Good, lord. It’s President’s Day, isn’t it? Here in the U.S., it’s the day where banks and post offices close down in order to honor our former Commanders-in-Chief. Celebrated on the third Monday of February each year, it is specifically a holiday to celebrate the birth of the United States’ very first top dog, George Washington (who was born on February 22nd, 1732—damn, he’s old). To some degree, it is also a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, who was born February 12th, 1809—damn, he’s old, too). Don’t think for one second that the trading card industry isn’t doing its part to help celebrate, too. And, ya know, make a few Washingtons and Lincolns while they’re at it. Here are five presidential cards they produced over the years that you need to know.
1932 U.S. Caramel Presidents William McKinley #24 Short Print
McKinley, a Republican, was the last President to serve in the Civil War. He defeated the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, and represented the beginning of a Republican stronghold and way of life in America. The US was victorious in the Spanish-American War under his leadership. McKinley was shot just six months into his second term and died eight days later. He was succeeded by his Vice President, Teddy Roosevelt.
In 1932, the US Caramel Company included these cards with their candy. Each card included an offer on the back in which a full set of their Presidents cards could be redeemed for a free box of chocolate (try reading that without hearing Forrest Gump in your head). The McKinley card was purposely short printed by the company in order to keep kids chasing—gee, where have I seen that tactic used before? Unfortunately, the company would stamp the word “CANCELLED” on, and hole punch, each card that was redeemed. This makes the unredeemed McKinley short print one of the hardest-to-find and most valuable President cards of all time.
1952 Bowman U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower #36
Ike, a Five Star General and Supreme Commander, served as the 34th POTUS (elected officially in November 1952). The Republican easily defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson in both the 1952 election and the 1956 election, winning his first Presidency with 442 electoral votes to Stevenson’s 89. It was Eisenhower who helped launch NASA in response to Russia’s space program.
Bowman produced its U.S. Presidents set in 1952 and featured each president from Washington to that year’s President-Elect Dwight D. Eisenhower. Two additional cards highlighting the first Presidency and the Declaration of Independence round out the set. The cards were so popular that Topps republished the set in 1956 after adding Bowman to their portfolio. What was essentially Eisenhower’s rookie card was highly sought after at the time due to his popularity.
1972 Topps U.S. Presidents – Candidates Shirley Chisholm #37
Okay, okay. She’s not a President, but her card in this Presidents set is very important. Shirley Chisholm holds the high distinction of being the first black female elected to Congress. She was also the first ever black candidate for any major party’s nomination for U.S. President, and the first woman to run for President as a Democrat. South Dakota Senator George McGovern would eventually win the party’s nomination only to be absolutely crushed by Richard Nixon in the Presidential election.
The 1972 Presidents set is an interesting one in that, barring a few additions, it is essentially a complete recreation of the 1956 set which itself was a reproduction of Bowman’s 1952 set. Topps did update the set with Presidents who served after Eisenhower (including 1972 winner Richard Nixon). They also offered a subset at the back end of the checklist highlighting candidates for President from that year. Chisholm’s historic distinctions make her card a standout in a set that, for the most part, had already been released twice before.
1869 W50 L. Prang & Co. Presidents & Wives – Abraham Lincoln
This may, in fact, be one of the oldest U.S. President trading cards in existence. In fact, they were never meant to be trading cards. They were instead lithographs produced by L. Prang & Co., a company run by publisher and lithographer Louis Prang (father of the American Christmas card). More often than not, when you find one of the 1869 W50s, you’ve actually found a replica, or worse, a forgery. The pop list on these cards is extremely sparse with only TWO copies of the Lincoln registered with PSA. Only six cards were produced by Prang for this set. It is not known how many copies of each were made, let alone how many originals still exist. The card backs are blank.
Not much needs to be said about Honest Abe. He helped lead the Union to victory in the Civil War and abolished slavery. He was also assassinated in 1865. His historic Presidency and popularity among many Americans have made this lithograph card one of the most legendary non-sports cards you’ve probably never heard of. Collected purely as art pieces, these prints were collectibles before the term “trading cards” or even “tobacco cards” were widely regarded—or even a thing, really.
2007 Topps Allen & Ginter’s – George Washington
George Washington was elected in 1789 as the first President of the United States and is often referred to as the father of our country. Washington served two terms as President, but refused to run for a third. He died in 1799. Some believe his death was caused by the bloodletting that Washington requested to relieve his ailment at the time.
In 2006, Topps released their inaugural edition of Allen & Ginter’s, a throwback to Allen & Ginter tobacco cards from the late 1800s. Cashing in on its instant popularity, Topps raised the stakes by including a very rare “DNA Relic” card—a strand of hair from none other than George Washington. This 1/1 is not only incredibly rare, but it may be the most interesting and unique President card ever produced. I would guess that you’d be more likely to win the lottery and get struck by lightning at the exact same time than you would to ever own this card—which you MIGHT be able to do if you won the lottery.
So, there you have it! What other Presidential cards do YOU think we need to know about? Do you own any of the cards listed above? Are you planning on winning the lottery in a thunderstorm? Leave a comment and let us know!