Cap Anson’s Old Judge Uniform Variation may be Top 19th Century Card

A rare card of one of the game’s top superstars could be the best card of the 19th Century

By many accounts, Hall of Famer Cap Anson is baseball’s first true superstar player. His 3,435 hits and career .334 batting average speak to that and Anson was one of the earliest players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Despite that, Anson has only two poses in the massive N172 Old Judge set. Two cards in one set might seem like it would suffice but many players have significantly more in that release. Hall of Famer Tim Keefe, for example, has about ten different poses, making Anson’s lack of variations surprising. Even common players have more pictures than the legendary player.

While Anson technically has two different poses, one of them is extremely tough to track down. The more common Anson card features a portrait of him wearing a suit. Now, it’s a desirable card. Even in low-grade condition, it’s still hard to find below $1,500 or so. But the really special Anson issue is one with him in uniform.

The Anson uniform pose is, safe to say, much pricier. And the issue for those that even have the means to buy one is rarity.

N172 Old Judge Cap Anson

Only about five are known to exist and you rarely seen one offered for sale. Thus, even if you can afford one, that is only half the battle. This PSA one from 2001 is one of the few known to have sold and it earned about $66,000. Given that was from nearly 20 years ago, it would almost certainly sell for more today.

Recently, I took a stab at identifying the top five pre-war baseball cards of all time. Rightfully, the Anson card landed on my list as did the 1869 Peck & Snyder card featuring the Cincinnati Reds. Technically, I ranked the Peck & Snyder card just ahead of Anson’s.

But if given the chance to re-rank the pair, I might slot the Anson card a bit higher. Here’s why.

In terms of trying to compare the two, the Anson card is the more desirable ‘type’ of card. As a tobacco issue, those are generally respected and collected more than trade issues. And a card’s collectability certainly has to be taken into account in this sort of comparison.

For another thing, we’ve got a team card vs. a player card. The Peck and Snyder cards are heavily desired as are many older team cards. However, think of a team card in comparison to a player card today. In most cases, individual cards are usually the ones that are more sought after.

Financially, the Anson would sell for more money if offered at auction and if condition between the two was comparable. Low-grade 1869 Reds Peck & Snyder cards haven’t approached what the Anson sold for and, again, that Anson sale I mentioned was from 2001. It is, with little question, the more expensive card.

Finally, on a rarity level, the Anson is also tougher. PSA and SGC have graded a ‘whopping’ 26 of the Peck and Snyder cards. That is, by any measure, still an indication that it is very tough to find. But it is not on the same level as the Anson card.

The Peck and Snyder issue is an incredibly important one and there is no denying that, even though I know it is sometimes downplayed. Its primary selling point is that it is often considered as the earliest baseball card featuring a professional team. Simply because of that, it belongs on the list. But I can also see a good case for ranking the Anson ahead of it. And while other cards could be candidates, too, given Anson’s stature as well as the importance of the Old Judge set in general, I’m not sure anything else tops it.

The Peck and Snyder Reds card is certainly an important issue. But the Anson is probably the better card given its collectability, rarity, and value.

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