This unique collection of 200 “offenders” – murderers, confidence men, arsonists, pickpockets, etc. – is, in my opinion, the most interesting of all 19th century non-sport sets. Each card has a short biography of a criminal’s activity taken from The National Police Gazette that is displayed opposite to a chromolithographic portrait. The cards are quite fragile due to being printed on thin paper stock that was folded over and inserted into the packaging.
Because the same cards could be redeemed for prizes, they are now rarely found. The third most expensive redemption prize (after a silk umbrella and a clock) was a book showing all 200 criminals as well as 10 police “Defenders”. This is one of the first ‘rogues gallery’ books. Copies sold at auction have sometimes exceeded $1000, although the prices have come down significantly in recent years.
The police portraits in the book are some of the same ones used in the N288 Police & Fire Chiefs set; both sets were issued by D. Buchner & Co. of New York City with their “One Of The Finest” tobacco. In the late-1930’s, when these cards were first catalogued by Jefferson Burdick, he assigned them a value of seventy-five cents each, making N283’s some of the most highly-valued tobacco cards in his American Card Catalog.
The thumbnails below show the 2 different N283 backs (one with a list of prizes, one without), N283 ‘offenders’ cards, and several pages from an A70 album. Click on any thumbnail to see the full image. If you can provide scans of other N283’s or if you have one for sale, please contact me.