I think I now understand why why I get so romantic over 19th century baseball cards and collectibles. They give a rich and vivid voice to a time period that has been largely forgotten by yesterday’s fans and collectors – and unknown to fans and collectors of the present.
Baseball and baseball card collecting in the 1800s is fascinating – there is no shortage of fun stories and history that have come out of this time period. In the pictures below, you will see the likenesses of hall of famers, baseball pioneers, and players who reached larger than life celebrity status. In spite of this, it is quite possible that even the most fanatical of baseball lovers have never heard of a single one of them. With no television or radio to capture our imagination, we largely have to rely on collectibles, newspapers, and books – yes, full books have been devoted to many of these players.
People from the 19th century went crazy for baseball cards, and the nation was heartbroken when the hobby of baseball card collecting nearly ended a mere couple years after it started, thanks to the ATC (American Tobacco Company) forming. It removed the need for companies to produce such expensive miniature masterpieces to help their cigarettes sell.
Goodwin went out with a bang, with (from what I can tell) its last baseball offering: The Goodwin A35 Round Album. Robert Edwards Auctions put it best when they said it is the most beautiful and substantial nineteenth-century baseball tobacco premium ever issued. I’d have to agree! The colors pop, and the size is incredible.
To give you an idea, here is how the A35s size up compared to other issues:
You may recall earlier this year, I picked up the entire set, thanks to an incredible Iowa find making its way to an auction house. I made it my main quarantine project.
Here is an up close version of one of my A35 Rounds by itself, with the screwless plexiglass art piece I designed for it to sit in, with a removeable tray:
The A35 rounds are magnificent. Heck, it says so right on the advertisement! Here is a picture of the poster. This is the best picture I could find throughout all of the internet. In 2010, it fetched over $105,000. I don’t know about you, but a few years prior, I was buying a house for nearly that price! (Psst: in 1992, a pristine version of this came close to hitting $200,000. There is no telling how much it would fetch now!)
This poster was distributed exclusively to tobacco retailers to promote the sales of Old Judge & Dogs Head cigarettes. It mentioned that you can send them 75 certificates in exchange for the Round Album. In 1889, people would see this hanging in stores, and salivate over the possibility of getting these incredible works of art of their favorite players. Here is the $105,000 version, measuring in at 20 x 28.5 inches:
I was so impressed by it, I decided to try my hand at digitally restoring it to its former glory…even amping up the colors. I’m a big King Kelly fan, so I replaced the left baseball graphic with Kelly.
I liked it so much, I decided to take this artwork to the wizard of wood, Vinny Buzzella at www.shabbyshoresign.com to create a large wooden sign out of it.
Check out how it turned out!
To amp it up even further, I asked if a second copy of the rounds themselves could be created, and affixed on top to give it a 3d effect.
And here is a picture of the advertisement next to a few of my A35 rounds (and an N162 to show the size difference.)
Vinny did a magnificent job bringing this advertisement to life. It is a great companion for my A35 Round set – thank you Vinny – you did great!
Here are a few of my favorite shots/poses of the A35s ….