Obscure Card of the Month: J. Baines Shield Quebec Baseball Card

Baseball among the rare subjects found in the Baines Shield cards

If you aren’t familiar with the Baines Shield cards, that’s probably to be expected. My guess is that most readers of this blog either know little about them or have never even heard of them. I follow all sorts of international issues and my knowledge of them is certainly lacking.

Part of the reason most American collectors have not heard of them is that they are an international issue. Another reason is because they largely feature soccer, rugby, golf, and cricket cards — and those, frankly (particularly from the pre-war era), aren’t terribly popular with the majority of American collectors.

But Baines cards are certainly well known in the U.K. and other parts of the world among collectors of early cards. Fronts of the cards feature single-color ink drawings or full color images while backs usually included advertisements for John Baines, a toy dealer in the U.K. Some of the cards did picture actual subjects but most pictured generic athletes participating in sports with real teams.

According to this page, these cards were sold in packs of six (some sources state that they were 1/2 penny for six), primarily to children. They began late in the 19th century (specifically, that site says the earliest ones are from 1887) and reportedly ran into the 1920s. They are called Baines Shield cards because, well, they were printed in the shapes of a shield.

Now, I had been aware of these cards. None were in my collection but I was quite aware of them. Recently, I stumbled upon one that was a complete mystery to me.

While I’d seen these for the sports mentioned above, I had no idea that a small number of cards existed depicting baseball. I found one for sale — this card representing Quebec baseball.

Researching baseball cards from the Baines Shield series’ proved to be nearly impossible. I found no real references online, save for this one for a Montreal card (presumably from the same set) that was offered in a Brockelman auction more than a decade ago. I am certain that some other references to them must exist somewhere. But in terms of trying to find out how many might comprise a set or which others exist, I’ve got nada so far.

The card in that Brockelman auction dated it to 1905, though I have not been able to confirm that exact year just yet. But the cards in this series were likely based on real teams like their soccer, cricket, and rugby counterparts. Baseball did exist in Canada by the early 1900s. In fact, this site mentions baseball appearing in the country as early as 1871. The other Baines cards depicted real teams (even if the players themselves may not have depicted real individual subjects) and it is difficult to believe that these would not have.

Because the cards are so rare, pricing them is incredibly difficult. Common shields in rugby, soccer, or cricket, typically start around $15-$20 but the baseball shields would certainly be among the most desirable ones in the U.S. The golf ones, after all, are quite popular and can sell for several hundred dollars. The Montreal baseball card sold for $100 at an auction more than a decade ago and with prices having risen considerably since then, about all we can deduce is that they should be considerably more these days.

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