Thursday, April 12, 2012

1920 Peggy Popcorn Baseball #5, Kid Gleason

Some sets are so rare, that even in the Internet age it's impossible to find much beyond a third-hand scan. T206 Wagners might be more valuable, but at least we know around 50 exist. Today's pre-war, 20-card Canadian popcorn set, on the other hand, only numbers to six cards total, one example each of a half-dozen players. Its #5 card (of Black Sox manager Kid Gleason) is unique, barring further hobby discoveries from the Great White North.

Card front (scan from SCD magazine article)

Chicago won the 1919 pennant in Gleason's first year leading the team, a thrill that turned sour upon learning that several players conspired to throw the series itself to Cincinnati. He continued to helm the White Sox through their "Eight Men Out" trial and banishment, but returned to bench coaching not long after and never took another job as manager.

Kid Gleason (center) prepares for the 1919 World Series

Discovered as a six-player lot at Toronto's largest card show in 2008, this handful of known Peggy Popcorn cards possesses special marketing significance as one of the hobby's earliest redemption sets. According to card backs, collectors could swap all 20 for "a Fountain Pen, Eversharp Pencil, Ball, Bat or Cap."

Card back from #1, Joe Dugan

It's unknown if Peggy added special markings to distinguish their prizes from dime store versions, so prizes might exist without an obvious connection to their origin. Companies typically short-printed at least one player to keep collectors from earning free stuff, so we assume that's what Peggy did, too.

With just six known players and varying front designs, there's debate how Peggy built its checklist and exactly when it came out. Here's a breakdown of the half-dozen players and why they'd be included (checklist info from
  • #1 Joe Dugan (Philadelphia A's): star third baseman
  • #2 Harry Heilmann (Detroit Tigers): star first baseman
  • #3 Chick Gandil (White Sox): star first baseman, major figure in Black Sox scandal
  • #5 Kid Gleason (White Sox): 1919 pennant-winning manager
  • #7 Babe Ruth (NY Yankees): early card in Ruth's Yankee career
  • #16 Dazzy Vance (NY Yankees): photo likely Brooklyn's star pitcher Burleigh Grimes (1977 #5 set profile)

1920 overlaps best as year of origin, if you assume Peggy got Dazzy's attribution wrong, since he spent 1918 with NYY & 1919 in the PCL and wasn't well-known until the mid-20s. I think their editor haphazardly copied images from newspapers or baseball guides with an eye toward popularity instead of accuracy, a scenario that fits the Vance/Grimes card. (Find more set discussion on the Net54 forums.)

Knowing that I'll never own #5 Gleason doesn't bother me, given its rarity and value. At some point, every vintage collector finds a card that's one step beyond what you want to pursue, type collection or no type collection. :-)

Value: Robert Edwards Auctions sold #1 Joe Dugan for $2,644 in 2009, the only recent (and public) transaction of the six known cards; the other five purportedly reside in a private collection. One can only imagine how much the Ruth would cost!

Fakes / reprints: With so few cards known (and all of them now graded), finding one at a show would be unlikely. Almost all transactions at this point will happen in the auction market.


Anonymous said...

I was the owner of the 6 1920 PEGGYS POPCORN Cards that I sold to Brian Wentz of Madison's Bmw cards in Toronto,Canada in 2008 .I bought them in Edmonton ,Alberta and I was to buy more from an elderly woman who's deceased husband owned the cards. She brought 6 in a glass frame to a sports card store to see if there was any interest which I bought.she had 14 more loose Peggys cards at home near the store which I was to buy in a few days but I list her contact info and we never seen her again. The six cards where removed out of the glass frame by Brian Wentz of Bmw sportscards of Madison ,Wisconsin then he bought them from me . I did not realize these cards were rare at the time and I wish I would have obtained the rest of set for her in 2006.Carmen Scornaiencki of Edmonton,Alberta

Matthew Glidden said...

That's amazing, Carmen! Sorry you couldn't make that connection with her again, it sounds like a real "fish that got away" story for vintage collectors. In case you're tracking this article, do you remember anything about the other 14 cards, other than she said those cards existed?