Adrian "Cap" Anson was the greatest baseball player from the 19th century and is often considered the game's first superstar. This list of Cap Anson cards highlights the best options from his playing days, which are often very rare and expensive, as well as a few more recent releases that are generally within reach for the average collector.
The first baseman played in the National League for the Chicago White Stockings and Chicago Colts, which were both forerunners to the Cubs franchise. Anson enjoyed a 27-year career in professional baseball and was the greatest hitter of his generation. He was also an innovative coach and manager. The Hall of Famer still owns numerous career offensive records for the Cubs franchise, including being the only player in team history to record 3,000 hits. As a manager, Anson is credited with being the first to use a third base coach, having defense players back each other up in the field and putting pressure on defenses by using "hit and run" plays.
The majority of the top Anson cards come from some of the most popular tobacco sets from the end of the 19th century. This has made his cards difficult to find at times and very expensive when they do surface. While there is no "official" Cap Anson rookie card, releases from 1887 and 1888 each have a legitimate claim.
In addition, there have been various post-war Cap Anson cards produced. Anson's vintage and modern cards are also much easier to find and far more affordable than his pre-war cards. These can offer a good entryway for those starting to collect one of baseball's first stars.
Do you have any Cap Anson cards in your collection? Let us know in the comments.
Top 10 Cap Anson Baseball Cards
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10. 1975 Fleer Pioneers of Baseball Cap Anson #1
Fleer produced dozens of small card sets featuring Hall of Fame players throughout the 1960s and 1970s, providing collectors an affordable place for some of the greats from earlier eras of the game. The Pioneers of Baseball cards were included in Fleer's Cloth Baseball Patches packs in 1975 at the rate of one per pack. They featured the artwork of R.G. Laughlin, who worked on many of Fleer's baseball cards at this time. The cards were also slightly oversized at four-inches tall.
This is one of the most affordable Cap Anson cards and also one of his more popular oddball issues. Anson does appear in several other Fleer products from this era, but this card is one of the few to show him in a baseball uniform and not a shirt and tie.
9. 1977 Shakey's Pizza Cap Anson #12
West Coast pizza chain Shakey's spent a few years during the mid-1970s producing baseball cards for their Seattle-area restaurants in conjunction with a group of local collectors. The cards were given away in both the restaurants and at card shows run by the collector group. The 1977 Shakey's Pizza cards featured players from the first half of the 20th century, including Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The Cap Anson card is not too difficult to find, but there is a somewhat limited quantity of these regional cards. He also appears in the blue-bordered 1976 Shakey's Pizza set, which is cheaper and more prevalent, but the 1977 card gets the nod from Anson collectors.
8. 1960 Fleer Cap Anson #44
1960 Fleer used retired baseball players to circumvent Topps exclusive agreement, which was to produce baseball cards of current Major Leaguers. The concept of making a set of retired players is commonplace now, but at the time of its release, the Fleer cards were not very popular. Compared to sets from the same era, 1960 Fleer cards are very affordable in either raw or graded form. The card provided one of the first real opportunities for Chicago sports fans, post World War II, to own a baseball card of this legend.
Anson is found in both 1960 Fleer and 1961 Fleer, but the 1961 set focuses on Anson's time as a manager rather than his successful playing career.
7. 1950 Callahan Hall of Fame Cap Anson #2
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown started selling the Callahan Hall of Fame cards in 1950. Cards were added to the set after 1950 as players continued to be elected, but most collectors just search out the original run. The miniature cards are all white with a small lined frame and a black-and-white picture of the player. The standout card is the 1955 Joe DiMaggio, with many of the other Callahan cards following a similar level of collectability as the Cap Anson. There are plenty of Callahan cards out there, but white card stock has made them condition-sensitive. Collectors looking for copies of the Anson card can track down copies for a few dollars, but they will likely have to settle for rounded corners and discolorations on the card stock. Clean copies, raw and grade, often sell more in line with the other major card products from the start of the 1950s.
6. 1888 N28 Allen & Ginter Cap Anson
N28 Allen & Ginter is one of the most instantly recognizable and beloved baseball card products of all-time. Vintage collectors frequently view this set as the greatest of the 19th century, while modern collectors have become familiar since Topps relaunched this annual favorite in 2006. The full-color tobacco card for Anson is one of 10 baseball players included in the original Allen & Ginter run. There have obviously been reprints of this card made over the years, but the authentic Allen & Ginter Cap Anson cards have a high price tag. The condition of the back is generally one of the keys in determining the quality of the Ginter cards. This is because many collectors glued their cards into the mail-in album for safekeeping.
5. 1895 N300 Mayo Cut Plug Cap Anson
Mayo Tobacco Works Company inserted these thin miniature baseball cards into their tins of plug tobacco. There are only 48 cards in this set that features pictures of players both in and out of uniform, as well as a mixture of sepia and black-and-white photographs. Several players have variations, but Cap Anson only has one card showing him in his baseball uniform with his trademark mustache. The paper used in printing these cards has not aged well, so this is one of the harder Cap Anson cards to track down. Even copies of this card in poor condition can still sell for thousands of dollars.
4. 1888 N162 Goodwin Champions Cap Anson
1888 Goodwin Champions is another all-time great baseball card product. These beautiful, full-color N162 cards were inserted into packs of Old Judge and Gypsy Queen cigarettes. The thicker card stock made them more durable than some of the other cards from the 19th century. Cap Anson is one of eight baseball players to appear in the checklist, which also features famous athletes from other sports, including what is considered the first-ever football card. This Goodwin Champions card is not the best Cap Anson card, but it is normally considered to be his most ascetically pleasing. Collectors love the warm hues used to paint the sky in the background countered with the blue uniform that makes this card a true work of art. While it can be one of Anson's easier cards to find from this era, the price tag is still quite steep.
3. 1888 E223 G&B Chewing Gum Cap Anson
G&B Chewing Gum is home to the very first gum and candy baseball cards. The G&B cards had variations with players appearing on cards in photos and also in drawings. While this set is considered to be the earliest gum and candy set, many collectors of 19th-century baseball cards note that G&B did little to distinguish their cards from the tobacco brands. In fact, this set looks very similar to the N403 Yum Yum Tobacco cards. The product mainly featured NL subjects, including Anson, who was the most popular player in the game. Anson is one of the jewels of the set and can be a challenge for collectors to find. The G&B cards have been known to fade, so there is a greater premium on cards with clear pictures and photographs.
2. 1887 N284 Buchner Gold Coin Cap Anson
N284 Buchner Gold Coin cards were placed into packs of Gold Coin cigarettes, but they have some differences from the other tobacco cards from the period. First, they are larger than the average tobacco card, measuring 1 3/4" x 3", making them only slightly smaller than modern cards. The Gold Coin cards were also printed on thicker stock, which has helped them stand up over time.
One thing to note is that the full-color paintings are not always of the player shown on the card. Some are just generic representations for the named player. However, the Cap Anson card does actually display a photo of the former Chicago White Sox first baseman sporting his legendary mustache. In fact, Anson has two cards in the set, including one where he is standing with his hand on his hip and another where he is receiving a throw at first base.
1. 1887 N172 Old Judge Cigarettes Cap Anson
1887 N172 Old Judge is considered the best set of baseball cards from the 19th century. Like the N284 release, Cap Anson has two different versions. One of the cards shows Cap Anson in his Chicago uniform. This is viewed as the best card in the product, as well as a strong contender for the top card produced during the 19th century. The "uniform" variation is an extraordinarily rare card with very few copies known to exist. Even copies in poor condition have been known to sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.
The second variation of the Cap Anson card shows him in street clothes, wearing a suit and tie. Both cards are great options. Like the majority of cards on this list, scarcity and price are a major factor in obtaining copies of these two cards.