Tuesday, June 5, 2012

N172 Brooklyn Minis

Some of my favorite cards are the 1887 N172 Old Judge Brooklyn Minis.

Goodwin and Company began to issue the largest set of baseball cards ever offered at the time when they began to put cards in their Old Judge cigarette packs in the fall of 1886.  They continued to issue more and more cards including players, managers, umpires, mascots and an owner into 1890.  Many of the cards were the same pose with a team change following trades.  In addition, some players had many different poses and some had just a few.  In total almost 2500 different poses/variations are known with 521 different subjects. 

I'd like to focus on the just the Brooklyn Minis right now though.  There are 48 regular Brooklyn poses known which accounts for 2 full sheets.  So we can assume there can not be more than this amount of minis, however, to date there have been less than half of this number verified.  In fact, Brooklyn Minis are quite rare and desirable to Old Judge collectors. 

What is a Brooklyn Mini anyway?  It is a normal sized Old Judge card with the image of the player cropped smaller and having a much larger border around the image.  To understand how they were created we have to look at the production of the Old Judge cards themselves. 

Goodwin took cabinet photos of the players and cropped them down to a smaller size (still larger than the cards) and placed them in a grid of four rows with six cards in each row.  Then they added a mat (a die-cut board which framed the images) to the grid and placed the name plates, Old Judge banner ads, and copyright lines to the images.  From there, they would take another photo of the entire grid and when they delevoped that photo, they had an uncut sheet of cards.  When you look at a normal 1887 N172 you can see the shadows under the mat that was added to the grid (see image).

How does this relate to Brooklyn Minis?  Well, all Old Judge cards depicted players that were photographed in a studio in front of a background.  However, the photographer taking the Brooklyn photos took the photos outside and, when he did so, he took them from a farther distance away from the player than those taken in studio settings.  So, when Goodwin was preparing the grid for the Brooklyn cards, they decided to crop the photos a little tigher than the rest of the cards so the players would still be the same size on the finished card.  Then they took the photo of the completed grid at a closer distance to create the same size uncut sheet as the non-Brooklyn sheets. 

By doing this, they could create normal looking Brooklyn cards.  The differences were that the Old Judge banner ad and the name plates appeared larger on the Brooklyn cards because they were being photographed from closer than on the other cards.  The copyright line looked about the same because they used a smaller copyright cutout. 

Well this explains how we have normal sized Brooklyn cards in the set.  How did we end up with minis though?  Goodwin didn't always print sheets in just team composites.  They often printed sheets with players from different teams also.  So whenever they printed a sheet that included some Brooklyn players among others, the smaller cropped Brooklyn images ended up being photographed from farther away and ended up smaller on the cards.  Goodwin even added a second mat to gap the space between the smaller image and the larger mat used for the other players.  You can see four Brooklyn Minis in the sheet above as the first four cards in the top row.  Notice the larger borders around the image, the outside backgrounds, the shadows of the second mat around the images and the smaller player size in relation to the other cards on the sheet. 

Hopefully all of this makes sense the way I've written it.  There is a wonderful article written by Jay Miller and Joe Gonsowski about this all in issue #3 of Old Cardboard magazine.  It goes into more detail than I have here and I highly recommend it.

Enjoy the hobby all...it's a super one.

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