The Baines Shield cards are numerous and often go under the radar of American collectors. These international issues were created by John Baines of England beginning in 1887 and lasted at least into the 1920s.
If you aren’t familiar with the Baines Shield cards, that’s probably to be expected. Part of the reason most American collectors have not heard of them is that they are an international issue. Another reason is because they largely feature soccer, rugby, golf, and cricket cards — and those, frankly (particularly from the pre-war era), aren’t terribly popular with the majority of American collectors.
But Baines cards are certainly well known in the U.K. and other parts of the world among collectors of early cards. Fronts of the cards feature single-color ink drawings or full color images while backs usually included advertisements for John Baines, a toy dealer in the U.K. Some of the cards did picture actual subjects but most pictured generic athletes participating in sports with real teams.
According to this page, these cards were sold in packs of six (some sources state that they were 1/2 penny for six), primarily to children. Cards were not issued with tobacco or candy products. Instead, they were sold as standalone issues. Each week, Baines would often give away shirts and jerseys to the children that collected and then sent in the largest assortment of cards with different icons.
The cards are called Baines Shield cards because most of them are die-cuts in the form of a shield. Some are circular, including some golf issues, which are have a golf ball type of background. But most are shield die-cuts. Most did not feature actual players. Instead, they focused on specific teams with pictures of generic players.
Many UK issues are often found in good condition as they were generally more collected by adults and preserved better. But some interesting research actually shows that the Baines cards were themselves used in a game that involved throwing them against a wall and, thus, explaining why many have been damaged.
Cards featuring baseball, however, may be the most desirable to American collectors.
Researching baseball cards from the Baines Shield series’ proved to be nearly impossible. I found no real references online, save for this one for a Montreal card (presumably from the same set) that was offered in a Brockelman auction more than a decade ago. It is unknown how many (or what others) might comprise a set. I located and purchased the Quebec baseball card shown here in 2021.
The card in that Brockelman auction dated it to 1905, though I have not been able to confirm that exact year just yet. But the cards in this series were likely based on real teams like their soccer, cricket, and rugby counterparts. Baseball did exist in Canada by the early 1900s. In fact, this site mentions baseball appearing in the country as early as 1871. The other Baines cards depicted real teams (even if the players themselves may not have depicted real individual subjects) and it is difficult to believe that these would not have.
J. Baines Shield Cards Checklist
Hundreds of these cards exist with more than 1,000 likely. However, to date, I have not been able to confirm a complete checklist.