‘It’s In The Details’
|Size||3 1/2″ x 7 3/4 ″
|Images||Black and White
|Type||19th Century Tobacco / Trade Cards
|Number in Set
Baseball Currency Overview
One of the more unique pre-war card era collectibles is the baseball currency produced in the late 1800s. The currency served as advertising for several companies. In terms of classification, I have listed this issue in both the N-Cards section as well as the Trade Cards section as noted collector Frank Keetz designated this as a trade issue.
Fronts included a picture of either the team owner or manager as well as a generic player. The backs included small portraits of an entire team
The currency was, of course, not real money. Rather, companies used these as advertisements and coupons for their own business. Inadvertently, they created a now valuable collectible worth more than any discount they were offering.
The currency remains popular with collectors. Despite having significant value, it allows collectors to affordably purchase items tied to some of the biggest stars in the game all one one item as some notes include multiple Hall of Famers and stars.
Because they were used as coupons and a form of currency with merchants, many of these have been found damaged as the notes were folded, etc. The paper stock is also thin, making them susceptible to damage. Most higher-grade examples were likely not used.
A total of eight different notes exist spanning various years for Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and a special All-Stars team. Featuring Hall of Famers Cap Anson, King Kelly, Charles Comiskey, and others, the All-Stars note is particularly valuable. One sold for nearly $3,000 in 2014.
Generic Batter / Cap Anson
As mentioned, one side of the currency featured oval images of a team while the other pictured a larger picture of a prominent figure for the team. Chicago notes pictured owner Albert Spalding, Detroit had manager Bill Watkins, and St. Louis showed their owner, Chris von der Ahe.
Those pictures were presented on the left with an accompanying image on the right. Three different images were available – a crossed bat/ball design, the Wiman Trophy (given to the American League team), as well as a picture of a batter.
While often referred to as a generic batter, the image actually depicts Cap Anson. That is obvious when comparing it to Anson’s N28 Allen & Ginter card, which used the same image (showing Anson from the waist up). See the accompanying images here – the N28 card is on the left and Anson’s image on the currency is on the right. The picture of the Anson image stems from this photograph seen here.
Calling this an Anson issue, however, is little tougher to do.
The picture was used on four notes – on all three of the Chicago notes as well as one of the Detroit notes. Anson is featured in his Chicago uniform on the Chicago currency but has a Detroit name on the Detroit currency. While it is clearly an image of Anson, it obviously cannot be considered an Anson ‘issue’ on the Detroit card because he didn’t play for them. In short, Anson’s image was used for more than one team.
That is not an uncommon occurrence as several sets utilized the same pictures for cards featuring different players. The 1887 Buchner Gold Coin set (N284) was a set produced at the same time that followed that model.
Baseball Currency Checklist
- Chicago (1887)
- Chicago (1888)
- Chicago (1889)
- Detroit (1887)
- Detroit (1888)
- MLB All-Stars
- St. Louis (1887)
- St. Louis (1888)