220. Bufford Boys Dancing Trade Card (901)

‘It’s In The Details’

Title 220. Bufford Boys Dancing Trade Card (901)
Year c 1891
Size 4 5/16″ x 6 1/2″
Images Color
Type Trade / Coffee
Number in Set
4 (?)

220. Bufford Boys Dancing Trade Card (901) Overview

220-bufford-boys-dancing-trade-card-1800s.jpgBufford Boys Dancing Trade Card #2.jpgThis was a trade card that featured a scene of children playing. The picture on the card shows a group of three children dancing. A fourth is standing next to them, clapping, while a fifth is off in the distance. The boys appear to be having a day out with a basket of food, apples, and a baseball bat off to the side. The bat is the only thing that makes this a baseball card of sorts.

Like many other trade cards of the same era, the lithography was performed by Bufford. One characteristic of this particular card is that it is larger than most. At approximately 4 1/4″ x 6 1/2″, this card is more like a small photograph. The card does not have a specific title on it but it does have the Bufford name in small print in the lower left corner. Cards have a thin white border around the edges.

While many trade cards were used by many different companies, I have only ever seen these with the Woolson Spice Company name. Backs of most of these cards carry an advertisement for Woolson’s Lion Coffee brand and calls these ‘picture cards’ and states that they were included as inserts with their coffee. Thus, in addition to being trade cards, these can also be considered coffee inserts (K-Cards). I have seen blank-backed issues with no Woolson name. However, I have not seen other company names printed on them to date (though the possibility, certainly, is there that those exist).

This card was numbered separately by noted trade card collector Frank Keetz in his book, “Baseball Advertising Trade Cards, 3rd Edition.” It was a trade card he identified but did not have a printed title on it. Because of that, he catalogued it with a number instead, which is the number in the title shown here.

Dating the Cards

While I have never seen a definitive date for this issue, I would place it at or around 1891.

As stated, most of these cards have the Woolson Spice name with the text “Midsummer Greeting” added to it. A different Woolson Spice card featuring children with various toys was created for Christmas and has “Christmas Greeting” in the same style of font. Those cards indicate the lithography was done by Donaldson Brothers, out of New York, a popular lithographer. While Bufford was the lithographer for the ‘Dancing Boys/Baseball’ card, given the similarities in font/print, the cards easily could have been created in the same year.

The Donaldson Christmas cards have a copyright date of 1891 on them. That, of course, does not conclusively date these baseball cards. However, given the similarities of the greeting text, I would tentatively date this baseball card at or around the same time.

Slight Variations

These cards are known with a couple of slight variations. The number ‘901’ is printed on some, like the stock card shown here. However, others (like the one with the advertisement here), are missing that number.

Another variation that exists is that some of the cards have an embossed quality while others are two-dimensional. Some collectors may be inclined to believe that the embossed cards are merely greeting cards as many pre-war greeting cards were embossed and some even used images found on other cards. But that is not the case here. I have both examples in my collection and both have the same back advertisement for Lion Coffee, which was manufactured by the Woolson Spice Company.

It is unknown which versions are rarer or if other variations exist.

220. Bufford Boys Dancing Trade Card (901) Checklist

While the baseball card is often thought to be a standalone issue, it is actually part of a set.

Bufford created many other “Greeting” trade cards for various holidays and times of the year. But while the majority of them have a different style of greeting font, making it hard to consider them one complete set, the cards below all have the same style of print — cards with white borders and the “Woolson Spice” and greeting print in the same style of font.

Additionally, all of these carry the Midsummer Greeting name. Thus, I have identified them as being part of the same set. Other cards within this set may exist and I have seen no conclusive checklist on this series.

  1. Boys Dancing (Baseball)
  2. Couple in Sailboat
  3. Hunter
  4. Old West Scene with Wagon

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