Sometimes things just work out perfectly here in our tiny corner of the internet. I mentioned the 1887 N175 Gypsy Queen set in yesterday’s Card of the Day article. That was because we looked at the 2014 Gypsy Queen set from Topps, which was a tribute set to the original one put out 127 years earlier.
While writing that article, I thought to myself that I should have already covered the original set by now. Cut to today’s Pittsburgh Pirates History article and none of the players have cards available that show them on the Pirates. I like to match up the Card of the Day to the history article, but it’s not imperative that I do it. That’s especially true when there’s nothing to match up to the day. The timing worked out perfect, as with nothing better to post, today’s Card of the Day comes from the original N175 set. It features one of the greatest pitchers to ever suit up for the franchise, Hall of Famer James “Pud” Galvin.
Before we look at the card, let me tell you that you shouldn’t fall in love with the card unless your annual card budget goes into five figures and you don’t want to get anything else this year. It’s an item that will get a lot of jealous responses and congratulations from a different corner of the internet that I visit daily, which deals with vintage baseball cards and memorabilia.
Here’s the front of the card. The back is blank, so picture a blank back and that’s what it looks like:
Hopefully you remember yesterday’s article, so you can see the comparisons. If not, and you’re too lazy to clink the link on the side, here’s the card of Russell Martin from yesterday:
As you can see, the border coloring is somewhat similar. The Gypsy Queen writing also takes cues from the original. I mentioned the nameplate in the photo, and you can see where they got it here. They also have the curved frame for the photo at the top.
While Topps used design ideas from this set, they weren’t going to repeat everything. The bottom of the original photo tells you that the cards came from Goodwin and Company. They were produced in 1887, and Gypsy Queen was a brand of cigarettes. While they are technically advertising cigarettes here, it’s not a company in business anymore, and there’s no actual mention of the connection to tobacco.
With the Galvin card in particular, you might see that name and think it says Calvin. A lot of people think of it as an error, but look at the bigger “C” and “G” in the word cigarettes. You can barely see the difference there between the C and G, so the difference is even smaller on the smaller letters. The spelling of Pittsburg is common for that era, though the official spelling had an H at the end in 1887, but didn’t from 1890-1911. This set was ahead of their time in that regard.
One other reason why I wanted to show this is that I mentioned that the Gypsy Queen logo covers more of the card than the N172 set, which is one of the most iconic sets in baseball card history (my opinion is that it’s THE most iconic). This same exact photo is in the N172 Old Judge set, which was also released by Goodwin and Company in 1887. This photo of Galvin was snapped in Boston in mid-1887. That N172 card has a very small border at the top instead, and a small Old Judge logo in the top right.
I can get right into the pricing section because this is a good spot. This N175 card sold four years ago for $7,800, and it’s for sale on Ebay now for $15,000. An N172 Galvin in the same grade recently ended for $3,700. Even if you look past the Ebay price, you have to factor in that prices on these sets have gone up recently, so $7,800 is a low price now, but that $3,700 figure is from September, so it’s current. That’s a lot extra to pay for a different ad, and one that takes up more of the photo. That’s why I never bought an N175 card in the past. I can use the cost excuse now, but it was a desirability issue that kept me from buying one in the past.
One other thing I’ll mention because I just saw it recently when Galvin’s name was brought up, so I have to say it again and again. That “Pud” nickname is pronounced wrong about 99% of the time. It has to do with pudding, so it rhymes with “good” not “dud”.
Another thing about it is that it was almost never used in print before he made the Hall of Fame in 1965. The announcement that all papers picked up had the nickname featured, and that’s when it was attached to him, a full 63 years after he died. My grandfather had an uncle Joe that passed away in 1960. It would be like me giving him a nickname right now. You’re talking 90+ years after Galvin’s debut is the first time that the name really saw regular use in print. A search of Newspapers.com came up with a grand total of seven articles that mentioned the nickname before January 31, 1965, when he was elected to Cooperstown. He was already retired before the first article mentioned that nickname in 1895. Most people who are reading this now grew up with that nickname, so it sounds right, but he shouldn’t be known in history as Pud Galvin.