Allen & Ginter

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Allen & Ginter
FateMerged to other companies to form American Tobacco Co.
FounderJohn Allen, Lewis Ginter
Defunct1890; 129 years ago (1890) [1]
HeadquartersRichmond, Virginia,
  • Dandies
  • Little Beauties
  • Perfection
  • Richmond Gems
  • Virginia Brights

Allen and Ginter was a Richmond, Virginia, tobacco manufacturing company formed by John Allen and Lewis Ginter in 1865. Allen & Ginter created and marketed the first cigarette cards for collecting and trading in the United States. Some of the notable cards in the series include baseball players Charles Comiskey, Cap Anson, and Jack Glasscock, as well as non-athletes like Buffalo Bill Cody.

The company merged with four other tobacco manufacturers to form the American Tobacco Company in 1890.[1] Since 2006, a revived version of the brand has been issued by Topps for a line of baseball cards.[2]


Tobacco manufacturing[edit]

Engraving of the Allen & Ginter warehouses in Richmond, Virginia, from an 1886 promotional book
Virginia Brights cigarette box by Allen & Ginter, c. 1888

The firm of Allen & Ginter was founded in 1865.[3] In 1882 Allen retired, leaving Ginter, who retained the firm name despite taking on one John Pope as new partner.[3] The first tobacco company to employ female labor, by 1886 they had 1,100 employees, predominantly girls, who rolled the cigarettes.[3]

The company offered a prize for the invention of a machine able to roll cigarettes (which until then had been hand-rolled). James Albert Bonsack won this prize with his 1880/81 invention. Because it was not completely reliable, all but one of the large tobacco manufacturers declined to buy the machine. James Buchanan Duke did buy this cigarette rolling machine in 1885 and used it to great success; by 1890 he had consolidated his four major competitors, including Allen & Ginter, and formed the American Tobacco Company.[4] The "Allen & Ginter Company" was no more, but Lewis Ginter sat on the board of the American Tobacco Company.

The cigarette brands of Allen & Ginter included Richmond Gems, Virginia Brights, Perfection, Dandies and Little Beauties.

In 1890, Allen & Ginter, along with other companies of the United States (W. Duke & Sons, W.S. Kimball & Company, Kinney Tobacco, and Goodwin & Company) formed the American Tobacco Company, in an attempt to compete against British tobacco companies.[1]

Collectible cards[edit]

In late 1880s, Allen & Ginter began to release cigarette card sets as promotional items for its cigarette brands. Most part of the collection consisting of illustrated cards with a few collections of photographs. Topics varied from birds and wild animals to American Indian chiefs or flags of the world. Allen & Ginter's baseball cards were the first of the tobacco era baseball cards ever produced for distribution on a national level.[5] The most popular and highly sought after of these sets is the N28 and N29 "World's Champions" series, released in 1887.[2]

Modern era[edit]

Allen & Ginter (brand)
Allen Ginter brand logo.png
Product typeTrading cards
CountryUnited States
Introduced2006; 13 years ago (2006)
Related brandsTopps
WebsiteAllen & Ginter collection

In 2006, Topps, a leading producer of confectionery and trading cards, resurrected the Allen & Ginter brand name to produce a series of illustrated trading cards, mostly focused on baseball sets. Nevertheless, the first couple of years of the product's inception saw the inclusion of several other sports figures such as Jennie Finch (softball), Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm (soccer), Hulk Hogan (wrestling), Danica Patrick (auto racing), Leon Spinks (boxing), Randy Couture (mixed martial arts), Misty May-Treanor (beach volleyball) and Dennis Rodman (basketball).[2]

Allen & Ginter cards began to feature hand-painted cards of current baseball players as well as various insert sets featuring standout athletes in other sports, pop culture icons, and historical figures ranging from Wee-Man to Davy Crockett and everything in between.

Non-sports trading cards issued by Topps included personalities such as Robert E. Lee, Thomas Edison, Billy the Kid and Andrew Carnegie, Davy Crockett, among others.[2]

From 2006 to 2009, artist Dick Perez was commissioned to hand paint special one of one insert cards in the style of Allen & Ginter. Perez created 30 art cards each of those years featuring the prominent stars of the game.[6]

As of 2012 the Allen & Ginter series remains one of Topps' most popular, highest selling brands in their product lineup.

The best known of the Allen & Ginter insert sets however, are the DNA Hair Relic cards. These highly lauded cards feature strands of hair from famous historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, King George III, George Washington and many others.[7]

Trading cards series[edit]

There were various cigarette card sets released as promotional items for these products. The most popular and highly sought after of these sets is the N28 and N29 "World's Champions" series, released in 1887.[2]

Some of the series released were (all illustrations, except where noted):

  • A25: World's Inventors
  • N1: American Editors
  • N2: American Indian Chiefs
  • N3: Arms of All Nations
  • N4: Birds of America
  • N5: Birds of the Tropics
  • N6: City Flags
  • N8: American Waters
  • N9: Flags of All Nations
  • N10: Flags of All Nations 2
  • N11: Flags of the States and Territories
  • N12: Fruits
  • N13: Game birds
  • N14: General Government and State Capitol Buildings
  • N15: Great Generals
  • N16: Natives in Costumes
  • N17: Naval Flags
  • N18: Parasol Drills
  • N19: Pirates of the Spanish
  • N22: Racing Colors of the World
  • N23: Song Birds of the World
  • N24: Types of All Nations
  • N25: Wild Animals of the World
  • N26: World's Beauties [note 1]
  • N27: World's Beauties 2 [note 1]
  • N28: World's Champions
  • N29: World's Champions 2
  • N30: World's Decorations
  • N31: World's Dudes
  • N32: World's Racers
  • N33: World's Smokers
  • N34: World's Sovereigns
  • N35: American Editors 2
  • N36: American Indian Chiefs 2
  • N37: Birds of America 2
  • N38: Birds of the Tropics 2
  • N40: Game Birds
  • N42: Song Birds of the World
  • N43: World's Champions 2
  • N45: Actors and Actresses [note 1]
  • N46: Cigarette Making Girls
  • N47: Dogs 1
  • N48: Girl Baseball Players [note 1]
  • N49: Girl Cyclists [note 1]
  • N57: Actresses [note 1]
  • N58: Girls and Children [note 2]
  • N59: Girls [note 1]
  • N60: Actresses and Celebrities [note 1]
  • N64: Girls and Children [note 3]
  • N65: Girls and Children [note 4]
  • N67: Actresses 2 [note 1]
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Photographic cards.
  2. ^ For Our Litte Beauties cigarettes.
  3. ^ For Virginia Brights cigarettes.
  4. ^ For Richmond cigarettes.
Cigarette cards gallery

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Sobel The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition (Weybright & Talley 1974), chapter 5, James Buchanan Duke: Opportunism Is the Spur ISBN 0-679-40064-8.


  1. ^ a b c Porter, Patrick G. (1969). Origins of the American Tobacco Company (1 ed.). President and Fellows of Harvard College. p. 59. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e 1887 N28 Allen & Ginter Baseball Cards on The Cardboard Connection
  3. ^ a b c Wood, James P. (1886). The Industries of Richmond: Her Trade, Commerce, Manufactures and Representative Establishments. Richmond, Virginia: The Metropolitan Publishing Co. pp. 59–60.
  4. ^ Pritcher, Lynn. "More About Tobacco Advertising and the Tobacco Collections." Duke University Libraries. 24 January 2008. 10 April 2008.
  5. ^ Allen & Ginter Tobacco Cards (Archive, 27 Jul 2009)
  6. ^ "2006 Allen & Ginter Dick Perez Original Sketches".[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2012-05-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]