While we talk about preserving trading cards, one manufacturer encouraged you to cut them up
Today, we all want to keep our sports cards in prime condition. In fact, we go to great lengths to preserve them through third party grading companies and other custom holders.
But, back in the day, cards were less valuable. One manufacturer even recommended you cut up their cards.
So, in the late 1880s (1889, we believe) a company called Kinney produced a confusing set of trading cards. Kinney was a tobacco company and distributed all sorts of cards, primarily non-sports issues.
Women were all the rage as trading card subjects in the 19th Century – likely because tobacco manufacturers wanted to get the attention of male consumers and drive them back to their product. Baseball players was one way of doing that but picturing women on cards was another. Sometimes, the two were even combined with women featured as baseball players.
Kinney produced a weird set that Jefferson Burdick cataloged as N228 in the American Card Catalog. Actually, the set consists of six different sets with many of the pictures being used/reused.
The six sets were all different, even though many of the same pictures were used. The six types were:
- Type 1: Standard circular card (25 cards)
- Type 2: Standard circular card with a colored edge (50 cards)
- Type 3: Die-cut card (75 cards)
- Type 4: Die-cut embossed card (50 cards)
- Type 5: Rectangular card (50 cards)
- Type 6: Die-cut card in the shape of an egg (125 cards – see Type 6 section below)
While all six were interesting, there’s one that is our subject here — N228-5.
The N228-5 subset was a little different from the others. I mean, all were different to some degree but the N228-5 cards were sort of off the wall. And that’s because they told collectors to cut their pictures out from the rest of the card.
N228-5s were, as mentioned above, rectangular cards. These cards had a white background and included a picture of a woman from the N228-3 subset.
As a point of reference, I’m including the only baseball card in the set. Shown here are the N228-3 die-cut card on the right, showing a woman against a baseball background. N228-3 cards were all cut out to various shapes and this one happens to be in the shape of a baseball. The N228-5 uses that same image, but places it on the rectangular card with the all white background. Here is the N228-5 card on the left
So, back to that whole ‘cutting up cards’ thing. Here’s the official prompt from Kinney, which was printed on the backs of the N228-5s.
As you can see, not only do them encourage collectors to cut out the pictures on them, they say the card will actually be enhanced if you do so.
While Kinney didn’t realize it, they actually created three problems here.
First, they caused a shortage of these cards – at least the intact ones. Remnants of them are still out there today and you can easily tell if you’ve got one if you have a cut out picture and only part of the message shown here on the back.
Next, obviously, they’ve obliterated the values. The cut outs are still worth something, I suppose, but it’s a fraction of what the complete card is worth. That’s particularly true now because N228-5s in their full, uncut form, are not terribly easy to find. I purchased the one shown here and it is, I don’t know, only the second or third baseball one I’ve ever seen.
Finally, the cut out images look a lot like the N228-3 cards. If you notice, the shape of the picture on the N228-5 card is exactly the same size as the N228-3 die-cut. Thus, when you cut them out, they will simply look look like N228-3 cards. The telltale sign is on the back. N228-3s should display a complete message from Kinney while N228-5s that have been cut down will have only part of a message on them. Still, for people not familiar with them (say, basically the entire population of collectors), they can be confusing.
If you manage to come across an N228-5 card today, I would encourage you to leave it intact!