“I’ll trade ‘ya three Justin Dimick cards for your Robert E. Lee.”
You just might be hearing kids proposing this barter following the National Park Service’s release of its collection of Civil War Trading Cards. The 189 cards in the series feature prominent soldiers and politicians from the Civil War along with major historical events and landmarks. Just like on the backs of baseball cards, the Civil War versions include vital stats (e.g., birth dates) and fun facts. The cards are intended for youngsters to get them excited about Civil War history, and I love the idea. Of course, I’m a history buff and baseball card collector, so this is the best thing since Reese’s combined peanut butter and chocolate.
I first came across the trading cards last week on Georges Island at the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area. Since it’s home to Fort Warren, which was used to house Confederate POWs and New England’s most historic Civil War landmark, the location was a natural. The cards at Fort Warren included Justin Dimick, the commander of the fort; Sgt. John Brown, the true namesake of the song “John Brown’s Body”; Alexander Stephens, the Confederate vice president imprisoned at the fort; and the Trent Affair. In the Boston area you can also find the cards at the Boston African-American National Historic Site, Boston National Historical Park, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and Lowell National Historical Park. The cards are free, and kids who are collecting them can get a free backpack to hold their cards.
In total, the cards are available at 22 different locations across the country. If you can’t get to every site, well, do what trading card collectors always seem to do, head to eBay. (Yes, the Civil War cards have already started to pop up on eBay. Let the bidding commence!) OK, so I’m sure the 2011 Benjamin Butler card won’t rival the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card or the T206 Honus Wagner, but kids, make sure you don’t stick the cards in your bicycle spokes and watch out that your mom doesn’t throw away your shoebox of Civil War trading cards. You never know what they might be worth someday.