Is a Missing 1887 Buchner Gold Coin Image Found on a 19th Century Pencil Box?

A rare collectible from the late 1800s recycled famous images from the 1887 Buchner Gold Coin baseball card set while creating a mystery

The 1887 Buchner Gold Coin set is one of the earliest tobacco card sets featuring actual players. That point, of course, has been hotly debated over the years as many players share the same poses. But as I wrote here, these are very specifically distinct cards for actual players and the set should not be considered a generic one.

The pictures on the cards feature a variety of different baseball related poses. And a pencil box from the 19th century actually featured many of the images.

Pencil boxes were somewhat common in the 1800s, I suppose. At least it seems that way given that any number of them can be found available for sale. These were boxes used mostly by students to, well, store their pencils.

These pencil boxes are seen with all sorts of imagery on them. There’s a more common one with a baseball scene on it that you can find in the $200-$300 range. This one, for example, in pretty rough shape, sold for about $250 recently. But one featuring pictures used on the N284 Buchner Gold Coin cards are significantly rarer. One of these was recently listed on eBay and the seller, allowed me to graciously use his pictures of it here.

N284 Buchner Gold Coin Pencil Box

And when I was studying the pictures on that pencil box recently, I noticed one really weird thing. While eight of the nine poses on the pencil box were used on known cards from the N284 Buchner Gold Coin set, one, curiously, was not.

Matching the Pictures

N284 Glasscock Bending OverN284 Buchner Gold Coin Pencil Box SSYou can easily match most of the pictures from the pencil box to the pictures used on the Buchner Gold Coin cards.

For example, shown here on the left is a picture of the shortstop card to the picture Jake Glasscock’s card in the Buchner Gold Coin set. Here, we’ve got a player crouched over with his hands on his knees.

It’s clearly the same image with a few uniform changes. That, of course, makes sense because the various poses used multiple times in the Buchner set made the appropriate uniform modifications for each specific player. By the way, that’s one reason the Buchner cards should not be considered to be generic.

It’s important to note that some of the pictures do have very minor modifications besides the uniforms.

N284 Buchner Gold Coin Pencil Box BatterN284 OrrFor example, we see a very minor difference in the picture of a batter. The image on the left shows the batter from the pencil box. Shown next to that is that same picture used to depict New York Mets first baseman Dave Orr.

Aside from the uniforms and the batters box/field, the images are nearly the same. But one difference is seen in the bat as Orr’s card shows a batter using a slightly thicker model and, more distinctly, he is not choking up on the bat while the player shown on the pencil box is.

Another picture has an even bigger variance. A picture of the right fielder/left fielder on the pencil box shows a fielder facing to the right. That pose was used for New York Mets infielder/outfielder Candy Nelson in the Buchner Gold Coin set, but Nelson is facing to the left instead. Still, that one is clearly the same image, too — merely reversed.

Below are all of the matches between the images on the pencil box and their corresponding Buchner Gold Coin cards.

  • Right Fielder/Left Fielder – Candy Nelson
  • Centre Field – Ed Cushmann
  • Second Base – Several Players
  • First Base – Danny Richardson
  • Shortstop – Jake Glasscock
  • Pitcher – Bill Hart
  • Batter – Dave Orr
  • Catcher – Jim Donahue

Now, you might have noticed there are nine pictures of players on the pencil box but I’ve only listed eight above. That’s because, as I said, one of the images on the box is not known to be used in the Buchner Gold Coin baseball card set.

A Missing Pose

N284 Buchner Gold Coin Barkley PittsburghN284 Buchner Gold Coin Pencil Box 3rd BaseThe lone picture unaccounted for in the Buchner Gold Coin set that appears on the pencil box is a card for the third baseman.

Here, we’ve got sort of a unique picture with a player clutching a ball and bending over. Now, there are some similarities to it to cards in the Buchner set. The closest example is for a pose found on several cards, including a card for Hall of Famer Buck Ewing. I’ve posted one here as an example — a card of Pittsburgh second baseman Sam Barkley.

While the pictures are somewhat similar, they are also not that close in appearance. In addition to the pictures appearing reversed, the image of the player on the pencil box shows a player bent down while Barkley is upright on his card.

So what gives here? If every other pose is found in the set, where’s this one?

One very interesting thing is that there are some known blank-backed Buchner Gold Coin cards (assumed to be poster cuts) that are not known to have made it into the regular set. As I detailed here, there were at least two (and quite possibly more) advertising posters for the Buchner Gold Coin set. Unfortunately, these posters are abundantly rare and I have never seen even one fully intact one. Thus, it is not known if this pose was used on a poster or not. But given that others exist, the possibility surely is there.

Could the pose have been used on a legitimate Buchner card that simply has not been discovered yet? Sure.

Fact is, the Buchner cards are quite rare. PSA has graded fewer than five of most of the known cards in the set, for example. In addition, Old Cardboard, which as scans of most cards in the set has not even acquired a scan of a supposed second card of Hall of Famer John Ward. In short, the cards are quite difficult to find and while adding a new one to the checklist would be unique, it would not really be unheard of.

For now, though, the mystery remains as to if this was a pose used on a legitimate Buchner card or even on one of their advertising posters.

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