Card of the Day: 1887 N172 Old Judge Sam Barkley

Today’s Card of the Day shows why the 1886-90 N172 Old Judge set is so great. The featured player today is infielder Sam Barkley, who played for the 1886 Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association, then stayed with the team while they played in the National League in 1887. He mostly played second base, but took over first base for the rest of the year when starter Alex McKinnon became ill in June of 1887, before passing away a month later.

Barkley was one of our first Card of the Day subjects. That card was also from the Old Judge set, but have no fear, we are not repeating an article subject. Barkley had seven different cards in the set. That’s not even close to the most you’ll find, but it is one of the higher totals. Our first look at one of his cards featured the pose known as “catching, right hand above head”. Today’s is simply known as his portrait pose. The pose names were given to cards much later to help differentiate poses for collectors, because not all of them have numbers. Some players have very similar poses, so you just can’t say it’s a fielding pose, or a batting pose, because multiple cards will show them with a bat or with a glove (or no glove in a majority of the cases) reaching for a ball. This one is different from the rest for Barkley, so it’s easy to label, but it’s also difficult to find.

Here’s the front of the card (the back is blank):

The portrait name here is self-explanatory. It’s the only non-action pose for Barkley in the set. This card actually does have a number, shown as “0205” in the top right corner. That’s the lowest number on a Barkley card, which makes it pose #1 for him if you’re looking it up now. Since not all cards have numbers, the catalog number for the cards becomes somewhat random according to their pose. I say somewhat because the whole set is laid out alphabetically first, then the individual player is broken down into pose, and in some cases, those poses have subsets. This card is actually known as 19-1 now. The one linked above is 19-2, though it’s broken down even more because it’s his Pittsburgh card, not the 1888 reissue card when he was with Kansas City. In those instances, they then add a letter (a/b/c) after the number.

This Barkley card also has that same type of subset for another reason. See the writing at the bottom for his name/position/team? There’s a version where the writing is under the photo, making the picture slightly smaller and the bottom portion where the Old Judge ad is bigger.

By the way, you don’t really need to remember that stuff, but it will help you if you ever really get into the N172 Old Judge set. It’s such a massive set that you could collect it for the rest of your life and never finish. There are some variations/poses that only have one known copy.

The uniform in this photo is actually a color described back then as pearl gray. There was some red on the uniform, but that part of the uniform is not in the picture you see here. Most of the 1887 Pittsburgh card photos were taken in May of 1887 when the team traveled to Boston. However, Jim McCormick’s photos were taken earlier when he was wearing a Chicago uniform, which was then changed to Pittsburgh in the caption. Ed Morris also missed out on photo day because he was injured and didn’t make the road trip, so his uniform looks different than his teammates from the 1887 team.

If you’re interested in getting the Barkley card, it’s a pricey one, especially since Old Judge prices have been on the rise recently. PSA has two sales for this card recorded. A PSA 2 went for $382 in 2019. That wouldn’t happen now. A PSA 4 ended for $1,140 in 2020. That’s actually the one in the scan shown above. This pose doesn’t come up often, so I don’t expect the next one to go cheap.