Monday, April 20, 2009

1933 Rittenhouse Candy #5, Al Simmons

Reach back far enough into baseball’s misty past and you unearth marvels like HOFer Al “Bucketfoot” Simmons on this decidedly playful card. Printed on thick newsprint, it's a bit more than 2 inches high and bit less of that wide. That makes the actual player picture very small, slightly larger than a thumbnail. At least Al looks happy to be there.

As you might guess, the set numbers 52 cards total, with four suits of ace through king. The cherry red background would stand out almost anywhere, but cards also come in lime green and blueberry. See this list of pages for interesting E285 front and back variations.

The set profile shows off most of the known card backs, which included a redemption contest. 1933 collectors that built the phrase “RITTENHOUSE CANDY CO” could send away for a fielder’s glove, first-base mitt, (roller?) skates, air rifle, pearl knife, or baseball. My inner child is now drooling.

This card appears in my blog because not every back included a letter. Mr. Simmons features the nice, big #5 pictured at right. Relatively few Rittenhouse cards made it into modern collections and this is the first I've seen with a number. Lots of reasons for set scarcity come to mind.

  1. Being strip cards, young collectors could easily cut them poorly and leave ragged edges
  2. The playing card design encouraged lots of use and handling
  3. I assume the production company kept anything sent back for redemption
  4. Goudey Gum produced an amazing baseball set the same year, with design and quality that far outpaced the E285s
  5. 1933 was a long time ago
You can see from the simple design that it’s one of 1930s’ lesser issues, but rarity keeps the value of Rittenhouse cards fairly high. Expect to pay $50 or more for a decent example. I recommend pursuing the 1933 or 1934 Goudeys (~$10 each in low grade) before you even think about building a set of these ugly ducklings.

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