Pretty much everyone who hasn't just completely given up on Topps altogether has either ripped some Allen & Ginter, is waiting for their box of Allen & Ginter to ship or has wistfully followed some Allen & Ginter breaks online since they have been forced to squander their money on foolish things like gas and food. And most of those people ripping or watching have had this question pop up in their mind at one point while looking through the cards.
And he hasn't just been on the Crack the Code Cards either. He's also on the side of the box,
And the inside flap of the box,
And the security seal that keeps the box safe from evildoers,
And on the blaster boxes,
And on the wrappers,
N43 wrappers too,
Don't forget the cards themselves,
And last but not least, here he is blowing bubbles.
Kurt Bevacqua he ain't. But who is this guy to make him so ubiquitous in this set. This is a Topps product, you'd think they'd plaster Mickey Mantle's face everywhere. Well, you have to go back to the original 1887 Allen and Ginter sets to find out. This guy (I thought it was Annie Oakley the first time I saw it on the back of a Topps mini card) is none other than...
Oh great, that explains everything. Now who the hell is Old Planter? Well, first off he's a card in the Allen & Ginter N33 "World's Smokers" set from 1888. The subjects of this set use the common 'people around the world wearing their crazy costumes' motif that is very common in 19th century sets, but A&G kicked it up a notch by having them all smoking cigarettes and pipes filled with (presumably) Allen & Ginter tobacco. It's a very well done set that doesn't go completely overboard with the stereotypes and many of the other sets from that period do. There are many smokers wearing costumes from around the world as well as a historical subject or two. It can be educational too, did you know an Odalesque was the slave of a concubine? I didn't until I saw the card from that set and looked it up, and I had even seen all those paintings of nekkid ladies in the Wikipedia article already in art history class. The most popular card from the set though (and my favorite) is the Old Planter. Why Old Planter? He was the de facto mascot for their tobacco products. Who knows, it might even be a humourous take on founder John Allen himself. It sure ain't Lewis Ginter, that's for sure. Allen & Ginter was the first company to plaster his mug all over their products before Topps decided to do so. As you can see, they used his likeness...
On their cigarette packs,
On their tins of loose tobacco,
On the coupons inserted into each pack of cigarettes,
That could be exchanged for premium albums of their cards,
Yep, he's on them too...
On the Cabinet sized advertising cards,
And of course, on the back of the cards themselves.
See, there he is!
So Topps is actually being very true to the original A&G cards by putting Old Planter - sans cigarette so as not to offend modern sensibilities - all over everything. This particular Old Planter card is my favorite (heck, he's even up in my title pic) old style Allen & Ginter card not for his notoriety, but for the back of the card. Check it out:
Somebody completely ruined the PSA grade of this card by stamping "THIS BELONG TO JOE K. DUCK" on the back. Most collectors would bemoan their PSA 4 or 5 dropping to a 1 due to some guy with an ink pad and a stamp marking his territory, but this stamp is the reason this card is special to me. When I first became fascinated by these cards I scoured the web for info and found a lot of it from eBay auctions. One seller that I learned a lot from was As Time Goes By. They sell a lot of old non-sports cards (including some primo Mars Attacks cards up for sale right now) and this time last year they were selling off a large collection of 19th century cards they had acquired. Looking through the listing descriptions taught me enough information about these strange old cards that I was able to find more information on them using their ACC numbers, manufacturers, approximate release dates and set names. There were also hundreds of great scans of these cards that I had never seen before. I would save a lot of these scans for future reference including the coupons, packs and album pictures up above. There's not a heck of a lot of resources on trading cards out there, especially the obscure ones and auction site scans are often the only information available on some of this old stuff. Quite a few of the scans from As Time Goes By had the Joe K. Duck stamps on the back. This dude had a lot of cards that he inked up.
I felt an affinity to that old time collector who needed to make sure everyone knew that these cards were his, by gum, by marking them with his name using a misspelled stamp that dropped an S. Unfortunately I had miserable luck winning any Allen & Ginter cards for a while and all of Joe's collection went into other hands. A couple months into my Allen & Ginter type set project (which is now down to finding three maddeningly difficult cards) this card popped up on As Time Goes By and I immediately put in my max bid of $20 for the card. I surprisingly ended up winning it for significantly less than that. With a bit of luck, I not only got the flagship card of Allen & Ginter's sets but a little piece of Joe's collection. I have no clue who Mr. Duck is, but I'm glad to be able to show off one of his cards as this week's Card of the Week. Godspeed Joe K. Collector, wherever you are.