Old Judge Tobacco cards were some of the earliest baseball cards ever produced. They were the first set of cards depicting individual baseball players.
Unlike cards of today, these were photos attached to cardboard backing. A big reason why a lot fade today.
While many people believe that t206 cards were the first-ever produced, these were almost 23 years before.
Old Judge cards are often referred to as OJs or N172s. N stands for the nineteenth century, 172 is the reference number.
While there isn’t an exact number of cards in the set, PSA has found over 4500 different cards.
Assuming some one-of-a-kind cards were thrown away or destroyed, there could be over 5000 different examples.
Timeline of Old Judge Releases
1886: Players from the NY Giants
1887: Players from all National Leage Teams and two American Associaton
1888: Players from all the American Association teams, All of the minor league Western Association, 3 other minor league teams, and an umpire.
Condition issues to watch out for
For most cards you have to worry about the surface, corners, edges, and centering.
With OJs, you also have to look at Fading and if cards were rebacked.
Fading with these cards is often more important than the grade itself.
Grading companies never docked points for the image quality of OJs.
And in response, many purchase cards just based on how faded the cards are.
Since they were photographs from the 1800s, many faded a lot
While others still have a striking image.
A lot of these cards ended up in scrapbooks.
Because of this, the authentic grade is given to cards with backs missing.
Some dealers will alter the card and put on a new back to try and fool collectors and grading companies.
Hall of Famers in the set
Old Judge features 25 different Hall of Famers in the set.
Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn
John Montgomery Ward
The Merger of Tobacco card brands
In 1890, production stopped for the Old Judge baseball cards. Goodwin & Company merged with other tobacco brands including Allen & Ginter to establish the American Tobacco Company.
This company later would produce the Famous t206 and t205 sets.