BASEBALL CARDS PRICE GUIDE 191

Baseball cards exploded in popularity in the late 1800s as the relatively new sport of baseball grew across America. In 1891, several tobacco companies began inserting baseball cards as premiums or incentives in their cigarette and tobacco products. These early baseball cards introduced collectors to the players and teams of the day and helped fuel passion for the game. For collectors and researchers over a century later, 1891 baseball cards provide a unique window into the early years of professional baseball.

Tobacco companies like Allen & Ginter, Goodwin & Company, and American Tobacco Company inserted baseball cards as premiums in their tobacco products starting in 1891. The cards featured images of popular players from teams like the Boston Beaneaters, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Bridegrooms, and New York Giants. Players featured included future Hall of Famers like Pud Galvin, Buck Ewing, and Old Hoss Radbourn. The cards had colorful lithographic images and backs that sometimes included a short biography of the player or stats from the previous season.

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Condition is critical when evaluating the value of these early tobacco era cards from 1891. Even minor flaws can significantly impact a card’s grade and price. The most desirable examples are pristine cards that look like they could have been pulled from a pack yesterday. Poorly-centered images, rounded corners, creases or stains can decrease a card’s value. Top grades from services like PSA and SGC for 1891 baseball cards frequently command prices well into the thousands of dollars or more.

Some key players and their typical prices for PSA NM-MT 8 graded 1891 baseball cards include:

Pud Galvin: $3,000-$5,000
Buck Ewing: $2,500-$4,000
Old Hoss Radbourn: $2,000-$3,500
Cap Anson: $1,500-$2,500
Amos Rusie: $1,000-$2,000

Less recognized players can still hold value, but prices tend to be considerably lower. An 1891 card of Jack Glasscock in PSA NM-MT 8 condition would sell in the $300-500 range while one of Bug Holliday might go for around $150-250. High grade examples of more obscure players can still occasionally sell for over $1,000 if the player, team and card are desirable to a specialty collector.

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When it comes to rarity and value, the 1891 Allen & Ginter set holds cache among collectors. Only 104 cards were produced across three different issues that year by Allen & Ginter. The “A&G” backs are instantly recognizable to collectors. Top graded examples of stars like Ewing or Anson from the scarce 1891 A&G issues can command astronomical prices. A PSA NM-MT 8 graded 1891 A&G Buck Ewing recently sold at auction for over $25,000.

For collectors, putting together a complete set of 1891 Allen & Ginter cards in high grades presents an immense challenge. The set contains some of the most difficult and rare early baseball cards to acquire in any condition. A complete pristine PSA/SGC NM-MT 8 set would be among the most valuable collections in the hobby, easily worth well into the six figures.

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While rarer and more expensive than later tobacco era issues, 1891 baseball cards were hugely important as one of the first widely distributed sets that helped spread baseball card collecting across the country. For historians, they provide a look at the players and uniforms from that transformative early period in professional baseball history. And for dedicated collectors, finding high quality examples of these early cards is a fascinating quest that offers the opportunity to own genuine pieces of baseball memorabilia from the earliest days of the sport.

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