Obscure Card of the Month: 1891 Duke Miniature Novelties Baseball Card

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

Didn’t get around to an Obscure Card of the Month in September. Just crazy busy but wanted to make sure to ‘nominate’ a card for October.

This month’s card is an interesting one. And it’s one that took me a while to track down for my own collection. To get there, though, we’re going to start with a related set.

My pursuit of this card all started with the 1889 N228 Kinney cards. If you’re familiar with those, there are six different subsets — three of which, include a female baseball subject. The baseball subject, like others in those subsets, are duplicated with the same image being used for different variations (one type is a die-cut, another a circle, another a rectangular card, etc.). I wanted to track down all three variations and, with a bit of time, I did. But soon after, I learned that some of the images were used in yet another set.

Two years after those N228 cards, Duke produced a similar set for its Honest tobacco brand called Miniature Novelties. This set is catalogued as N120. The baseball card in this set is our Obscure Card of the Month.

In all, there are a total of 26 cards in the set. They utilize the same pictures used by Kinney in their six-subset series (though, not all, since the Kinney series included more than 26 subjects).

The primary difference is that the Duke cards are oversized, measuring about 2 1/2″ by 4 1/4″. Duke also added a decorative background to the cards. Additionally, the cardstock of the N120 Duke cards are significantly thicker than most of the N228 Kinney cards.

Here is the baseball card. The Kinney variant of this card (the die-cut and embossed version, anyway) is merely the baseball portion. The rest of this shown here is added by Duke for their set.

All of the cards — the N228s and these N120s — are fairly rare. Determining the actual rarity of the four cards (the three N228s and this N120) isn’t easy. But in my own experience in chasing these, I’d say that the regular circular N228-3 baseball card is the easiest to obtain. The other two N228 variations (an embossed card (N228-4) and a rectangular card (N228-5)) are probably on par with the rarity of the N120.

If you’re looking for this card, the number of people alerted to it seems to have increased in recent years. It is rare to see decent examples of it sell for under $50 these days.

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