B A S E B A L L    C U R R E N C Y  

In the late 1880s collecting advertising trade cards was a national hobby. The public demand for these cards was so great that every consumer product vendor was obliged to obtain and distribute them. Advertising trade cards were made the size of a business card and larger. In 1887 an innovative marketing instrument was created - advertising notes were printed to appear as real money. That is, they were made in the same attractive general design, color and size as US Currency (National Bank Notes) circulating at that time. It was said that these advertising notes were scattered about on the street tempting people to grab them up revealing the advertiser's message.

Typical Late 1880s National Bank Note

Collector Base:

Numismatic: These notes are considered numismatic items due to the likeness to US Currency - they are cataloged in the Obsolete Currency Category. Most NBN collectors favor collecting them as relating to specific cities, counties and or states.

Advertising: The advertising collector has a similar goal as the currency collector in that a locale of certain types of businesses and types of products are of interest. For some collectors, the more antiquated the goods or service of the merchant's ad the stronger the appeal. Shown below is a database of merchants who used these notes to advertise their business.

Baseball: Baseball card collectors are drawn naturally by the baseball theme: the national baseball clubs and pictures of team players.

There are eight different types of Baseball Currency: each measures 7 3/4" X 3 3/8" and were printed between 1887 and 1893. The basic design features a curved Gothic typeface heading "National Base Ball League" spanning the two main figures followed beneath by a horizonally "SEASON OF" on all notes except St. Louis where "National" is horizontal and beneath a curved "National Base Ball Association" followed under the arc horizontally by "SEASON OF". A prominent baseball official is shown on the left on all notes. On the right both Chicago and Detroit Notes show an unidentified batsman (resembles Cap Anson). Printed on all notes, slightly above center is a large Gothic typeface date in color. Backs are printed with a motif in the same color as the date on the front and oval portraits of 10 or 12 players are shown with their last name identified in the curve of the oval at the bottom. Players are listed clockwise from top-center on all notes. On the front and back of each note a blank space was left at the center to accommodate advertising to be printed by individual merchants. A facsimile baseball game is pictured in the message area on the back of all but the St. Louis notes.

The advertisers who purchase these notes from the manufacturer would likely contract local print shops to have their custom made ad messages overprinted - on the front is generally the name and address of the merchant plus any supplemental business identification, slogan, picture or notice - but there are some of these notes found that follow no rules as to where or what to print on their notes. Although most of these notes were overprinted, some merchants merely rubber stamped them. Inside the ring of player portraits on the back is often a message for a discount on the product or service from the advertiser.

Chicago White Stockings

Baseball currency were made in 1887, 1888 and 1889. The 1887 and 1888 notes are essentially the same. The 1889 note differs in that three player's pictures/names were substituted on the back of the note. The Chicago Note pictures a portrait of team president A. G. Spalding on the left, his facsimile signature appears beneath the portrait. At right a batter in uniform with "CHICAGO" across his chest. To the left of this figure is a spiked green seal with white lettering: "MEMBERS OF THE CHICAGO BASEBALL CLUB."
On the backs are decorative designs: 1887 & 1888 in green - 1889 in pale red. 12 portraits of players pictured in coat and tie. Captain Anson is pictured at top-center in all three years.
For 1887 and 1888: Clockwise: Billy Sunday, Lou Hardle, Ed Williamson, Dell Darling, Tom Daily (Daly), Silver Flint, Mark Baldwin, Marty Sullivan, John Clarkson, Jimmy Ryan and Fred Pfeffer.
For 1889: Clockwise: Tom Burns, Bob Pettit, Ed Williamson, Dell Darling, Tom Daily (Daly), Silver Flint, Mark Baldwin, Marty Sullivan, George Van Haltren, Jimmy Ryan and Fred Pfeffer.

Detroit Wolverines

Baseball Currency were made in 1887 and 1888. The Detroit Note features a portrait of Manager W. H. "Bill" Watkins on the left, his facsimile signature appears beneath the portrait. On the right the same figure is shown as on the Chicago Note; however "DETROIT" is spelled out across his chest. The spiked green seal used here to denote: "MEMBERS OF THE DETROIT BASEBALL CLUB" in white letters. On the green motif back are 12 portraits of players pictured in coat and tie:
For 1887 and 1888: Starting top-center clockwise: Ned Hanlon, Dan Brouthers, Deacon White, Fatty Briody, Charlie Bennett, Lady Baldwin, Hardy Richardson, Sam Thompson, Charlie Ganzel, Stump Weidmen (Wiedman), Jack Rowe and Fred Dunlap.

St. Louis Browns

Baseball Currency were made in 1887 and 1888. The St. Louis note features Club Owner, Chris Van der Ahe on the left with "Yours Truly" in script and facsimile autograph below. The right side displays a picture of the 1886 WIMAN TROPHY WON OCT. 1886 (a world championship victory). Next to the Trophy is a black spiked rectangular seal that reads: "ST. LOUIS TEAM CHAMPIONS OF AMERICA". The St. Louis Browns notes are much scarcer then either Chicago or Detroit notes, in fact, there is only one 1888 note known. Unlike the other notes, only ten players are pictured on the back and there is no baseball scene at the center. On the green decorative back player portraits are shown in laced-up uniforms with the distinctive striped caps. Charles Comiskey is pictured at top-center in both years.
For 1887: Clockwise: Doc Bushong, Rob Caruthers, Jack Boyle, Yank Robinson, Bill Gleason, Curt Welch. Tip O'Neil (O'Neill), Arlie Latham and Dave Foutz.
For 1888: Clockwise: Chippy McGarr, Harry Lions, Jack Boyle, Yank Robinson, Tommy McCarthy, Jocko Milligan, Tip O'Neil (O'Neill), Arlie Latham and Silver King. The pictures of McGarr and Milligan are black silhouettes wearing the team caps. (Apparently photos of these two players were not available.)

National League All-Stars

Baseball Currency was made in 1893. Why the gap between issues is unknown. There are only five All-Star Notes known. The general format for this note is similar to the Chicago and Detroit notes. At left is a portrait of Nicholas E. Young, president of the National League with a facsimile signature that appears beneath the portrait. On the right are a pair of crossed bats with a glove and catcher's mask at their axis and a baseball unfixed above. The spiked round seal spells out: "MEMBERS OF THE BASEBALL LEAGUE" in white letters. On the maroon motif back are 12 portraits of players pictured in coat and tie:
For 1893: Starting top-center clockwise: Cap Anson, Dave Foutz, Charlie Comiskey, Bob Allen, King Kelly, Jim O'Rourke, John Ward, Mark Baldwin, Billy Nash, John Clarkson, George Van Haltren and Fred Pfeffer.

Other Notes

Here are two other baseball currency size advertising notes created during the same time period:

1. A Theatre Note: An undated note featuring photos of John L. Sullivan on the left - Duncan B. Harrison on the right - each identified below. The curved Gothic typeface style printed "United States" heading followed by the message "Haymarket Theatre, Chicago, ILL. etc.". The back has a faded rose color ornamental design and shows the same JLS picture as is shown on the front but with "The World's Champion" added. Above is: "Haymarket Theatre" and below "One Week, Oct 12." Names and comments relating to the Play are printed inside ovals placed symmetrically in the space on the back of the note.

2. An Indian Note: In Gothic typeface style "National" is printed at top center, printed directly under in the same style but curved is "Indian Ball Game". In large green Gothic type face style "1887" is printed at the center. Overprinted at center is "Sportsmans' Park, Sept. 29-30, Oct. 1-2" a horizontal line separates an additional advertisement at the lower center: "Thos. Ward, Livery and Boarding Stable - Undertaker of Funerals. etc." An official is pictured on the left side with "Yours Truly" in script and a simulated autograph beneath. On the right is a banner announcing President Cleveland and wife will attend. (See Supplement).
The back is printed with a green motif and shows 10 oval portraits of Indians pictured in costume wearing a head feather(s) and earrings with their names printed in the arc in the lower part of the oval. Starting top-center clockwise: LONE WOLF, BLACK DOG, ISH A TUBBE, ONE SIX KILLER, MAN IN THE WATER, RAIN IN THE FACE, SPOTTED PIE, DIRT DEERFACE, K:ULLY O:HAHA, SNARE PUPPY. Question is whether these Braves were members of the ball team or just members of the tribe. On the left, printed inside a large seal coin-style, "GREATEST NOVELTY OF THE AGE". Printed horizonally "50 INDIANS WILL TAKE PART". On the right side a same size seal with a reminder of the dates of the ball games. Added at the center of the note is still another ad, this one for A. ZACHARIA'S Restaurant. (Four distinct advertisements/announcements on one note!)


President Grover Cleveland's Goodwill Tour of 1887 was a plan to strengthen public contact in order to regain the presidency in 1888. In May 1887, a delegation from St. Louis visited him in Washington, D.C. Its members pressed him persistently to make a visit to St. Louis, he agreed. The travel plan was expanded to include much of the mid-west and south. The assistance of George Pullman was enlisted to assemble a suitable train. Pullman offered his personal private car, the P.P.C., which were the initials of the Pullman Palace Car, for the carriage of the president and his wife powered by the Chicago Limited, the Pennsylvania Railroad's fastest train. A Pullman sleeper car was attached thus completing a three-car train. When the conductor called out "All Aboard" at the Pennsylvania Station in Washington on September 30, Mrs. Cleveland was the only woman in the party. Twenty-eight years younger than her husband, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

The train was an "extra" with priority rights over all other trains. As a precaution, a pilot train would precede the Presidential Special by a few minutes. There were dignitaries and thousands of well-wishers waiting for the President at stations along the way to St. Louis. Arriving on October 2, day three of the trip. It was Sunday, the last day of the Indian Ball Game at Sportsman's Park in which the President and Mrs. were to be a guests. Apparently that invitation was cancelled. According to the record, that day the President and first lady attended morning services at the Washington Street Presbyterian Church. A private luncheon was followed by a drive around town to see banners, flags, and portraits on nearly every building. They reviewed a Roman Catholic papal celebration parade. That chilly evening the official party gathered at the mayor's home to dine.

The tour went on - after twenty-three days on the road, the President's train rolled into Pennsylvania Railroad Station on the morning of October 22. Everywhere the Clevelands appeared there were overwhelming expressions of enthusiasm and lavish civic hospitality. Public curiosity about the young and attractive wife was satisfied to some degree. The president exhibited stamina and a hearty and simple manner. His speeches were alike, clear, simple, and pleasant. He understood that much of the excitement was over-seeing the president rather than in seeing Grover Cleveland. Yet for all its spectacle and the length of its reach, the trip did not assure his reelection the following year. Indiana Republican Benjamin Harrison would defeat him in the Electoral College in 1888. Yet perhaps some of the wave of voters that returned Cleveland to the presidency in 1893 remembered the grand tour of 1887.

Database of Baseball Currency Advertisements:

Notes missing name or product show: ?

1887 Chicago White Stockings

Thorrington's, Denver, CO - Footwear
C.H. Reeves & Son, Aurora, IL - Clothier
Wallblom & Thoorsell Furniture House, Chicago, IL - Furniture
? - Pecatonica, IL - Dry Goods
Baker & Watson, Terra Haute, IN - Guns, Sporting Goods
Economy Boot and Shoe House, Saginaw, MI - Footwear
M. Stern, Clinton, IA - "The Fair"
Hart Bros & Co., Warren, OH - Clothier
Hayes Bros, Austin, MN - Jewelers
Get A. Johnston, Cadiz, KY - Jewelry
Monon Route (Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway Co.), Chicago, IL - Railroad
Morgan Bros, Chicago, IL - Ticket Brokers
J. Pfistner, Troy, OH - Footwear
Three C's (Central Cincinnati and Chicago Clothier), Jackson, MI - Clothier
F.P. Weaver, Lockport, NY - Furniture, Undertaker
John A. Bailey, Chicago, IL - Auctioneer, Dealer
Buechler & Deibel Economy Boot and Shoe House, Saginaw, MI - Footwear
Crotty & Keenan, Dubuque, IA - Clothier
E.E. Pettit, Chicago, IL - ?
Smith's Jewelry House, Bellefontaine, OH - Jewelry
The Cadiz Jeweler, Chicago, IL - Jewelry
E. G. Marriott, Chicago, Ill - Footwear

1888 Chicago White Stockings

J.H. Chase, Deadwood, D.T. - Clothier
Holbrook & Dyer, Worcester, MA - Footwear
S.C. Ingraham, Fairbury, NE - Jeweler
Linderbaum's, San Francisco, CA - Footwear
Holder & Earle, Worcester, MA - Cigar Store
Kesterson Bros., Fairbury, NE - Clothiers

1889 Chicago White Stockings

The Reading Shoe Store Co., Reading, PA - Footwear
Royal Shoes, New Haven, CT - Footwear
Comfort Shoe Store, 1612 Ridge Ave. - Footwear
L & J S. Claus, Englewood - Groceries
Star Clothes, Hutchinson, KS - Clothier
Benson & Rixon's, Chicago, IL - Clothier
Commonwealth Clothing House, Boston, MA - Clothier
Giles & Rudolph, Wilmington, DE - Men's Furnishings & Hatters
Globe Studio, Reading, PA - Photographic Gallery
Grosscup, Bridgeton, NJ - Tailor
Hailman's, Reading, PA - Footwear
W.S. Hill, West Chester, PA - Watchmaker, Jeweler
Jarvis & Co., Joliet, IL - Clothier
Koch & Shankweiler, Allentown, PA - Clothier
Mullin & Loomis, West Chester, PA - Clothier
Somiesky, Pottstown, PA - Photographer
Wm. Stuart, Baltimore, MD - Furniture
J.H. Widmyer, Lancaster, PA - Furniture
Williams & Colville, Trenton, NJ - Furniture
Boyne & Badger, Charlotte, NC - Jewelers
Adolph Hilb, Rochelle's One Price Clothier - Clothier
Plymouth Clothing House, Chicago, IL - Clothier

1887 Detroit Wolverines

Terpany & Rhoades, Marion, OH - Footwear
J. Pfistner Troy, OH - Shoe Dealer
Fred Mason Sacramento, CA - Shirt Factory
I.X.L. Store Santa Barbara, CA - ?
Heilmans Detroit, MI - Footwear
J. Glick, Stockton Jewelry, Detroit, MI - Watchmaker
Central City Clothier, Jackson, MI - Clothier
Hirshheimer Bros., Detroit, MI - Clothier
Lower & Bellinger, Lockport, NJ - Men's Clothier
The New York Show Store Geo. D. Ryder, proprietor - ?
A.S. McDonald, Los Angeles, CA - Footwear
Morgan Bros., Chicago, IL - Ticket Brokers
K.C. Naylor & Co., San Diego, CA - Jeweler
G.H. Turk "The Live Clothier", Pontiac and Oxford MI - Clothier
Hart Bros. & Co., Warren, OH - Clothier

1888 Detroit Wolverines

Henry Winger, Lena, IL - Groceries
Sarman's Silver Moon Cigar, (Call-In Service) - Cigars
Plymouth Rock Pants, Boston, MA - Pants
Jensen & Larson, Clay Center, KS - Furniture, Undertaking
Bakrow & Goodman, Louisville, KY - Cigars
Bay State Clothing, Worcester, MA - Clothier
Central Photographic Gallery, Oshkosh, WI - Photography
J. W. Evans, Warren, IL - Harness, Saddles
Lewis & Edward, Emporia, KS - Tailor
Champion Maker of $3 Pants, Detroit, MI - Pants
Smith, The Shoe Man, 789 Chapel St. - Footwear

1887 St. Louis Browns

The Merchants, 616 Washington Ave. - ?
H.H. Bothe, St. Louis, MO - Vehicles
C.W. Mclean, St. Louis, MO - Guns & Baseball Goods
Schottmueller Exposition Cigar Co., St. Louis, MO - Cigars
Taylor & Taylor, Frankfort, KS - Pharmacy
White Sewing Machine Co., St. Louis, MO - Sewing
O'Brien & Molloy, Troy, NY - Clothiers
The Blue Store, Smith & Humphrey, Burlington, VT. - Clothier & Hatter

1888 St. Louis Browns

London and Paris Misfits Parlors, St. Louis, MO - Factory-seconds

1893 N.L. All-Stars

Arkush's Sample Shoe Store, New York City, NY - Footwear
Frank Foggin, Port Richmond, Staten Island, NY - Footwear
Thomas & Barton, Augusta, GA - Pianos, Organs
Sam Glock, New York Clothier, Port Chester, NY - Clothier
Fruin the Hatter, Brooklyn, NY - Hats

Listed above are a total of 90 baseball currency notes with ads from 21 States and one from the Dakota Territory.

This article was published in the Beckett Vintage Collector April, 2018 issue