Old Judge and Allen & Ginter were mostly king when it comes to 19th Century baseball cigarette card issues. But one brand, Duke Sons and Company, included baseball cards in their products as well. Some of their sets included only a single baseball card in non-sports issues and are less relevant. But Duke Sons and Company also produced several sets consisting all or mostly of baseball subjects. Here’s a closer look at some of those.
The N135 cards measure a little smaller than a postcard and are jumbo-sized by today’s standards. The set is a 25-card issue with all baseball-themed cards. While the players are generic, there is a good amount of demand for this release. That’s because it is a baseball issue with some interesting, often humorous, colorful artwork.
In general, the cards include a picture of a player on one side and a comedic rendering on the other to both depict the random caption printed on the card. Mid-grade copies of these generally start around $100.
Duke’s N142 Honest Cabinets were a premium cabinet issued to advertise the Honest Tobacco label. This set is heavily desirable for not only its excellent artwork (often considered among the best of the N-Card issues) but also the fact that it included star players. Of the four players in the set, three (Wilbert Robinson, George Davis, and Ed Delahanty) are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As larger cabinet cards measuring a little smaller than an 8″ x 10″, these are really more like photographs than standard baseball cards. These cabinets are incredibly rare and fetch a lot of money when found. One of Robinson in Good condition sold recently for more than $7,000.
The N154 Duke Sons Presidential Baseball cards probably win the award for the company’s most interesting issue. The set featured Presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle, including Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Levi Morton, and Allen Thurman. Most cards showed a single candidate while others showed two. These had a comical spin, too, as they featured a candidate’s oversized head onto a regular player’s body.
Unlike other Duke baseball cards of the era, these were similar to the popular Old Judge set since they included sepia-toned pictures. Many have faded over time and, as a result, cards with a clear picture are sold at a premium. Mid-grade cards from this set usually start in the $250-$300 range.
Duke’s Terrors of America is one of the company’s less-collected cards since it also includes non-sports topics. But it does still have some appeal for its baseball-related cards, which are scattered throughout the set. The N88 release includes a total of 50 cards depicting boys in various situations with a brief title. Several are baseball subjects and even include titles, such as ‘The Umpire,’ ‘The Pitcher,’ and ‘Out on First. How’s that Umpire?’
A larger version of the cards, known as N136, also exists. These included the same images/captions but on a larger card with a decorative border. N88 card values generally depend on the subject depicted. Decent non-sports cards can be found for around $15-$20 while mid-grade baseball subjects start more in the $30-$40 range.