In the 1880s, Goodwin created a massive set of baseball cards for distribution in its Old Judge cigarette packages. The cards are among the more popular pre-war issues and comprised one of the very first baseball card sets in collecting history.
The company also issued a larger, lesser known but more attractive set of baseball cabinet photographs. These photographs featured baseball players and are significantly rarer and more valuable than the cards inserted into cigarette packages. Even N173 commons in lower-grade condition typically sell for at least a few hundred dollars. Because collectors could choose which player they wanted, many of the cabinets in existence today actually feature stars.
These larger sized cabinet cards measure approximately 4 1/4″ wide by 6 1/2″ tall. It is believed these cabinets were distributed in 1888 and 1889. For those collectors unfamiliar with them, they were black and white photographs that were pasted onto cardboard backings. Many of these backings were black or pale yellow in color, but a few other styles have been known to exist as well.
The cards were not only used as advertising pieces for companies like Goodwin. Families sometimes had them displayed in their home with photographs of family or friends and cabinets were quite common for the period.
The cards obviously were too large for distribution in Goodwin’s Old Judge cigarette packages. So instead, the company offered them as separate premium items that collectors could request.
To help promote them, Goodwin actually created a trade card with an advertisement on the back. The trade card, titled ‘An Interesting Interview,’ has become a collectible card today.
The color lithographic card dated to 1888 includes a horizontal fold and is made up of two horizontal panels (with front and back printing on each panel). When fully opened, the card is slightly oversized, measuring 4 1/4″ wide by 7 3/8″ tall.
The inside of the card features a two-part scene, one that is a little disturbing by today’s standards, but of course not many would have batted an eye at the time. The bottom of the card shows the boy being beaten with a stick by a man that is apparently his father. That caption reads, “Take that! And the next time I send you to the store you’ll bring me the Old Judge and no other kind,” as he is apparently angry with the boy purchasing the wrong brand. On the top half, a color lithograph scene depicts a boy inside of a tobacco store with a clerk, and an Old Judge sign is conveniently hung. The child is asking the clerk for Old Judge cigarettes and print on the picture reads, “Say B-B-Boss, gimme Old Judge an (sic) no foolin this time.” The bottom shows a large outdoor sign in a field that serves as yet another advertisement for Old Judge, calling the cigarettes the “Best in the World.”
The back of the card includes a large black umbrella, which serves as the front cover when the card is folded. But it’s the lower back panel that is of most interest to baseball card collectors. That part includes the advertisement for what we know today as the Old Judge Baseball Cabinet photos (identified as N173 in the American Card Catalog).
The full ad mentions how collectors could receive the cards. Each package of Goodwin’s Old Judge or Gypsy Queen cigarettes included a redeemable coupon inside (these coupons, coincidentally, are also sought by collectors today). A collector could return 25 of those coupons in exchange for one of the ‘handsomely mounted’ baseball cabinet photographs. Goodwin’s Grant Street address in New York was supplied on the card, presumably where the coupons could be exchanged.
The card has a printed 1888 copyright date on it and also credits the Giles Lithography & Liberty Printing Company of New York as the creator and printer of the cards. The trade card is a fascinating piece of baseball history and a nice companion piece for Old Judge collectors. And better still, it is an affordable card, particularly given the age.
The cards are not terribly common but are not too difficult to find with a big of digging. On occasion, they surface on eBay with even a few examples showing up at a time. Prices can range quite a bit on them. Sellers who are unfamiliar with their tie to Old Judge’s popular baseball cards may offer them quite inexpensively but baseball card dealers typically want significantly more for them. Authentic, decent-looking examples usually start at around $100 –quite a bargain for a card with a direct promotional tie to a cigarette company’s set of 19th century baseball cards.