1884 Lawson Game Cards Set

‘It’s In The Details’

Title Lawson Game Cards
Year 1884
Size 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
Images Color
Type Game Cards
Number in Set

1884 Lawson Game Cards Overview

1884 Lawson Game Back.jpg1884 Lawson Game Bats Burgundy Back84L 2nd Baseman.jpgPatented in 1884, the Lawson Game card set is one of the earliest gaming playing card issues in existence. It was issued by the Lawson Card Company.

The cards feature several designs including a player catching, a player hitting, a baseball, a baseball with bats, a pair of crossed bats, a base, and a weird design featuring four arms. The two types of players shown, a fielder and hitter, are generic in nature and not of specific players.

Cards are rounded and were sold in packages with a box and instructions. While it is relatively easy to find individual cards from this set, finding an entire set is a bit more of a challenge.

One unique feature of this set is that the backs are printed in blue or burgundy colored ink and depict a game of baseball being played. Both are equally stunning to look at but the burgundy backs are significantly rarer than the blue ones. The burgundy ones were a premium version of the set offered at twice the price. A Boston Globe advertisement from 1886 notes this as the standard cards were reduced to $.25 per set while the burgundy ‘gilt edge’ pack was $.50.

Because these cards were part of a game set, often, these were left virtually untouched within the playing card box. For that reason, several high grade examples (even PSA 10) of cards in this set exist.

The full set contains 36 different game/action cards and two score cards.


1884 Lawson Game AdIt should be noted that, while the game was patented in 1884, it may not have been issued until 1885.

Lawson patented the game on September 16, 1884, as indicated on the exterior of some of their boxes for the cards. However, the majority of advertising seen for this game is in the fall of 1885 and the earliest advertising I have run across was in mid-March of that year. Ads ran in numerous publications in October and November of 1885 calling it a ‘new’ game.

The advertising was uniform across the numerous newspapers in which it ran. It featured a baseball, calling the game a version of ‘baseball with cards.’

Further evidence that the cards may not have been printed until later is that the company was not even formally organized until June 1885, per a small note in the Boston Globe. That mention recognized the formation of the company with a capital of $100,000 and officers including, Edward Chaffee (President), Charles Burgess (Treasurer), and Calvin Page (Clerk).

Many sets were issued well after they were patented so if that was the case, it wouldn’t be an odd occurrence here.

1884 Lawson Game Cards Checklist

The players are generic and do not include specific names. Most card images are repeated. The pictures in the set include the following:

  1. Player with bat
  2. Player on ground
  3. Player preparing to catching ball
  4. Various pieces of equipment

A total of 36 cards exist with the pictures above and two score cards were also included.

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