The N-Card Designation Has Caused Some Confusion
The N-Card designation is one that has changed over time
Today, the N-Card designation is used for 19th Century cards. Among the more popular N-Cards out there are the Champions Series’ — the N28 and N29 Allen & Ginter cards, the N162 Goodwin cards, and the N184 Kimball cards.
But while we use N-Cards to identify 19th century cards, that wasn’t always the case.
Jefferson Burdick, author of the American Card Catalog and creator of the letter/number designations we use today actually classified those cards differently.
Burdick did recognize the earliest sports cards in his book, obviously. But two things on that front.
First, he did not assign a letter to those cards. Instead, they received only a number. We still use his numbering system today but simply add an ‘N’ in front of the 19th century cards. For example, Burdick classified Allen & Ginter’s first Champions set as ’28’ while we call it N28. He called the Kimball Champions set 184 while we call it N184.
Second, Burdick’s 19th century section was only for American cards. That’s important to know because Burdick did recognize some international cards in his book but did it in a different section. And that’s actually what he used the N-Card classification for.
See, Burdick’s N-Card section included issues from Central America and South America. More importantly, most of the cards he included in this section were not 19th century cards. As you can imagine, that provides some problems for collectors today trying to keep all of the N-Cards straight.
Given that Burdick’s book classifies different N-Cards than the ones we know today, that can lead to some confusion.
Here’s an example.
Burdick’s 19th century card set numbered 230 is a set featuring famous horses that was distributed by Kinney. Today, we would identify this as the N230 set. However, his N230 set in the American Card Catalog is a Cuban set from Susini that featured all kinds of subjects, including several baseball cards. One of those cards is pictured here.
Thus, when collectors today use the N230 name, it could mean either one of those two sets.
So what’s the solution here? I mean, how can we adequately catalog these cards and make them separate issues? The short answer is there’s no easy way to do that. Obviously the more well-known sets like N28 and N29 Allen & Ginter will typically be assumed when collectors say N28 or N29. But other lesser known sets will need to be identified with a corresponding title just to keep them separate.