport issue. Four of the eight (Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, Tim Keefe, and King Kelly) are Hall of Famers. But there’s more than baseball here.
Arguably the most important card in the set is that of Harry Beecher, a Yale football player. Beecher’s card is largely considered as the first true football card and is one of the most valuable in the entire set. Other notable figures in the release include Buffalo Bill and Boxer Jack Dempsey. You can see cards from the N128 set (and occasionally a cut out) for sale on eBay here.
A36 Goodwin Album Prices
While somewhat rare, complete A36 Goodwin Albums do surface from time to time in auctions. Prices vary greatly, however, as there is a somewhat limited market for them. One sold at auction a few years ago for nearly $1,300. Many years before that, however, one brought nearly $3,000. Condition is, of course, of the utmost of importance but landing in an auction with several interested parties is required, too.