Card of the Day: 2014 Gypsy Queen Russell Martin

Today’s Card of the Day comes from the 2014 Gypsy Queen set, which was put out by Topps. The featured player today is catcher Russell Martin, who made quite an impression with Pittsburgh Pirates fans during the 2013-14 seasons, before he left via free agency. At the time, there was a hope that he stayed around in Pittsburgh, but the deal he received from the Toronto Blue Jays turned out to be a huge overpay over the last four seasons of a five-year deal.

Martin turns 40 years old today, so we celebrate by taking a look at a card that uses a throwback name, with a bit of the old design as well. Let’s get right into the card.

Here’s the front of the card:

The “Gypsy Queen” name comes from an old cigarette brand that was featured on cards in the 19th century. The 1887-90 N172 Old Judge set is one of the most iconic sets in card collecting history. There’s a sister set to that one, which uses the same photos and a similar setup, but instead of an advertisement for Old Judge cigarettes, the Goodwin & Co. people threw a Gypsy Queen advertisement across the top. That set is cataloged as the N175 set. The “N” in the name stands for nineteenth century cards. The numbers were just random numbers selected, well after the set was released. The do go in order, but they don’t match up to anything related to the specific cards themselves.

I’m a huge fan of the N172 set. I collected them for years. I do not have any of the N175 cards. My reasoning is sound to me, not to some other collectors. The two sets use the same photos, but the Gypsy Queen ads are in the photo and quite big in comparison to the Old Judge ads, while cutting out some details in the background. The N175 cards cost more because they are harder to find. I don’t feel like paying extra for smaller photos on cards. Seems reasonable to me.

Anyway, the set up here has some similarities, especially in the border color, as well as the frame for the photo. The difference being that the old cards had that Gypsy Queen banner across the top, which would cover up Martin’s head if they left the photo the same. The way his name and the team are presented here is also a nod to the original set. Of course the original cards didn’t have color photos, but they did use real photos, which is one of the reasons that the N172 set so iconic.

Here’s the back of the card:

The back is not a nod to the N175 set. That set came with blank backs. It was actually a cardboard backing for the thinner photo part of the card, making it two layers glued together at the factory. Quite a few of the original cards were “skinned” from the back, and old-timey collectors just kept the photo portion of the card. I would recommend not skinning one of these if you buy one.

Here you get a little fun fact about his team home run record chase, as well as a nice Pirates logo, and all of the legal mumbo jumbo you could ever want at the bottom of the card. Martin is card #149 in the 350-card set.

These cards can be had for $2-$3 delivered from numerous sellers on Ebay. There are other variations, though some are much tougher to find and aren’t for sale right now. There’s a mini version with black borders that is limited to 199 copies. There are two sellers trying to get over $10 for that, and another one at $2.50, along with a best offer option. There’s just a regular mini version with no added value. There’s also a sepia colored one, with 50 copies, which is going for over $15. There are also red (99 copies), wood (five) and leather (one) versions that aren’t available.