Birds

Birds in Art: Cigarette Trading Cards

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Yeah, I know, right? Bird trading cards? Yes, please!

Well, unfortunately these trading cards are no longer available, but thanks to the open access collection at The Met, you can enjoy them here:

Blue Bunting, from the Birds of America series.

Blue Bunting, from the “Birds of America” series (N4), issued in 1888 in a series of 50 cards to promote Allen & Ginter Brand Cigarettes. 1888. Commercial color lithograph.

Allen & Ginter was a tobacco company based in Richmond, Virginia and the first tobacco company to offer trading cards.

These trading cards were hand-painted keepsakes used to help a cigarette pack keep its shape. They were also used for advertising.

I’ll be honest. If a cigarette company was offering hand-painted cards of birds with packs of cigarettes, I might consider buying a pack. I might.

DP828730

Catbird, from the Birds of America series Trade cards from the “Birds of America” series (N4), issued in 1888 in a series of 50 cards to promote Allen & Ginter Brand Cigarettes. 1888. Commercial color lithograph.

Birds weren’t the only images offered by the company. They offered rare DNA trading cards that included hair from historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Crazy, right?

Read more on Wikipedia.

Burdick 201, N4.40

Robin, from the Birds of America series Trade cards from the “Birds of America” series (N4), issued in 1888 in a series of 50 cards to promote Allen & Ginter Brand Cigarettes. 1888. Commercial color lithograph.

So how can one get a hold of one of these trading cards? Ebay, of course! The cards range from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars.

DP828747

Chickadee, from the Birds of America series Trade cards from the “Birds of America” series (N4), issued in 1888 in a series of 50 cards to promote Allen & Ginter Brand Cigarettes. 1888. Commercial color lithograph.

Alternatively, you can just view them through The Met’s open access, for free.

Birds on Cards

Remember when the Northern Cardinal was called a “Cardinal Grosbeak”? Me neither (though I knew it was once called that)! Check out the card below — many birds have had their names adjusted by ornithologists over time.

Burdick 201, N4.47

Cardinal Grosbeak, from the Birds of America series Trade cards from the “Birds of America” series (N4), issued in 1888 in a series of 50 cards to promote Allen & Ginter Brand Cigarettes. 1888. Commercial color lithograph.

In fact, you can read John J. Audubon’s account of it, as a Cardinal Grosbeak, here along with the plate.

Burdick 201, N4.37

Baltimore Oriole, from the Birds of America series Trade cards from the “Birds of America” series (N4), issued in 1888 in a series of 50 cards to promote Allen & Ginter Brand Cigarettes. 1888. Commercial color lithograph.

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