Thursday, February 25, 2010

1962 JELL-O Baseball #5, Mickey Mantle

Would it be hyperbole to credit Maris and Mantle's chase for 61 homers with making baseball cards "mainstream?" Just one year removed from their much-hyped race to break Ruth's record, General Mills certainly acted that way.

What started as single-note cereal promotions in 1960 and 1961 became 4 permutations in 1962 alone, including a LIFE magazine "centerfold" starring #5 Mantle and #6 Maris, all with an eye to selling more sugary grains and boxes of instant pudding. General Mills' 1962 baseball frenzy poured millions of cards into the supermarket on 2 brands, Post cereal (such as Corn Flakes and Grape-Nuts) and JELL-O pudding. (Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire acted out a similar script in 1998, with a home run chase that invigorated fans league-wide and sold plenty of...everything.)

Card front (blank back)

Only a decade after Topps entered the "kids-only" arena of bubblegum cards, this national brand saw collectibles as their link between on-field excitement and buyable products. Today's post covers JELL-O; see links at the end for their other sets from the same year.

Uncut JELL-O box

While Post cereal featured a red-white-blue Americana theme and prominent logo, JELL-O cards use a simple black-and-yellow look and don't mention the company anywhere. The pudding  design also went with a re-cropped photo; today's card shows Mantle's full upper body and some playing field beneath his elbow, but Post stops above the belt line.

JELL-O featured one card per box, far fewer than Post's 7-player panels. I can imagine an excited kid switching from pudding to Corn Flakes for dessert that summer, just to get more cards.

Uncut Corn Flakes box

Here's the full list of 1962 General Foods baseball sets with links to #5 set profiles.

Value: My low-grade JELL-O Mantle cost $18. Based on completed eBay auctions, they go for $12 - $25, depending on condition. (Untrimmed boxes are very rare and cost several times more.)

Fakes / Reprints: Cereal and pudding cards came on thin box cardboard and use relatively low-quality photos, so look easy to fake. While I'm not certain Mantle reprints are out there, it's seems very likely. If you're looking for a high-grade version, pick up some cheap commons first so you know what "real" cards feel and look like.

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