Henry Beecher was one of the first football players in America, captain of the Yale football team during the late 1880’s. Around the same time, Goodwin & Company began producing sports cards as inserts to their tobacco products. The only football card in the 50-card set, the 1888 N162 Goodwins Champions Henry Beecher, is the first football card ever printed in America. As one of the most important pieces of sports memorabilia, the N162 Beecher remains one of the most sought after and valuable cards on the market.
The 1888 N162 Beecher card is well over a century old now, and, as a result, very few cards, let alone those at high examples, exist. There is not a consensus answer as to how many exist, but it is generally accepted that the number is around or below 60. As one of both the rarest and most desirable football cards, the N162 Beecher can be a very safe, intelligent investment. As with all vintage football cards, condition of the card is everything. There are very few high grade examples, which are far more scarce and valuable. A PSA 8 (near mint-mint) sold at auction at for over $11,000 in 2004, but lower grade examples (below PSA 5) routinely sell for less than $5,000.
Lower grade examples represent less of a potential risk and reward. The prices for each card at its specific grade usually remain stable. Over time, the cards will generally increase in value as the general public and investors realize the importance of the Beecher card. Higher grade examples, which are far scarcer, present much more of a risk, but also allow for large profits. These cards are usually sold exclusively at auction, which is the riskiest aspect of the investment. If there are several desperate collectors in the audience, the price will probably exceed expectations, leaving the previous owner with a serious profit. However, if very few collectors are bidding, the card will probably return much less than one would have paid to acquire it.
The Goodwin Champions cards were included in packages of Old Judge and Gypsy Queen cigarettes in 1888. They measure about 1 1/2″ by 2 5/8″ and the baseball cards in the set are extremely desirable as well. The backs of the cards list the subjects in the set and their respective athletic fields. The Goodwin’s Champions Harry Beecher card stands out for its historic value and is worthy of any collection.