Obscure Card of the Month: 1888 Duke Comic Characters Off His Base

The Obscure Card of the Month is a rare 19th century baseball issue

This past month, I had the opportunity to pick up a tough card I’ve wanted for a while. And after I did, I realized it was the perfect candidate for the next Obscure Card of the Month.

Said card is from one of Duke Tobacco’s many 19th century sets. But while it’s a baseball card, it’s actually in a mostly non-sports set.

The set is called Comic Characters and is listed in the American Card Catalog as N104. Duke offered them in packages of their Honest Long Cut cigarettes. Cards measure about 2 1/4″ wide by 4 1/4″ tall and are slightly oversized. They aren’t much bigger than today’s modern cards and are significantly smaller than a postcard. But compared to the tiny tobacco cards from the 19th century, they are considerably larger.

The cards in the set typically feature humorous images with an emphasis on exaggerated facial features. This card, for example, features a baseball player being hit in the eye with a ball. It’s appropriately titled, “Off His Base.”

The backs of the cards in the set all include a checklist. In all, there are 25 cards in the set.

All of the cards are hard to come by. They aren’t impossible to locate but sellers often ask high prices for them because of their rarity.

Bargains can be found from time to time, but typically, low-grade commons start in the $25-$50 range. The baseball card can be all over the place. But while you can sometimes get it for less, they typically start around $50-$75 in low-grade condition.

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