Friday, June 1, 2012

1928 Babe Ruth Candy Baseball #5, A favorite with the kiddes

Today's Babe Ruth Candy set reminded me of a trivia question: who hit more homers for the Boston Braves, Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron?

1973 Topps #1, two years before Hank hit #715

It's sort of a trick, because while both sluggers played for Boston or the Braves, they spent very little time in Boston for the Braves.

Hank Aaron debuted for the Braves in 1954, two years after their move to Milwaukee, so hit zero for Boston's squad. Ruth famously debuted in Boston for the Red Sox, but only played a single, final year for their Braves team.

The Bambino slugged his last 6 homers wearing a Boston Braves uniform, career #s 709 to 714. Thus, your answer is Babe's six over Hank's zero.

Enough esoterica, let's see some Ruthian cards, as packaged with his eponymous (and short-lived) candy bar in 1928.

Babe smooches (youthful) babe carrying (toy) babe

I believe that's Babe's daughter, helping dad with a pregame photo op. Not your typical baseball card by a long shot. Others in the set show Ruth warming up on the field or in casual settings, one even in suit-and-tie, purportedly eating his Home Run candy bar under the tagline, "His candy helped him."

1928 Ruth Candy #5, "Cleveland, Ohio" back variation

You can find three backs: no text, this Cleveland address, and one in San Francisco. As the text implies, today's brief 6-picture set came packaged with pieces of Ruth-endorsed candy. But was it the Baby Ruth bar? It was not.

The Curtiss Candy Company debuted their peanut-and-chocolate Baby Ruth in 1921, one year after Ruth's popular ascendance, yet steadfastly maintained it honored the daughter of president Grover Cleveland, whose mid-administration birth made the 19th century.

It's easy to see how Snopes debunked Ruth Cleveland as a defensible origin story, but at the time, Curtiss successfully blocked sale of Babe Ruth's Home Run bar due to potential name confusion. Are there Ruth shenanigans more shenanigan-y than this? None come to mind.

If Baby Ruth wanted people to believe they didn't rip off Babe Ruth, why advertise baseball gloves on your wrapper? Another point against them acting in anything like good faith.

1928 Ruth's Home Run candy wrapper

The "real" Ruth Candy wrappers hawked baseballs with Ruth's facsimile signature, given enough wrappers. Since card backs advertised the same prize to kids with complete sets, I wonder how many balls they ended up sending out.

Value: Authentic, low-grade Ruth candy singles sell for $500-700, but change hands rarely due to concerns about fakery. (Most of his non-graded candy cards are reprints, thanks to the easy-to-replicate sepia tones and cheap paper.)

Fakes / reprints: People have reprinted and faked these often enough that authentic versions prove hard to come by. I recommend the more attractive 1933 Goudeys if you're looking for a vintage Ruth type card.

Here's what I know to watch for regarding faked Ruth cards.
  • 1920s Ruth Candy and Fro-Joy sets extensively reprinted; most ungraded cards are fakes (all colored Fro-Joys are)
  • Best way to ID fakes: check context or provenance (card history and knowledge of seller); steer clear of vague or sketchy details
  • eBay scans tell you little besides the seller's ability to use a scanner or copy an existing picture
  • Ruth is among the top counterfeited players, if not the most
  • Poor scan-and-print fakes might print defects (creases, dings, dirt) onto the card; they stand out when inspected in person
  • Today's $50 printers can closely mimic 1920s images; main difference is ink application: Ruth's era used solid-color or photo-engraved inked sheets; modern printers apply a pattern of dots that look solid at arm's length
  • Jeweler loupes (or powerful magnifying glasses) show ink difference; see an engraved pattern scan in this Net54 Fro-Joy discussion
  • Card counterfeits are similar to art fakes (comparable 1920s print example), so knowledge of one crosses over to the other
  • Most Ruth cards are already in the marketplace; keep a healthy skepticism of single-card "finds" by non-collectors
  • Buy a graded version, if you want a type card without burning time on research

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Truthfully how do you tell the real cards from the reprints?