Obscure Card of the Month: McLaughlin’s XXXX Coffee Trade Card

Trade cards are a great place to look in terms of obscurity. Sure, some can be quite common by comparison. But many, even if they are not technically rare, have gone under the radar of most collectors. A unique one was printed for McLaughlin Coffee products.

If you’ve had any history at all buying trade cards, you have possibly stumbled upon McLaughlin cards. They printed numerous non-sports cards and dabbled in a few sports issues with children depicted playing baseball and the like. Unlike other trade issues, these are only known with the McLaughlin’s Coffee name on them and, to my knowledge, were not used by other businesses.

This card shown here is one such issue. It features a handful of children playing and watching baseball. In terms of actual players, we’ve quite obviously got a batter and catcher without gear with a few onlookers. The fence/backstop for the spectators has the McLaughlin’s name, a clear advertisement for the coffee brand. This particular card is dated to 1886.

It is possible that not all of them were printed in that year. However, they are dated to 1886 because the backs of them have a calendar printed on them for that year. Other cards have blank backs and could have been printed earlier or later. The trade card was designed by Shober and Carqueville Lithograph Company, a firm based in Chicago. Their name is printed in small print in the lower right corner of these cards.

In terms of rarity, this is one of the more difficult baseball trade issues to find, though I would be hard-pressed to call it rare. You see them — just not too often. Asking prices vary quite widely, though, they are often in the $30-$50 range. Nicer examples can command more and if they go under the radar in an auction not highly publicized, they can sometimes be less.

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