An Introduction to Advertising Posters
Pre-war cards can be tough enough to find but collectibles advertising those cards are even rarer. Strange as it might sound, Jefferson Burdick actually thought enough of early advertising posters to catalog them. While most collectors may not realize it, early advertising posters are actually found in the American Card Catalog under the G-Card section.
G-Cards were cataloged by Burdick as Banners and Labels. Of most note, according to Burdick, were the ‘poster banners’ that were hung in store windows. One interesting thing is that pricing in his catalog for the banners was quite high compared to the cards themselves. While Burdick listed many cards has having a value less than ten cents, these banners were often worth between $8-$10. He cautioned that they needed to be in ‘fairly good’ condition to receive that value. But that was big money by comparison to many of the cards listed in the catalog.
Almost all of these banners mostly were advertising 19th Century tobacco card issues. The most prominent ones cataloged by Burdick included a usual assortment of names that will be popular with pre-war collectors, including Allen & Ginter, Duke, Goodwin, Kimball, Kinney, and Buchner. Those companies all produced popular 19th Century card sets and these posters advertised those cards.
Popular Sports Posters
As those companies produced a lot of non-sports issues, many of the posters are not sports-related. Several do feature sports, though, and those are generally the more popular ones.
Among the more desirable ones are the posters featuring champion athletes. G20 and G21 are the posters corresponding with the popular N28 and N29 Allen & Ginter sets, respectively. Those sets featured cards of early stars such as Cap Anson, King Kelly, and Tim Keefe, and the posters promoting those issues are highly desirable. The G20 poster, shown here, features pictures of all 50 cards in the set.
Another popular sports poster is G76, which promoted the N162 Goodwin Champions series. That set not only featured several baseball stars but also the first football card of an actual player in Yale captain Harry Beecher.
Those are the key posters but a few others are worthy of recognition. One, G75, features the N165 Goodwin Games and Sports issue, a multi-sport set with generic subjects from baseball, football, and other sports. Additionally, G16 features cards from Allen & Ginter’s Racing Colors set that focused on jockeys.
These posters are truly rare as many would have likely been discarded before a new one focusing on a new product could be hung in a store window. They are so rare, in fact, that we may not even have documented uncut examples of ones that existed.
However, similar to what some collectors did with premium albums with pictures of these cards, some posters were cut up with the pictures of them kept. One example of that is found with an advertising poster for the N284 Buchner Gold Coin set. As documented here, while we have seen several of those cards with an overprinted message on them showing they could have been part of a poster, a full, uncut poster has not surfaced. At least, not to the point where it is widely known in the hobby.
Additionally, we know that some posters were also used for cards beyond the 1800s. Overprinted E121 American Caramel cards are also known with large lettering on them, such as the ones shown here. However, a full, uncut poster featuring these cards is not widely known, either.
Today, it is very difficult to find these advertising posters. However, they do exist. Often, they are in low-grade condition and, given their rarity, collectors usually have to take what they can find.
As you might expect, these posters are quite expensive with the sports posters usually fetching thousands of dollars. The exact price depends on the condition and the subjects featured. A nice copy of the G20 banner featuring N28 Allen & Ginter cards sold for more than $15,500 in a Heritage Auction.