Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1928 Ice Cream & Candy Baseball (F50, W502) #5, Gabby Hartnett

Today's post gets a catch-all "ice cream" title because several mid-Atlantic food makers shared the same design for these 60-player promotional sets distributed with ice cream or candy products. They were probably big news for kids in those days, given the great "ice cream + baseball" combo--I would've been over the moon for them)--but the ho-hum design underwhelms as a collectable. Set photos might be reused newspaper or team program photos cheaply acquired, leading to a visual hodge-podge.

W502 card front in SGC holder

Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett got #5 in this full-length warm-up shot. Even to a vintage collector's eye, these hazy photos on white stock resemble photocopies in real life. Unfortunately, set rarity also means reprints and fakes exist--it's hard to separate the real from the chaff and few collectors attempt to build complete, authentic sets without sticking to graded cards.

Card back with game text

Each of the involved food companies customized their card backs with promotional info, a brief player bio, or trade-in contests that encouraged kids to swap Babe Ruth or complete sets for ice cream. I profiled TCMA's reprint of one such set in 2010.

1972 TCMA Tharp's Ice Cream reprint (back)

It's not clear if kids kept their cards after getting free ice cream, but I suspect not; companies might've recirculated redeemed cards to save on further printing costs.

Here's a list of companies known to use this front design with varying backs, followed by catalog number. (Links go to their Old Cardboard set profiles, which include checklist and back variations.)

The "Game Backs" include simple baseball situations like "ONE BAGGER" above. With enough cards, I assume kids could flip their way through 9 innings a la 1951 Topps Red Backs and Blue Backs or the 1978 Topps game.

It's hard for me (or collectors in general) to get excited about crude black-and-white sets when soon-to-follow 1930s Goudey cards look so great.

1933 Goudey #202, Gabby Hartnett

Yeah, that's better. A lot better.

UPDATE: Here's the rarely-seen Babe Ruth card, scarce thanks to the ice cream bar trade-in offer.

UPDATE #2: Here's a #5 back with Yuengling's ice cream offer, Babe Ruth for a bar or the whole set for a gallon.

Value: This graded #5 cost me $40 on eBay. Sellers want to believe singles are worth hundreds of dollars, but dozens of dollars is more likely. Bigger superstars legitimately run $100 and up, with Ruth cards netting $1000s.

Fakes / reprints: Reprints and fakes exist, so buy from reputable dealers if you're looking for a type card and aren't familiar with the sets themselves.

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