When I returned to the hobby in 2009, lured by stumbling across baseball card blogs, I learned a lot about the cards I had missed. One of the sets getting a lot of talk at the time was Allen and Ginter. I picked up a few blasters and was impressed- but not quite enough to chase the set, choosing instead the Goodwin Champions.
So I was messing around on ebay the other day, and came across a bunch of the Allen and Ginter Riders of the World set. So I bid on some.
And I won. I wasn't expecting to, and since I am broke, I didn't really want to. But now that I have them in my hot little hands, as my grandmother used to say, I am glad I did.
Because they are sweet. And they are 122 years old. One hundred, twenty two years old.
They are sturdy, and have held up well over the course of a lifetime and half. I think the '09 Topps A&G do a fine tribute to these cards, but I don't think you can get the look of something printed in 1888 when you print it in 2009. Think of how printing has changed. It would take ages, years maybe, to print a regular Topps print run on a press from 1888. One thing I noticed on the modern A&G cards is the filter they used looked almost like teardrops of ink- and by god that is what the original A&G cards looked like. It really is a marvelous look. Of course the originals were painted, but still.
The rear is a checklist, listing the racing colors of famous stables around the world- well, Europe and North America, at least. Then again, in 1888, most of the rest of the world were colonies.
I really like these cards. I had them in my car today (in holders, of course) and kept looking at them when I was stopped at light. It is amazing how well that have held up since at the time, they were a gimmick, if you will, a throw in when you bought a pack of smokes. Maybe cigarettes were not as addictive then as they are now, maybe people bought packs just for the cards. But any way you slice it, they were not sealed in plastic cases, or bid on over the internet. Had people any idea they would go for $20 bucks a pop for a jockey, you can be damn sure there would a lot more of them around, and they would be in mint condition.
It is wonderful to hold a little piece of history in your hands- I admit I even sniffed it, to see if it smelled like tobacco. Which is silly, of course, since they have been free of a tobacco pack for more than 100 years, but they just make you feel that way. When you think that the person who pulled this tiny card from a pack of smokes 120 years ago is long dead, and perhaps his children are too, it really puts into perspective what a little gem this is.