Last year when the first Allen and Ginter set was coming out I was going through sort of a a transitional period. To put it bluntly, I was broke. I had already collected the T206, T205 and Cracker Jack sets and I was really looking forward to this new stuff. Then it went live and the price shot through the roof. I was effectively priced out after only getting a couple of hobby packs. I was pretty bummed as the same thing happened in 2001 with the '52 Heritage set. I really liked the cards, but it just wouldn't be anywhere near my price range for at least the next few months.
One day that fall I had a job interview down around Emory. It was a pretty weird interview in retrospect. The thing lasted over an hour and I'm not sure if they were actually hiring or if they were still in the process of figuring out what they actually needed. I got a long string of somewhat normal questions then all of a sudden I was asked how to recover data off a crashed hard drive in a somewhat desperate tone. Um, restore your data off your regularly scheduled backup onto a new drive? You do have regular backups right? Right?? (dead silence) Um, pay a lot of money to a drive salvage company to attempt to restore some of the data I guess... The rest of the interview went kind of like that, and it became obvious that they needed some serious help. It turned out they didn't call me for several months and I didn't call them back either. I'm not sure that they really had an opening anyway. I started a new position that same week though, so everything worked out in the end.
So what the hell does all this blathering about my job have to do with baseball cards? I had to get to my old job after the interview, but I had some time to kill. There was a Target on the way back to the interstate so I stopped in to pick up a drink and check out the card rack. I was feeling pretty good after the interview so decided to go nuts and get a handful of packs to go with my Diet Dew. Lo and behold, Allen and Ginter retail! For some reason I just assumed that A&G was hobby only like T206. I didn't have $160 to drop on a box, but I could swing 10-15 bucks for a few packs. I really liked this stuff and I was pleasantly surprised to find this among my pulls:
This wasn't my first Allen & Ginter card, but it was certainly my first WOW! A&G card. I'd gotten mini framed relics before from T206, T205 and that weird futuristic basketball set, but this was the first one I'd gotten decorated with palm fronds on the frame. Plus it was Dontrelle, which kicks ass. I hope when the cheap ass Marlins dump him the Braves are able to pick him up. He'd look good in our rotation and it would be fun to see a bunch of Gary Coleman lookalikes sitting next to Francoeur’s Franks in the bleachers screaming "WHATCHOO TALKIN BOUT WILLIS!". I stretched the budget as far as it would go and snagged a few blasters before the eBay speculators bought them all up and listed them for twice retail. I was woefully short of a set but I was able to pick up a big lot of commons for cheap from a case buster to fill out a chunk of the set.
Fast forward to this summer. I was a bit more settled, eagerly anticipating the '07 version of A&G and had my $85 bucks ready to grab a box right off the bat before the prices went nuts. You can see my insanity over the set by clicking through the archives. One thing I didn't expect though was the flags insert set. I really liked them though along with the Caesars and Serpents. I started trolling auctions for flags and eventually stumbled upon an original A&G flag from the 1880s. I have always liked the lithograph tobacco cards better than the old photograph ones like Old Judge. That is likely because I loved playing with my Dover reprint cards when I was a kid and Bert Sugar included Allen & Ginter cards in the book instead of Old Judge or Gypsy Queen. I always assumed that I would never ever be able to afford an original Allen & Ginter card though because they were so incredibly rare and expensive. The original King Kelly and Cap Anson cards I had reprints of sold for hundreds of dollars even back then and nowadays you're talking thousands of dollars. Imagine my surprise when I saw that original cards not featuring baseball payers were selling for less than a blaster box.
This kind of blew my mind, the fact that I could actually own a card that was 120 years old. I have a couple of Indian Head cents that old, but those are coins and are supposed to last that long. Little scraps of paper are not. I have never been a non-sport kind of guy. I just missed the heyday of the classic Topps Star Wars and Wacky Packages sets and there wasn't much to get into after that. Sure, I have a few original Garbage Pail Kids and an Empire Strikes Back set my stepdad got me at Dragon*Con once, but I've never collected them seriously. Because of that, I've never really known about the vast amount of non-sports tobacco and gum cards that are out there. I started looking into them and finally decided to go for it and try to pick one up online. I had bad luck at first and lost dozens of bids on cards but I finally persevered (and spent a little more than I wanted to) and picked up one. It was that strange card I posted last week that has confused everyone. Here's the back of it:
This is one of the World's Decorations set, which is classified as N30 in the American Card Catalog. The scan doesn't actually do it justice, the lithograph looks great and it's printed with metallic ink on the gold parts. Yes, even in 1887, cards relied on shiny stuff to attract us short attention span collectors. As good as it looks (and the back looks as good as the front in my opinion) it's not a real popular set and I figured why not try to get a flag since I'm already collecting the 2007 versions. So I bid on another one... and another one... and long story short (TOO LATE!!!) I just received my seventh original Allen and Ginter card in the mail today and I have three more on the way. I have somehow ended up a quarter of the way to building an original Allen and Ginter type set. Yes, I am completely, utterly insane. There's no use crying over spilled milk now, I've decided to go for it. Even though I have other sets I should be finishing, it's going to be more expensive than I expect and I'm positive I'll go mad trying to find that last general or fruit card I need to finish it, I'm going to try to get a type set of every card from N1 to N34. There are also big cards like the N43 inserts in the Topps version and other assorted issues from the company, but I'm just going to focus on the first 34 in Burdick's catalog.
One thing I've found doing research on this stuff is that there is not a hell of a lot of info to be found on these cards online. There's a pretty good forum, a couple of collector pages and that's about it. That's why I'm going to share the info I do find going forward on this blog and will do a sort of journal on my progress on my type set. That way the next poor schmuck who gets interested in moldy old cards of birds and horses and chicks with parasols can find a little reference material on teh internets. Don't worry, I'm not going to switch to an "All A&G, All the Time" format, I'll still go on endlessly about stuff from the 80's and crappy new sets. I'm contemplating doing a spin off blog for just the A&G info, but things have been too crazy lately to do that just yet. I hope you enjoy the weird old card posts as well as the baseball card stuff (and there's a lot of neat stuff coming soon). If you don't just hang in until the next good post and blame it all on Dontrelle Willis' Allen and Ginter relic card (or better yet, that strange interview), for starting the odd chain of events that led to this mess.