1889 Spaulding & Merrick Set and Checklist (N384 / N386)

‘It’s In The Details’

Title Spaulding & Merrick (N384 / N386)
Year 1889
Size 1 3/4″ x 2 7/8″
Images Sepia
Type 19th Century Tobacco
Number in Set
24

1889 Spaulding & Merrick Set Overview

john-sullivan-n384-n386-spaulding-merrick-boxing.jpgOne of the biggest mysteries among pre-war boxing cards is found in the Spaulding and Merrick series.

Jefferson Burdick cataloged three separate Spaulding & Merrick sets. One, N385, is of no consequence as it features only animals. The other two, N384 and N386, are the ones causing the commotion. Burdick labeled N384 as a series including actors and actresses. N386, conversely, is said to feature boxers. All Spaulding & Merrick sets have various brands printed on them, including Echo Tobacco, Plow Boy, and Canada Chop.

None of that sounds all that scandalous to start but the problem is that only two boxing cards are known to date – John Sullvan and Jake Kilrain. While many of the N384 subjects featuring actors/actresses are known, only two boxers have been found. Several cards have been discovered for each boxer, but those are the only two boxers that have surfaced.

Fronts have picture of subjects while the backs have Spaulding & Merrick advertising.

N384 or N386?

That has led some to wonder if N386 should not exist and those two cards should be cataloged with N384. The idea to put only two random boxers into a set with actors and actresses, on the surface, seems really dumb. But boxing collectors of 19th Century cards know that happened on many occasions. Several non-sports sets, including those depicting actors and actresses, included only a handful of random boxing cards.

For that reason, my personal belief is that those cards should be N384 issues. There are other 19th Century sets (i.e. N246 Kinney and N150 Duke/Gail & Ax, most notably) where we’ve seen that same scenario and given that no other boxers have surfaced at this point, expecting an entirely unknown set to exist out there somewhere seems like a bigger stretch than insisting these two cards don’t belong in N384.

If only one Kilrain and Sullivan were known, that might be a little easier to believe. However, several of each are known.

1889 Spaulding & Merrick Set Checklist

To date, the only two known boxing cards are John Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.

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