Not all of these cards I bought have a good story behind why I chose them. While I would like to choose them based on some personal preference, the fact is that these are still 120-year old pieces of ephemera. As such, sometimes you just got to get what's gettable. The only reason I picked Alexander Bras-De-Fer as my card for the N19 Pirates set is because there was no paper loss on the back that would screw up the story there, and that it was a winnable auction. Other cards from that series with full backs and decent fronts are going for upwards of 100 bucks, so snagging one for 9, even though I still don't really know who the guy is, was well worth it.
I'd like to get 'favorite' cards from each of the set or at least 'cool' cards if for no other reason that it will be easier to write about those kinds of cards. I don't really have a set list of cards I'm targeting though, and I still haven't gotten together comprehensive checklists of the sets. I'm going more by feeling and by looking through the scans of the cards I find online to figure out what I like and don't like. Having a pop-culture reference to attach to a card would be nice for these articles, but for collecting's sake a card that is a) cheap b) cool looking c) available to buy or best of all d) all of the above is a great card for a type set. The N4 Birds of America card I picked up (which will be the next one I post) fits the all of the above category. This card from the N34 World's Sovereigns set was bought more because of the cheap and easy factor.
This card of Próspero Fernández Oreamuno, the President of Costa Rica from 1882 to 1885, is a nice example from this somewhat tough set. It's a really nice looking card, with El Presidente in full uniform standing in front of some awesome paisley wallpaper, a nice picture of boats and mountains in the corner, all framed in the golden ink that's so prevalent on many of these cards. The absolute highlight though is that beautiful Mustache. Now that's a mustache you can grab on to. I'm tempted to offer its services to the operator of this wonderful site, although I'm not sure they take submissions. The back of the card is a little beat, but the the title and logo is mostly complete and you can more or less read the checklist. I guess if you look at him long enough you can see a resemblance to Manuel from Fawlty Towers, but that isn't the reason why I bought it. There were three main reasons why I bought this when I did. It is from a tough set, it was there waiting for me to bid on it at a good time and it was dirt cheap.
One thing I've been doing since I started looking for original A&G cards is to save any images I find online of the cards. Going back and looking at all the cards you've seen already is a great reference tool for learning about the set. After doing this for 4 months or so, it's obvious that some sets are more scarce - or at least not sold as frequently - as others. Flags are everywhere right now, no doubt in part to the Topps insert set. The past few months have been probably the best time ever to sell original non-sports A&G cards with all the heat the Topps issue has brought to the hobby. American Indian cards are also seen frequently, often with high prices due to their popularity right now. Some of the sets I hardly ever see are N15 Generals, N7 Fans, N23 Songbirds, N26 and 27 Beauties, N3 Arms and the sports issues N28 and N29. I still haven't gotten a real reference book about nineteenth century cards yet, so I've relied finding info on these cards online. This forum, one of the best for non-sports cards, had this post that talked about relative scarcity. They listed the N34 set as one of the tougher ones and I took it to heart. When this card popped up I was ready to grab it.
I bought this card from As Time Goes By along with another Allen and Ginter card back in September. At the time, the plan was to get a couple of original flags to go along with my now postponed set of Topps flags. I targeted one card that I really wanted that night (my N11, you'll see it soon) and after I won it I saw this guy along with a few other N34s up for bid as well. Most of them had active bidding if I remember correctly, but this card had none. I figured what the heck and put in an opening bid which turned out to be the only one. The seller charges a flat fee for up to ten cards shipping so it cost me nothing but the bid since I had already won an auction earlier in the evening. This guy may have been the one that inspired me to go for a type set, as finding a supposedly rare card so cheaply got my confidence up.
I ended up getting this card for the opening bid price of $3.99, the price of a hobby pack of Turkey Red. That's all it took, the shipping was essentially free since I had already won a card from that seller. That's some nice value on an original card seeing how the ones inserted into the Topps product book for a hundred and up just because they have a frame. Part of my type set goal is to pick up these cards for less than the price of a blaster each. I'm not entirely sure how feasible that will be since the N28 and N29s are all pretty high priced, the N14 fruits set seems to be universally slabbed and graded and I may be lucky to even see another N15 General card, let alone afford one. If I do end up blowing way too much money on one of those cards, at least this one brings down the average.