1890 N80 Duke Holidays Set Includes Sports and Americana

This bargain set is more than 100 years old and celebrates holidays and events around the world

In the 19th century, Duke was arguably king of tobacco cards. They released an assortment of sports and non-sports cards in the 1880s and 1890s and all kinds of sets go largely unnoticed.

One of those is the Duke Holidays set.

Listed as N80 in the American Card Catalog, this somewhat obscure set was released by Duke in 1890. Like many tobacco card sets of the time period, it included 50 cards in the checklist. Fronts included a color lithographic image while the back had a description of the event.

As you would expect, the set celebrated various holidays. But even though it was an American release, it included holidays from all over the world. Unless collectors have a tie to a specific country or region, many of the cards go unnoticed. There is demand for the cards because of their age. But, really, I’m not sure how many U.S. collectors will be chasing down the cards for the Netherlands (King’s Birthday) or the Gustavus Adolphus Festival in Sweden — no offense to those fine countries.

There are several cards here, however, that do draw good interest from American collectors.

To start, there are the sports cards. Unfortunately, you’re not going to find baseball or other major sports in the set. But the release does include three sports cards that are at least worth a mention.

First, and probably most desirable, is the France Grand Prix card. Collectors might assume that is an auto racing card but it’s actually a card for the famous France Grand Prix horse race. First established in 1863, it was one of the most popular horse racing events in the world. It is a race still held to this day. The card features fans in the crowd cheering above a race track.

Second is another horse racing card — this one’s for the English Derby. Like the Grand Prix card, it shows spectators watching from the stands. But this one’s a bit different in that it also shows some of the horses racing as opposed to just the crowd.

The last sports card is a card depicting Scotland’s Caledonian Games, a series of athletic competitions during a large event. The front of this card features a Scottish subject participating in a shot put event and the back of the card mentions other competitions, including wheelbarrow and sack races.

None of the sports cards are terribly expensive. In decent shape they can fetch more but you can find them in low-grade condition, starting around $10-$15 each.

In addition to the sports cards, collectors can also dip their toes into the water on non-sports cards — particularly those centered around American holidays.

There are several of those cards. Since this is an American set, it makes sense that Duke would include several holidays of our country. In the set, collectors will find cards of holidays celebrated here, such as Christmas, Forefather’s Day, Thanksgiving, Washington’s Birthday, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and the Fourth of July.

My favorite of those cards is the one for the Fourth of July. Shown here, the front of that card depicts a 19th century woman, dressed up and brandishing a pistol in celebration.

None of these cards are too expensive as well. Like the sports cards, you can spend $50-$100 on ones in nice, graded condition. However, low-grade ones typically start around $10-$15.

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