“Card Fiends” Trade Cards Depicted Early Collecting

This 19th century trade card set included cards that depicted early collecting

Earlier this year, I wrote about the 1889 Duke Postage Stamps set. As I said then, those cards may have been the first tobacco cards to depict, well, the collecting of tobacco cards.

And recently, I stumbled upon a trade card set that spotlighted the same thing.

The ‘Card Fiends’ trade cards are believed to have been issued sometime in the 1880s or 1890s like most other trade issues. The set pictures subjects that were ‘fiends’ for various things. The cards were printed with two different variations — some were printed with red ink and others with black ink. All of the cards were printed with both colors and two of the five known cards actually depict card collecting.

Card Fiends Trade Card

The first card shown here is for ‘The Juvenile Fiend.’ Specifically, it pictures a child begging an adult for what is likely a cigarette card. That practice, of course, is something that was quite common. When tobacco cards were first issued, children collecting the cards would often hang around shops selling cigarettes and pester tobacco-buying adults for the cards that came inside of those packages. This card depicts just that with the card’s caption reading, ‘Mister, please give me a card.’

The second card, shows the apparent head of a publishing/print company. That card, shown here, depicts a man printing many cards. Just like tobacco cards were, the subjects on the cards were varied.

The cards are your standard trade cards. They were printed on thinner card stock and each one included a box on the front where a sponsor’s advertising information could be added. Some cards have this box filled in and others merely display a blank box as they were essentially stock cards still awaiting a sponsor’s information to be added. The cards measure approximately 2 11/16″ x 4 1/4″.

Neither card is seen all that much and they are often the targets of card collectors as they are early depictions of the hobby. Prices for these cards can vary quite a bit as they not seen that often and, frankly, many collectors are not aware of them. But they are great images that really show the origins of card collecting.

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