Obscure Card of the Month: 1933 Goudey Indian Ah-No-Je-Nahge
The Obscure Card of the Month is a sports card of an early lacrosse player
The 1933 Goudey Indian Gum set is one of the more popular pre-war non-sports sets from the gum card era. Cards featuring Native Americans are often targets of non-sports collectors and this is one of the largest with an extensive 216-card checklist.
While mostly a non-sports set, collectors might be surprised to find one of the sport of lacrosse’s earliest stars in it.
Many collectors, of course, probably do not even know that lacrosse was actually developed by Native Americans. Previously called stickball or ‘ball game’ in its early forms, the game ultimately blossomed in Canada and was even considered that country’s national game in the 19th century.
The sport was so popular in Canada, in fact, that Imperial Tobacco thought enough of it to create sets of cigarette cards from 1909 through 1911. Today, those cards are typically referred to as the first mainstream lacrosse sets, even though some individual cards dedicated to the sport are found a bit earlier.
Those cards featured Canadian stars. But if you want cards of the early Native Americans that played the sport, you’re mostly out of luck. There simply isn’t enough information (let alone, images) of the very earliest lacrosse players. One, however, exists in the Goudey Indian Gum set.
That set includes a card of Ah-No-Je-Nahge — a legendary player from the Sioux Tribe. The back of the card identifies him as the ‘most proficient ball player’ of that Tribe. The front pictures him holding a lacrosse stick with the back further defining the equipment as having a ’round hoop at the end, with which to catch the ball.’
Ah-No-Je-Nahge (translated to “He who stands on both sides) was not a contemporary player to the 1930s when these cards were released. He played much earlier and the original pose used for the card seems to originate from an 1835 painting of Ah-No-Je-Nahge by artist George Catlin. Good luck finding many meaningful accounts of games, much less, any sort of statistical information. When it comes to the earliest lacrosse players, we are left mostly with the accounts of those like Catlin, who was said to have witnessed actual games and determined some players were better than others.
Interestingly enough, the writeup on the back also states that ‘no white man ever became proficient at this game.’ While that may have been true in its very earliest forms, that certainly was not accurate by the time this set was produce. As mentioned, the sport became quite popular in Canada with many skilled players — including several players that also played professional ice hockey.
The card is No. 35 in the set and, according to this page, there are at least five different variations:
- Blue Banner (only Series of 48 print on back)
- Red Banner (Series of 48 print on back)
- Red Banner (Series of 96 print on back)
- Red Banner (Series of 192 print on back with the words ‘More Cards’ split onto two lines)
- Red Banner (Series of 192 print on back with the words ‘More Cards’ on the same line
The site mentions a sixth variant as well, but that appears to be more of a print error with a Series of 192 overprinted onto Series of 96 text.
The various series designations on the back are similar to what is found in other sets. Some cards were printed later than others as the set expanded. The text on the back simply refers to these expanded sets. In this case, a series of 48 cards were printed. Then 48 more (giving us 96 cards), and so on.
If you’re looking for a copy of the card, low-grade ones are relatively easy to find starting around $10-$20. High-grade, and even mid-grade cards, are not plentiful. Only about 40 cards are have been graded a PSA 6 or better by PSA and as a result, prices for those are significantly higher.