The Misidentified Vogel Brothers 1882 Baseball Trade Card?

This rare baseball trade ‘card’ from the 19th century likely isn’t a card at all

Ever since I got into collecting pre-war cards, I’ve been intrigued by the 19th century trade cards. And while I’ve branched out to collect all sorts of trade cards, the baseball ones are the ones that get most of my attention.

Long-time collector Frank Keetz is the man responsible for categorizing as many as we know today. While Jefferson Burdick, author of the American Card Catalog, didn’t really know how to approach the numerous baseball trade cards out there, Keetz dutifully maintained careful records and documented every one he came across.

One of those is a rare card from 1882 for a company called Vogel Brothers.

Vogel Brothers was a clothier that first went into business in 1857. We know that from the back of the card that listed sales for 24 years. 1882 would have been the 25th year in business for them and was possibly the reason they decided upon such a fantastic advertising piece.

While many trade cards were used by various businesses, this was one that was used only for Vogel Brothers. It is only known with their name on the front and features several children, including a baseball scene with a pitcher and hitter.

I’ve long wanted one of these cards but I’d seen them sell, in some cases, for around $100, and I wasn’t interested in shelling out that kind of money for something that’s only a side interest for me. But I found one recently that sort of reminded me of something I’d read before.

The card, to my knowledge, had only ever been documented as a standalone issue. That was the case for Keetz as he identified it as a singular card. But in 2018, a collector on Net54 indicated he had purchased a complete booklet with what every much looked like the ‘card’ as the cover. His question then was, could what we all thought was a trade card actually be the cover from that booklet?

No one other than myself had responded because, well, this is a fairly obscure card. Trade card collectors certainly know it but few others probably do. These are the kinds of weeds that I very much enjoy spending time in.

Anyway, I kept tabs on the card since then, seeing, I don’t know, a dozen examples since that time? And all of them pointed to the same conclusion — that these all likely were the cover of a small booklet as that collector suggested.

None that I saw exhibited a true trade card look because they all had a smooth bottom edge and a rougher top edge that appeared torn from a booklet. That is also the same on the one I purchased an you can see that a bit in my pictures here. All cards that I’d observed, too, had the same back — a prelude to Vogel Brothers’ 1882 clothing fashions, which was also mentioned on the front. That only furthers the theory that all of these likely came from the same place — a booklet.

While it’s pretty apparent that it isn’t a true trade card, it’s still a wonderful, rare baseball collectible that we can effectively date to 1882 and there simply aren’t many of those around.

I’ll take it.

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