When it comes to finding pre-war football cards, pickings can be slim. With the emergence of the sport in the mid-1900s, collectors have been looking to acquire earlier and earlier football cards.
Currently, the N162 Harry Beecher card holds the title by most of being the first real football card. But another set from that same year is sometimes touted as containing a football card as well.
The 1888 N88 Duke’s Cigarettes Terrors of America set features boys in various situations. Most of the cards in the set are considered non-sports cards but several have a baseball theme. But while on the surface it appears that football is represented in the set as well, it most definitively is not.
Card No. 3 on the checklist that appears on the N88 backs, curiously has a mention of football. That has lead to some overzealous collectors believing that the sport is included in the issue. Even auction houses have been occasionally duped and cited football as a subject in the set. But all one has to do is take a look at that card to know that the sport of football is nowhere to be found.
The card in question, pictured here, does have the printing ‘Foot Ball’ on it and the card is called ‘Foot Ball’ on the checklist. But that’s as close to it being a football card as it comes. The picture shows a boy in pain and holding his shin and the words “Oh my shin” are printed as well.
Th card, however, actually looks as if it could be depicting the sport of baseball if you think that’s a stick in one hand. It seems as if he possibly took a swing and fouled a ball off of his shin. In the background, too, are two players. But the other piece of evidence that baseball might be what is being played here is that a square base looks like it’s on the ground in front of them. Even if the sport being shown is not baseball, however, it certainly isn’t football. In addition, no other cards in the set depict anything that could be construed as football.
Final verdict? Any descriptions citing football as a part of this set are erroneous.