Thanks to Jefferson Burdick

Submitted by barefootedsurf… on Thu, 11/25/2021 - 00:00

I am delighted that over Thanksgiving we featured two American cards, so we could celebrate one of the top American card collectors of all time.

I have to admit that I never really knew much about Jefferson Burdick and had never seen one of his catalogues until a few years ago, (in fact I only bought mine a few months ago). He had appeared in magazines, and I suppose I must have noticed those as some things that I now re-read about him seem very familiar.

I am certain that there are readers who don`t yet know of him either, and that is a great shame, for he was one of the most prolific American collectors, not just of cigarette and trade cards, but of all manner of paper goods, and many other things.

He struggled with poor health for much of his life, but the cards brought him much pleasure and, probably more important, distraction. He loved to learn from them and he loved to make sense of them, to catalogue them in a scientific way that ordered them up into rows, and sorted them into sections. It was a natural progression to make his research into booklets, and to sell them, so that others could share his pleasure, and he never cared that he was giving his lifetimes work away for just the cost of a catalogue, for he wanted as many other people as possible to feel his joy, perhaps enough that they would start to collect, to record things he had not yet seen, and would not live long enough to collect in the future. He was not interested in value, only in the stories that they contained, or the start of them, for sometimes just a few words are enough to spiral you out on an eager hunt to find the rest of the knowledge that is not shown on the card, but excitedly hinted at.

He admitted in his American Card Catalog that “A Card Collection is a magic carpet”, and in many extents that is true, for looking at things you love in times of stress does serve a great deal to keep you going. However sometimes even that fails, and he died aged 63, in 1963.

His memorial is not just a gravestone, it is in his works, and it ought to remembered every time you use a T number, or any of his many other classifications. He also left us his cards, which are on display at theMetropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and online. He never married and his collection was the love of his life; though he gave them to the museum, he also gave of himself, moving house to be close to them, and going in and sitting every day in the building, making sure they were catalogued and mounted in a way that would ensure their survival until the end of time. Once all were safe, he said a sad farewell to his cards, and left the museum for the final time, bid goodbye to the staff who would care for his collection from now on, and added “I shan’t be back”. Though the truth is that he lived for two more months, in hospital, a large part of him had almost certainly died with those words.


I hope I have whetted your appetite to find out more about Mr. Burdick. Here are just a few sites to start you off....


And if you still want more, check out where there are many links to follow!