Friday, January 10, 2020

1920-21 W516-1-2 Baseball Strip Cards #5, Tris Speaker

Over the last several years, I profiled W516 strip cards a few different ways, links provided at end of post. I think W516s deserve repeated treatment due to its star power, endless DIY trimming variations, and affordability in low grades. Tris Speaker proves a prime example, as a guy valued $100+ for most low-grade "playing days" cards, while my own #5 types cost $30 each.

W516-1-2 #5
...and yet, one type variation, the rouge-cheeked example above, remains out of reach. I hypothesize why later in the post.

What our hobby catalogues as W516-1-2 and W516-2-2 shows Tris Speaker flipped right-to-left, while its text reads left-to-right. Compare W516-1-2's "IFC ©" at lower-right to W516-2-2, where Tris became #6, half-visible on this card due to poor printing. Expert collector opinions vary about the reversed image. Did its editors plan to create temporary tattoos, printed in reverse, before falling back to "normal" strip cards?

W516-2-2 #6, "Cleveland Outfield" at top due to miscut

Like W516-1-2, W516-2-2 Speaker cards use hand-written text in the same style as its "IFC ©." I assume non-flipped cards with script represent our "original source" that its maker later decided to reverse for a second print run, whether by accident or intent.

W516-1-1 (aka W516-1)

This 1920 W516 used an out-of-date original photo, with RED SOX left-to-right on his chest, four years after Speaker moved from Boston to Cleveland in 1916. Other contemporary sets, like the oversized 1921 Exhibit below, got a current CLEVELAND photo. (W516 calls him "outfield" and Exhibit says "manager," because Tris served as player-manager from 1919-26.)


Indeed, Tris Speaker (Cleveland, 1919-26) intertwined with Ty Cobb (Detroit, 1921-26) as both American League player-managers and unexpected W516 "number-mates."

To finish my hunt for every W516 #5, I need two Tris Speakers and three Ty Cobbs, as they do-si-do numbers #5 and #6 across five catalogued set variations. Check out four of those Cobbs, two each script and typeset names.


Why all the flipping and flopping? Some strip card printers also created wet ink transfers, a.k.a. temporary tattoos. Prewarcards wrote about Decalco Litographic Company of Hoboken, NJ, whose name appears on edges of strip cards like W519 & W521 Rube Marquard.


Our "flipped" Marquard would fit right in with this Topps Baseball Photo Tatoo (sic) set and its wet-transfer ink, DIY steps shown below the wrapper's title panel.


Topps revived this tatoo/tattoo format every decade or so and 1971 Frank Robinson would look at home in those 1920s strip card sets.
1971 Topps Tattoos, Frank Robinson + on-field action

So what does that get us today? Up til now, every W516 Cobb and Speaker cost me under $50, due to limited design appeal and poor condition. As a prewar buyer, I want that price ceiling to continue forever. Why not? A past dealer (trying to be a heckling jerk) told me I was the "kind of guy who wanted to collect crap and wanted to pay crap." I mean, yes, of course. Guilty!

Jerks aside, let's return to our W516-1-2, the crouching, photo-reversed, handwritten, player-manager Tris Speaker.


These rosy cheeks put "pay crap for crap" to the test, because our modern market lacks this card in any meaningful quantity. As of writing, I found just one reversed-and-handwritten W516-1-2 for sale on eBay, for $799, claiming to be SCG's top graded example. A price I've paid for Ruth and Wagner and no one else.


On the upside, PSA's population report shows six total graded W516-1-2 #5s, five Authentic and one PSA 4. Perhaps my lack of success finding this Speaker says more about a shift in our hobby. Ten years ago, a good deal of W516s at card shows sat ungraded and disregarded in oddball binders. Few people understood how to classify and price W516's many differences. That malaise helped me buy types at wallet-friendly prices.

As 2009 became 2019, raw cards migrated to slabs in growing numbers, vacuuming up many former bargains. Now a $30-50 card aspires to higher heights. Am I interested? Not in that context, even with a lottery win. Consider me glad my binder contains a few already!

1920-21 W516 Speakers

Past W516 set profiles, if you want to compare insight progress. There must be more to know out there.

Value: Over the last decade, I paid $30-50 for my #5 stars. Based on eBay listings, some dealers want a lot more for them these days. Let me know if you defy those odds and pull a strip card bargain!

Fakes / reprints: Reprints and counterfeits exist for many W516 stars, including Ruth and Cobb, so be skeptical of any too-good-to-be-true deals. Seek out experienced prewar sellers if you want an ungraded (and thus cheaper) star from this set.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

1924 Crescent Ice Cream's "Hanbury Sawmill" Baseball Club #5, John Daniels

This post features one of the rarest types a prewar collector could pursue, as made and distributed by Canadian dairy brand Crescent Ice Cream. Finding singles in the modern market for a foreign, prewar, minor league issue starts with at least two strikes against you. As of writing, I've never held its cards in person, just seen scans online.


Each of this set's 14 cards features a simple medallion design and #1 leads with their mascot, youngster Jack Lester. (Most "mascots" from early baseball meant a kid or dog the team treated as a good luck charm; our modern uniformed entertainers came later.) Cards #2-14 show players like Captain Daniels.

Scan from Old Cardboard's near-set gallery

Card backs summarize this set and Hanbury's recent successes. Who doesn't want to lead in both baseball and ice cream?


The Terminal City League featured dozens of amateur teams from British Columbia's local fishing, lumber, and public industries. Many drew their rosters from specific companies like Hanbury Sawmill and played small-park summer ball.

A feature on Asahi, one of British Columbia's Japanese teams, explains in brief how Terminal City League operated and why WWII forced players of Asian heritage to abandon league play.

Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family, Nikkei National Museum

Team sponsor J. Hanbury Co. operated its sawmill in Vancouver, British Columbia, and this 1950s photo shows surrounding infrastructure a few decades after that 1924 Crescent baseball set.

City of Vancouver archives, circa 1953

This picture shows the kind of investment in trains and public works lumber required to reach its customers. Zoom in for photo details like three "Spear & Jackson Saws" buildings and a looming Hotel Vancouver at distant right. Though it no longer dominates Vancouver's skyline, the five-star hotel remains an impressive edifice.


Crescent also printed hockey issues from this era featuring the Selkirk Fisherman, one of Canada's oldest junior league teams. Check out Anson Whaley's writeup for more on those sets. This gallery shows most cards from 1924-25.

1924-25 Crescent Ice Cream Selkirk Hockey #5, William Roberts

Crescent's 1924-25 Selkirk set resembles a Selkirk subset from the contemporaneous 70-card Canadian issue catalogued as 1924-26 Paulin Chambers (V128-1), down to photo reuse.

1924-26 Paulin Chambers #6, William Roberts

Paulin Chambers, a Winnipeg candy company, used this touched-up version of William's photo, cropped above his sweet Fishermen logo.

1920s Selkirk Fishermen Jersey

Paulin Chambers and Crescent both offered "complete set exchange" promotions for their confections from day one. Later sets added redemption for a hockey stick. They each short-printed at least one card number to minimize complete sets (and thus, prizes given away).

Crescent: Ice Cream for complete set
Paulin: Chocolate or hockey stick for complete set

Several baseball sets popped up in Canada during the 1920s, featuring players from many levels of competition. Pre-War Cards provides a list and commentary, including Goudey's well-known partnership with Ontario-based World Wide Gum.

This relative boom in 1920s sets from north of the border reflected radio's growing impact, bringing MLB games to the ears of Canadian fans within broadcast distance of USA cities. More listeners meant more ways to advertise products and more advertising meant more reasons to print baseball cards.

1922 Neilson's (V61) echoing American Caramel (E120)

Few 1920s Canadian card-makers broke new ground in design. Some, like 1922 Neilson's Chocolate above, just copied a stateside look to capitalize on baseball excitement without spending more money than needed.

Crescent's 1924 medallion-style baseball cards do resemble 1920 Peggy Popcorn, itself a Winnipeg-based company that also offered redemption prizes for complete sets.

1920 Peggy Popcorn #1, Joe Dugan

All said, Canada's unifying 1920s baseball theme appears to be prize-swapping and that spirit carries on in modern pack redemptions. At least 21st-century collectors know they face long odds to pull something as cool as a hockey stick was to kids in those days.

Value: While few Crescent baseball cards exist in the hobby, a smattering of modern sales help estimate cost. Hake's auctioned a near set (13/14) for $462 in 2012 and several low-grade singles sold on eBay in 2019 for $50-200 each. With so few available for purchase, prices fluctuate based on the handful of collectors seeking specific cards. I expect to pay $50-100 for #5, if one appears.

Fake / reprints: On one hand, simple design and layout leaves this set open to counterfeits. On the other, with no stars and few aware of its existence, it'll be hard to fool its niche collectors with fakes and none exist in the marketplace to my knowledge.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pepsi's Junior Mariners and the Deadly Ramps of the Kingdome

The Kingdome! It lived, it died, I kissed many Seattle Mariners ticket stubs goodbye.


As a young transplant to Washington state in 1979, I took to local baseball from day one, joining Pepsi's Jr. Mariners fan club and enjoying sweet swag like this iron-on patch. (Image not mine, though I owned one or two back then.)


Seattle charged $3 to join those Jr. Mariners in the early 80s, a tough-to-beat deal for bleacher seats at seven MLB games. While the M's no doubt expected parents to drive kids to games and increase their overall take, those adult seats cost just $2.50, not a big payout.


As promised, I got to be that kid, snapping an outfield photo with Mariner All-Star Bruce Bochte. Dreams come true!

Excited to be a Jr. Mariner, circa 1980

Attending several games each year made me familiar with the Kingdome's sinuous concrete ramps and exterior peccadilloes. This oversized (if distant) 1990s Griffey, Jr. poster shows what popped up around the stadium entries during baseball season. When placed well, fans climbing to upper levels saw them from close, far, and in-between.

Griffey, Jr. ramp poster, © Pete Hanson, June 27, 1999

Any posters and art stood out because Kingdome ramp designers did little to pep up their gray and featureless concourses. Each incline looked like the next, blending level-to-level upwards into Seattle's often dingy cloud cover.

One expects little from stadium concourses beyond conveyance, so this 1983 piece hints at a larger, unwelcome "design problem" -- easy access off Kingdome ramp edges into open space.

Spokane Spokesman-Review, Feb 19, 1983

You read that right, three fatal ramp falls in just sixteen months. In those days, Kingdome exterior ramp railings rose to about adult chest level, ran a flat foot wide, and then...air. No trouble at all to see a drunk dude try to impress himself by tightrope-walking, with a hard six-to-twelve stories down if you bungle it.

Ramps presented another problem beyond beers and bravado: almost everyone trudged up the whole thing, fit or not.

Spokane Daily Chronicle, Dec 8, 1978

"There are a hell of a lot of steps and it's a long way up to the top, no doubt about it." That could quote anyone with seats in the Kingdome's 300 level, no pulmonary degree required. As an excited kiddo, I skipped up that first ramp. By its top level, some counted any remaining steps in gasps.


When you visit modern ballparks with bank after bank of escalators helping fans connect floors, think of these endless Kingdome ramps sending medical crews to the top for CPR.

Ghosts of those who perished on ramps inspired something I now understand as an adult: The 1980s Kingdome "falling guy." For several years before those Griffey Jr. concourse posters, at least one level 300 concrete post sported a 30-foot-tall stick figure doing this.



And then at level 200, this.


And then level 100, this.


In other words, someone with authority over Kingdome decor decided to warn people with these midair consequences of testing your balance after some beers. No text accompanied this falling guy, so you can debate whether this qualifies as a serious warning or macabre pop art.

As a kid, I knew nothing of people dying on its ramps, so Kingdome's falling guy became my earliest concrete memory of black humor. Imagine Seattle's facility administrator taking the trouble to design this person spinning to their death and posting it where thousands of fans would see it coming and going to their fun night out. "Nothing lasts forever, people," falling guy says, "this could be you, someday."

Falling guy met his own end, in the end. By 1990, the Kingdome beefed up those exterior rails, replacing "walk-on-me" flat surfaces with peaked dividers, and replaced the doomed descent with sports-oriented posters and banners on interior posts. Despite an earnest search, I remain unable to find photo evidence of falling guy's stick art, as almost no-one wasted film on those bland interior concourses.

Until a day we find such photos, many other Kingdome classics exist, inside and outside the stadium. This Pinterest board features more than 200.

1980s Kingdome basketball seating, where my Sonics hosted rookie Michael Jordan

Many fans, myself included, came to its last Mariners home game on June 27, 1999. Fellow attendee Pete Hanson's site shows several photos from that season, with this past-to-future look across from Kingdome's top ramp to Safeco Field.

Safeco Field from Kingdome, © Pete Hanson, June 27, 1999

And then, as we said goodbye to falling guy, Seattle sent the Kingdome to its end, imploded in 2000.

Seattle Times, "From Dome to Dust," March 19, 2000 

Fans feel complicated nostalgia for Seattle's concrete bunker the way Houston wonders how to honor its mouldering Astrodome and Oakland (I think) looks forward to missing its Oakland-Alameda Country Coliseum. Massive, multi-sport stadiums will never be classic ballparks and yet it's where you watched great things happen. Your mind tells you to move on to newer things and your heart...


Your heart buys stuff like this. Have to drink from something, right?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Cross-post: What if Robert Laughlin made 300/400/500 today?

SABR's baseball card blog posted my second article for their site not long ago. Check it out!

300/400/500 update : Crime Dog McGriff

"What if Robert Laughlin made his 300/400/500 set today?"

And there's a non-zero chance I will indeed print an update to Laughlin's 300/400/500 in my lifetime. Just need the free time and digital art skills. ;-)

(And if you're interested in writing for them as well, I believe any interested SABR member can contribute articles -- visit SABR.org to learn more about membership.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

National Chicle, 1938 Goudey Baseball, and Bobby Doerr

Introduction, part II

This post follows my earlier in-depth look at Goudey Gum of Boston and its border-crossing partnership with World Wide Gum of Ontario in 1930s World Wide Gum and "Canadian Goudey."

All those events, from baseball's 1933 boom to National Chicle's implosion in 1937, set a stage for why 1938 Big League Gum looks the way it does.

The basics of 1938 Big League Gum (aka "Heads Up!")

About two years after their 1936 R322 black-and-white Big League Gum set, Goudey introduced this return to color, both across its wax wrappers and on its familiar 2.5" x 3" cards.


1938 Goudey Big League Gum wrapper

"Heads Up!" Big League Gum looks unlike any prior Goudey set. Its first 24 cards float portrait photos on cartoon bodies, surrounded by plain white backgrounds.

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #250, Joe DiMaggio

Card backs number from #241, implying a direct extension from the 240-card 1933 Goudey and skipping all their 1934/35/36 Big League Gum sets in-between. (Note its first series, #241-264, predicted a "series of 288" that didn't yet exist.)

In an unusual move, its next series (#265-288) repeated those selfsame 24 players, in the same order, surrounded by cartoon highlights similar to 1960s Topps card backs.


Detail on DiMaggio's $25K salary cartoon
1938 Goudey Big League Gum #274, Joe DiMaggio

Second series text declared "series of 312," a group of cards that, once again, didn't exist. Non-sport collectors might recognize this mirrors how Goudey sold Indian Gum, releasing one skip-numbered subset at a time over several years and cross-promoted on 1938 baseball backs. (See PSA's Indian Gum profile for details.)

What's so unusual about 1938

Goudey overcame mid-1930s gum card fragmentation and competition, much of it from National Chicle, and stood alone in the American card market for 1938, with these bullets summarizing my World Wide Gum and "Canadian Goudey" article.
  • Enos Goudey "sold out" in 1932 and Goudey Gum's new owners launched a huge gum card hit the following year, buoyed by fan frenzy for the 1933 All-Star Game
  • Following 1933's baseball peak, much of Goudey's creative team left for DeLong Gum, National Chicle, and perhaps World Wide Gum
  • Goudey's chewing gum business did well, even as their baseball revenue fell, soon making cards a financial sidelight
  • From 1934-38, Goudey experimented with alternative formats like on-card games, flip book movies, and Knot Hole League memberships
  • Goudey took advantage of National Chicle's 1937 bankruptcy to repurpose leftover Diamond Stars Gum inserts and cards as their own

If you collect prewar cards today, 1933 and 1934 Big League Gum sets loom large for their high quality art and star power.

Lou Gehrig says...I'm going to sell a lot of 1934 Big League Gum cards

I think Goudey remembered those sets as their financial peak and pursued ways to bring back that high revenue at low cost, as most businesses do.

My 1938 "bankruptcy salvage" conjecture

While 1938 fronts looks different than most everything before it, can we explain why backs declare, "I'm the same as 1933?" It's worth figuring out.

After 1934, Goudey's designs devolved from artful paintings to basic black-and-white portraits. This colorful "Heads Up!" look seems out-of-character, so much so that I proposed to other collectors our "1938 Big League Gum" originated inside pre-bankruptcy National Chicle and Goudey just salvaged it to save themselves time and effort. You say, why? I say, follow the money creative malaise.

Of course, arguing this needs more than a few years of ho-hum design. Time to see if evidence supports me or if I need to update my mindset.

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #241-264 print sheet (no cartoons)

1938's first series sheet contains eight blue, red, and yellow border players, without further embellishment. This one also contains the enigmatic Ernie Lombardi "Red Sox" card, which led to several variations.

No known second series uncut sheet exists, so remember it contains identical designs for all 24 guys, surrounded by highlight cartoons, like Bob Feller here.

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #288, Bob Feller

Filling out an identical layout with add-on cartoons looked to me like "design alternatives" more than a true end-to-end set. It's close to how they adopted National Chicle's "How to" diagrams on 1939 premiums.

1936 National Chicle "How to" booklet (detail)
1939 R303 Goudey Premiums back (note "Diamond Stars Gum" title)

Since we know Goudey reused these Chicle-based designs in 1939, why not a year earlier for 1938 Big League Gum?

I considered three origin scenarios for 1938 Big League Gum.
  1. National Chicle designed two proof sheet of 24 players in early 1937, one with cartoons and one without. They go out of business and sell out to Goudey, who adds back text to both sheets and publishes them as a "continuation" of their 1933 set in 1938.
  2. National Chicle designed one proof sheet of 24 players in 1937. Goudey purchased the sheet, wrote 1933-style back text, and published it in 1938. They added cartoons for a second run of the same players.
  3. Goudey designed their own 1938 set, with no meaningful Chicle connection.

"History is written by the victors," so they say, and hobby tradition attributes 1938 to Goudey Gum alone (scenario #3). We lost enough industry history since the 1930s that one can claim any of them as true, for lack of available data. Thanks to its player choices and those cartoons, we can dig deeper.

To give this theory its spikes, we need two things. First, National Chicle remained solvent long enough to choose this group of 24 players. Second, Goudey acquired Chicle's property in time for production and distribution sometime after 1937's season wrapped up. The former proves trickiest, as public records show Chicle filed for bankruptcy reorganization around March 1937. So how much time existed to draft something new before calling it quits altogether?

First, player selection

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #241-264 print sheet (no cartoons)

Young Red Sox rookie second baseman Bobby Doerr serves as our "pivot" test case. Boston signed him to a contract in early 1936 (during his PCL career) and Bobby first reported to MLB spring training on March 12, 1937, not long before Chicle filed its papers.

Bobby Doerr, 1937 spring training, Sarasota, FL

Back in Massachusetts, National Chicle's bankruptcy proceedings more or less overlapped with this preseason, so the company could've (for now) continued designing new sets and hoping for a financial recovery.

April 3, 1937, Associated Press photo & prognostication

Boston fans eagerly anticipated Doerr's arrival that year, so ample newswire photos existed for National Chicle to pick from. We can date his first on-card appearance thanks to the preseason photo below, even without Bobby in it.

Red Sox 3B Pinky Higgins crosses home, April 17, 1937

Boston ended 1937 spring training with Fenway exhibitions between their AL Red Sox and NL Braves, in preparation for April 20 Opening Day. That's Pinky Higgins finishing a home run trot on April 17.

Pinky's dinger matters to our Doerr calculus because Bobby's first "card," this Goudey photo premium (released in 1937), came from the same exhibition series and an almost identical angle. Note its similar crowd arrangement, with one group close to the field and another further back. Batters box chalk looks fresher at Bobby's feet, so comes from earlier in the game. ("Doeer" also marks the first of multiple times Goudey miswrote Bobby's name.)

1937 Goudey R314/V352, Bobby Doeer (sic)

Including those two shots demonstrates Doerr photos existed from his earliest time in Boston, even at Fenway exhibitions. I have no trouble believing Chicle knew Bobby as a hot commodity in early 1937.

Like others from this set, Doerr sports a hand-tinted headshot pasted on a cartoon body.

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #258, "Bobbie" (sic) Doerr

There's our second naming gaffe. If anything, seeing Bobby Doerr on the front and "Bobbie" Doerr on the back strengthens my case that different people designed each side.

I focused on Doerr because he represented National Chicle's tightest timeline for inclusion on the 24-player design mockup, with and without cartoons. Speaking of that...

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #282, with cartoons

Even if those cartoons came later, leading off with an exciting Red Sox rookie fits the mold for either Boston-based company, Goudey Gum or National Chicle. All three design scenarios remain intact so far.

Player selection, part II

With Bobby Doerr in the clear, do any of its other 23 players gum up my Chicle-made theory? Did available pictures exist for all of them in early 1937?
  • #241 Charlie Gehringer: Appeared in 1934-36 National Chicle Diamond Stars Gum
  • #242 Pete Fox: Appeared on 1936 National Chicle R313 premiums
  • #243 Joe Kuhel: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #244 Frank Demaree: All-Star in 1936, sure to have newswire photos
  • #245 Frank Pytlak: 5-year vet, sure to have newswire photos
  • #246 Ernie Lombardi: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #247 Joe Vosmik: Same head shot as 1936 Big League Gum, appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #248 Dick Bartell: Same head shot as 1933 Big League Gum, appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #249 Jimmie Foxx: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #250 Joe D: As described in my Anatomy of 1938 Goudey Joe DiMaggio, that's a November 1934 newswire photo that also appeared on R314 "wide pen" premiums
  • #251 Bump Hadley: 10-year vet, sure to have newswire photos
  • #252 Zeke Bonura: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #253 Hank Greenberg: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #254 Van Lingle Mungo: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #255 Moose Solters: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #256 Vernon Kennedy: All-Star in 1936, sure to have newswire photos
  • #257 Al Lopez: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #258 Bobby Doerr: as above
  • #259 Billy Werber: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum (as "Billie")
  • #260 Rudy York: Power-hitting 1937 Tigers rookie and Opening Day 3B -- like Doerr, received a lot of preseason acclaim and would have newswire photos
  • #261 Rip Radcliff: Appeared on 1936 National Chicle R313 premiums
  • #262 Joe Medwick: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #263 Marvin Owen: Appeared in 1934-36 Diamond Stars Gum
  • #264 Bob Feller: Appeared on R314/V352 "wide pen" premiums

Bobby Doerr and Rudy York present my biggest challenges, without being real problems. They both excelled as minor leaguers for 2+ years, garnered preseason press, and debuted as 1937 Opening Day starters.

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #284, Rudy York

But what about them cartoons

With player selection vetted, research moves to the second series cartoons. At first, I considered them surrounding detail, yet they proved elemental to separating possible National Chicle work from things done after they folded.

#284, Rudy York, detail

Rudy York set two offensive records in August 1937, most homers in a month (18, breaking the Babe's record) and most RBIs (49, breaking Gehrig's). While a powerful hitter in the minors prior to 1937, this cartoon makes sense as drawn after his rookie season, predicting that Rudy could challenge Ruth's 60-homer mark. That makes it near-impossible as National Chicle's work, who sold its assets to Goudey by (or before) midyear.

Detail on DiMaggio's $25K salary cartoon

DiMaggio earned $15K in 1937, so this $25K applies to 1938. Players signed one-year contracts in that era, so Goudey added this sometime after Joe agreed to a new deal. Almost no chance this happened before National Chicle went bankrupt in 1937.


#267, Joe Kuhel, details

Washington traded Joe to Chicago for Zeke Bonura on March 18, 1938 and both Kuhel cards, first and second series, label him as a White Sox player. If National Chicle designed 1938's first 24-player sheet, we must now also assume Goudey updated it prior to printing.

#273, Jimmie Foxx, detail

This card highlights Foxx's MVP-level hitting during 1938 itself, so Goudey updated it well after Opening Day. He averaged .350+ every month that year and "sensational hitting" praise could come anytime. Boston started play on April 20, so I estimate Goudey designed their cartoon series in May or later. Of all on-card data, Jimmie's points to our latest date, midyear 1938.

I scrutinized card fronts in search of smaller connections to help pick between them.

1934-36 National Chicle Diamond Stars Gum (detail)
1938 Goudey Big League Gum (detail)

Card typefaces don't show an obvious Diamond Stars Gum to Big League Gum link, given letter differences for "C" / "G" / etc, so I stopped squinting at them.

Summary so far

We now know that player trades (Joe Kuhel) and mid-season performance (Jimmie Foxx) factor into both series of Big League Gum. Our "cartoon dating" tells me that even if National Chicle sketched out a basic design for "Heads Up" cards prior to 1937 bankruptcy, Goudey made meaningful changes prior to going to print in 1938, followed by further mid-season artistic updates.

1938 Goudey Big League Gum #270, Ernie Lombardi

Even though Goudey repeated all 24 players, too many 1938 references appear for a bankrupt-in-1937 Chicle to create those second series cartoons. I abandon my notion of Big League Gum as two design alternatives. This drops us to two scenarios.
  1. National Chicle created one "Heads Up" sheet of 24 players in early 1937, with heralded rookies Bobby Doerr and Rudy York. Goudey acquired it after Chicle's bankruptcy, updated Kuhel's team, added 1933-style back text, and released them as 1938 Big League Gum. Later that year, they add a second series with highlight doodles. Perhaps former Chicle employees joined Goudey to oversee set publication. Or...
  2. Goudey creates all elements of 1938 Big League Gum, with no National Chicle inspiration, and publishes it as an extension to 1933's big hit. (Creating a perceived link across several seasons would mirror their multi-year approach to Indian Gum.)

An Aftermarket Aside

While I can accept either Big League Gum origin scenario at this point, the second overlaps with something familiar to modern buyers: repacks and reselling. A great deal of product goes unsold during its first season and reappears at retail in other forms for years after.

Modern retail repack box

Jasoncards' Alternate History of 1933 Goudey makes a good case that Goudey pulled a bunch of planned 1934 cards forward into 1933, buoyed by unexpected success. I think they printed so many Big League Gum cards that year, a heady amount of unsold product remained by season's end.

Just as stores repack and resell today, did extra 1933 Big League Gum cards re-emerge each baseball season, year after year? If so, their #241-284 numbering approach to 1938 "Heads Up!" becomes less confusing to 1930s buyers than first appears. Goudey stopped showing years on their wrappers after 1935, so exact contents could be flexible, if they wanted to sell cards from prior years. Chicle, for its part, spread their Diamond Stars Gum and Batter-Up Gum sets across three seasons (1934-36), adding cards as they went, including duplicates of existing players.

Known unknowns

Hard to know how far we can go down this rabbit hole. On one hand, 1939's reuse of Diamond Stars Gum "How to" booklets shows Goudey used National Chicle products after acquisition. On the other, card companies copied each other without official agreements in every era.

Legal briefs are boring, so check out this 1937 Red Sox spring training schedule instead

Speaking of legalese, Internet research turned up a dispute over National Chicle's post-bankruptcy financials (Brown vs. Freedman, 1942), connected to this chain of events.
  • 1933: Alvin Livingstone and several colleagues leave Goudey Gum to form National Chicle
  • July 17, 1937: Bankruptcy sale of National Chicle printing equipment to Freedman, an apparent attorney for Livingstone
  • July 20, 1937: International Chewing Gum formed by Livingstone & Freedman, retaining print equipment on same Chicle site, continuing as gum maker under new name
  • 1938: International Chewing Gum prints single, 24-card non-sport set, Don't Let It Happen Here (a Horrors of War competitor)
  • 1939: International Chewing Gum now bankrupt
  • Nov 1939: Bankruptcy auction of remaining contents of former Chicle/International address
  • 1940: Gum Products, Inc. formed using parts of International Chewing Gum
  • 1942: Brown vs. Freedman closes the book on Chicle's former equipment

Goudey owned their own gum facility in Boston, so no surprise they stuck to buying Chicle's cards and art, instead of its machinery. Note it took until July 1937 for Livingstone to form a new company, loosening my earlier timeline to design a 24-player sheet that could be 1938 Big League Gum. I continue to lean toward them as its creative spark, given Goudey's post-1934 decline.

What this all means for 1938 Big League Gum

After months (years?) of on-and-off card history research, I still believe National Chicle proofed the basic design and artistic fronts of a 24-player sheet that Goudey acquired, completed, and expanded into 48 cards of 1938 Big League Gum the following year. While hard proof of all those events might no longer exist in any form, enough relevant bits exist before and after to satisfy my curiosity.

Get me a bridge(s) to the past

If you know more about all this, want to know more, or just know more than me in general, let me know! Thanks for trekking along another part of Goudey's hobby history.