Indian Gum is one of the most widely-collected and important card sets within the hobby. It is valued not only because of its age, but also its scarcity, its variety, and its colorful artwork. Also, its subject matter of Native Americans and related frontier characters boosts its popularity with collectors.
The thing is, this is a terribly large and confusingly distributed set. Although there are officially 216 numbered cards, there are actually only 192 different images. The 10 different series reprinted the same initial outing, but with additional images in some, as well as differing back matter. There were also skipped numbers in some of the sets. Oh, and there was an additional reprint set issued in 1947. Oy!
Let's examine the set a bit at a time. First, the basics: The card fronts represent a particular character, usually a Native American warrior or chief (but also including such personages as General Custer and Daniel Boone), in colored artwork surrounded by a white border. The person's name sits in black type within the image, while the set title is in a colored band along the bottom. The card backs give the card number, the title or character name, followed by a small paragraph of text. Below this is a dividing line and an ad for the entire series of cards, which begins 'This is one of a series of xx cards....'
The first series, the so-called Series of Twenty-Four, indeed had only 24 cards. The front card set title was placed within a red band. The backs have text in green ink, with the ad, 'This is one of a series of twenty-four cards of Indian life in the early nineteenth century.' American Card Catalog designation R73-1.
The second series, the Series of Forty-Eight (Blue Stripe), despite its name was simply a contination of the first series, with numbering of #25 to #48. The card set title on the front was in a blue band. Ad matter states, 'This is one of a series of forty-eight cards. More cards illustrating romantic America to follow.' It is speculated that this series was released soon after the first series's initial success. The ACC designation is R73-2.
The third series, also called the Series of Forty-Eight (Red Stripe), is a bit confusing because it actually contained two series of 48 cards each, numbered #1-48 and #110-209 (the discrepancy in the second series due to many numbers being skipped). Despite the differing numbers, the card images in the first set are basically duplicated in the second. The set title is in a red band on the card front, while the backs repeat the back matter of the previous: ''This is one of a series of forty-eight cards. More cards illustrating romantic America to follow.' ACC designation R73-3.
The fourth series was called the Series of Ninety-Six. This series appears to have been issued in three stages, and is the most commonly found. The set title is in a red band, and the back matter repeats the ad line of the previous two series. This series actually contains 72 cards, despite the title. ACC designation R73-4.
The fifth series, the so-called Series of 192, actually contains only 48 skip-numbered cards. ACC #R73-5.
The sixth series, the Series of 216, acually contains a total of 24 cards, skip-numbered between #76 and #163. ACC #R73-6.
The seventh series, the Series of 264, contains 24 cards, skip-numbered between #92 and #210. ACC #R73-7.
The eigth series, the Series of 288, featured 48 cards, skip-numbered between #110 and #209. This series, which almost certainly came toward the end of the mania for Indian Gum cards, is terrifically difficult to complete. In fact, the cards in this series are some of the most difficult to find within the hobby of vintage trading card collecting. The backs contain the ad matter, 'This is one of a series of 288 cards of Indian life in the early nineteenth century.'
The ninth and tenth series are similar in that they both contain the text 'one of a series of 312' on the back. The 9th series is generally referred to as the White Background series, as it features 24 skip-numbered cards that are very similar to the same numbers from the Seris of 48, except for the different ad matter on the back, and the fact that the portraits on the card fronts are set against a white background. The 10th series is referred to as the 'Scenes' series, because rather than showing static portraits of persons, it shows adventurous scenes as 'Fight at the Army Post' and 'Custer's Last Stand.' Note that the card stock used on the 9th and 10th series is rather poor, and tends to show age discoloring and wear very easily. Thus, high-grade examples are very difficult to find and are enormously expensive. The ACC numbers for these series are R73-8 and R73-9.
In addition, there was a set of Indian Gum cards released in 1947 which reprinted 96 of the previous decade's cards. These are easily distinguished from the older sets by the fact that the card backs are printed in black ink. They are, naturally, more easily found and thus far less expensive than the 1930's releases. Its ACC # is R773.
Giving a value to each of these card series, much less individual cards, is beyond the scope of this website. Suffice it to say that this is very much a valued set with hardcore vintage card collectors, and those wishing to purchase even mid-grade individual cards must be ready to pay handsomely. But this set's popularity over some 80 years attests to its long-term value.