Saturday, January 6, 2018

1946-49 W603 Sports Exchange Baseball series #5, Charlie Grimm and Billy Southworth

Back at the end of WWII, the closure of wartime industry meant the return of resources key to the making of baseball cards: paper for cards and plastic for gum. While the better-known Bowman and Topps didn't issue baseball sets until 1948, an interesting publisher tried their hand at war's end, on the strength of returning servicemen and America's boom for baseball: The Sports Exchange of Youngstown, Ohio.

This little-seen hobbyist newsletter, The Trading Post, featured articles similar to what you still see in modern publications, with allowance that almost all research and writing came from enthusiasts, not baseball professionals or sports critics. Here's a testimonial of sorts from the above issue, written by a cousin of HOF slugger Ralph Kiner.

Issues of The Trading Post are a collectible in their own right today and I plucked those scans from this 2014 auction. When hobbyists talks about "Sports Exchange" cards, however, they mean the photo packs sold to subscribers from 1946-49 and catalogued W603.

These Sports Exchange packs cost 50 cents and arrived in manilla envelopes. Their notepad-like, looseleaf pages used photos from International News, a major supplier of photos of all kinds. (The Sports Collectors Daily wrote this guide to identifying their work and that of other news agencies.) Many seen today include handwritten notes in the blank Facts and Figures footer.

Scan from Dave's Vintage Cards, as the watermark says

"Set Number 5" contains eight MLB managers of the time, each numbered as such on the lower-left corner.

  • Eddie Dyer
  • Charlie Grimm
  • Billy Herman
  • Ted Lyons
  • Lefty O'Doul
  • Steve O'Neill
  • Herb Pennock
  • Luke Sewell
  • Billy Southworth

The Veterans Committee inducted Billy Southworth in 2008, raising his profile among Hall of Fame collectors. I stand ready to accept your high-dollar offers for this hard-to-find collectible! :-)

Bought this on eBay for $10

The Sports Exchange printed 13 different photo packs between 1946 and 1949, with varying players and teams. Old Cardboard hosts a nice checklist of them all.

Some issues of The Trading Post came with a flyer hawking 36-player sheets of smaller, card-sized photos inside colored borders that buyers could cut out by hand. Due to these sets' relative size, they're catalogued as W602 Sport Exchange Miniatures (2.5" x 3").

Available for $10K OBO!

While both Sports Exchange set checklists include many great players, these pre-Bowman, pre-RC Stan Musial and Warren Spahn shots stand out as collector keys.

Spahn's wearing an early 1940s Braves uniform from his stint in Boston before spending 1943-45 in the service. By his 1946 return, they switched to block-letter BOSTON jerseys.

TRIVIA: The Old Cardboard mislabeled cards checklist notes that W602's photo of Ted Williams is, in fact, Bobby Doerr.

Value: Billy Southworth cost me $10 on eBay, as would many lesser-known players in VG-EX condition. Thanks to this set's scarcity, expect the bigger names in decent condition to cost bigger dollars.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace. Cards use thin paper stock and low-quality photo reproduction, so be wary of counterfeit stars offered for cheap prices. They'd be easy to fake if you set your mind to it.


Brett Alan said...

Those cards are amazing, but what really blows my mind is that there was a hobby publication in 1948! I wonder whatever happened to those incredible autographs Larry Kiner had.

Matthew Glidden said...

Hi Brett, no doubt! Can barely imagine what a cabinet full of those would be like.

Fuji said...

Great history lesson. I had never heard of any of these cards or the newsletter before. Very cool.