Dating back to the 1800s, N-Cards (nineteenth century tobacco cards) remain popular with collectors more than 100 years after their creation. Here are ten standouts that are still not too difficult to find. There are surely more valuable cards but many of these remain within reach for today’s collectors and offer a connection to some important names from baseball’s distant past.
N28 Allen & Ginter Charles Comiskey
Famous as the owner of the Chicago White Sox, Comiskey is perhaps most well-known from the 1919 Black Sox scandal, where several members of his favored team threw the World Series. Comiskey, though, made his fame as a player. He’s in the N28 set as a member of the St. Louis Browns. This card isn’t too hard to find, with a couple currently listed on eBay.
N28 Allen & Ginter Tim Keefe
Another great card from the popular N28 set is that of Hall of pitcher Tim Keefe. Pitching from 1880 to 1893, Keefe led the league in many categories over his career including ERA, wins, complete games, innings pitched, and strikeouts. He won an amazing 42 games in 1886 as his career was winding down. Like the Comiskey, a reasonable looking lower-grade Keefe can be found from around $500-$1,000.
N29 Allen & Ginter Buck Ewing
Most of the baseball players in the N29 set aren’t all that impressive. The lone exception, of course, is the presence of Hall of Famer Buck Ewing. N29 cards are a little harder to find than the N28 set and it is difficult to find a decent Ewing card significantly under $1,000.
N162 Goodwin Champions Cap Anson
Anson was arguably the top player of his generation and is often recognized as the game’s first true superstar. His colorful N162 card is one of the best-looking N-cards of all time. It doesn’t come cheap, but they are available for sale on a somewhat regular basis.
N162 Goodwin Champions King Kelly
Like Anson’s N162, Kelly’s card is equally colorful and the portrait shot combined with the cloudy sky in the background makes this an incredibly attractive issue. In fact, it was ranked on PSA’s list of the top sports cards of all-time. As far as price range, it’s comparable with that of Anson’s card – usually a little less.
N184 Kimball Champions Tip O’Neill
The N184 Kimball Champions set includes only four baseball players. None are Hall of Famers, but Tip O’Neill’s card is noteworthy. The set was produced in 1887 which, ironically, was O’Neill’s best season. That year, he led the league in almost every major offensive category, including hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. O’Neill’s card is a little harder to find but still pretty affordable at $500 or less for one in decent condition.
N300 Mayo’s Cut Plug Hugh Duffy
Duffy had more popular cards, such as his T-206 issue, that were more popular. But his N300 Mayo’s Plug card is one of his earliest releases. The black background/border weare unique and give these cards a great vintage look. It can be found in reasonable shape starting around $1,000.
N284 Buchner Gold Coin Old Hoss Radbourn
The N284 Buchner Gold Coin release is only moderately popular with fans. But one of its great features is that the set includes numerous Hall of Famers that don’t have many other cards. Old Hoss Radbourn is one such player and he has two different cards in the set. These are some of the more difficult cards to find but when you do see them, a Radbourn card can often be found starting under $1,000. A PSA 3 recently sold for $840 at auction.
N172 Old Judge King Kelly
I wanted to avoid duplicating players, but Kelly had two cards that had to be included here. Technically, Kelly has more than ten N172 Old Judge variations. Several have a “$10,000 Kelly” inscription, seemingly referring to his sale to the Boston Beaneaters for that amount. This N-card shouldn’t cost you that much but you’ll still have to spend at least $1,000 even for a low grade example.
N172 Old Judge Art Whitney with Dog
For the most part, this list has focused on great players from the 1800s. Batting only .223 over an 11-year career, Whitney wasn’t one of those. He is, however, pictured on one of the more interesting N-cards in the N172 set with a dog. As Robert Edward Auctions explained, the card was actually created as a joke. The card’s popularity has really taken off and despite not being a Hall of Fame player, this issue doesn’t come cheap. Expect to pay in the $500 – $1,000 range for a decent copy.