Book Review – C19th U.S.A. Tobacco Index and Handbook9th Feb 2015 by Sam Whiting
Many of you will know that the CSGB recently added a new reference book to the publications list – ‘C19th U.S.A. Tobacco Issues Index and Handbook’. It took 2 years of hard work to compile and so I wanted to take some time to look in a little more detail at Martin Murray’s latest work and give you a quick look at what it contains (aside from the obvious!).
I expect the majority of collectors when thinking about reference works on US cards will have one name in mind – Jefferson Burdick. It is true that he is regarded by many to be the father of the hobby in the USA and for years you will have seen his ‘American Card Catalog’ references given in the World Index (e.g. USA/T3). Despite being the authoritative reference work on USA issues for over 70 years; one issue with Burdick’s guide is that it just gives a list of series, measurements and prices – very few illustrations and no checklists for unnumbered series. Robert Forbes and Terence Mitchell issued an excellent book since that used the ‘N’* and ‘T’ numbers as well as updating the prices and including plenty of full colour illustrations. What Martin’s book offers is a fantastic resource detailing everything we know today about 19 th Century American tobacco cards and in it you will find lists of all unnumbered subjects (ideal for such sets as Kinney’s N224 ‘Military Series’). He has also included all known errors, varieties, banners and posters with every series having at least 1 card illustrated. Indeed, there are hundreds of cards in this book that few of us will have ever seen let alone owned or studied – many of which are illustrated here in full colour. I can’t think, for example, of ever seeing a Whitlock’s (N856) ‘Circus Series’ card or Leidersdorf (N766) ‘Nudes’ anywhere else!
I can appreciate the ask from some collectors for some form of indicative price guide (as Burdick and Forbes and Mitchell offered) but that somewhat misses the point of this book. In sticking with pure reference and steering away from the commercial side of the hobby we are left with an objective guide that I think will stand the test of time. Besides, if we want to know roughly how much we should be paying for something we could do worse than consult Murray’s Guide!
So what is next for Martin? Well, Book 151 is the first of the North American reference books. There will be another book on 19 th C tobacco photographic issues (RB152) as well as a volume dedicated to all remaining North American Tobacco issues (including the ‘T’ numbers) (RB153). I am sure that those of you that have seen this book will be as excited as we are and will join me in wishing Martin the best of luck on the next book.
*As Martin explains in the book – Burdick used ‘N’ to refer to Central and South American issues. As American collectors became so familiar with ‘T’ referring to 2oth Century tobacco, ‘N’ was used by collectors to refer to 19 th Century tobacco.
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