Friday, June 29, 2012

1979 TCMA Lodi Dodgers Baseball #5, Skip Mann

Right now, my hair looks a lot like Skip's on this single-A Dodgers card and that's why I scheduled a haircut for 5:30pm. Maybe they can trim its unkempt sides and fashion me his mustache.

Add "Skip Mann" to the roll of great baseball names, especially good for its connotation of being The Man. Skip Mann does for the 70s what "Bobo Newsom" did for the 30s and 40s.

More recently, St. Louis Softball inducted Skip into their Hall of Fame. Congrats!

I like the flower and MLB baseball tie on Mr. Mann, Cubs and Rangers logos most visible. Can't find that specific tie for sale online, but there are plenty of good options out there.

This TCMA Dodgers checklist includes 20 players and the manager, Stan Wasiak. (An 18 year-old Fernando Valenzuela made three starts for Lodi, his first pro pitching, but must've arrived too late for a card.)
  1. Rod Kemp
  2. Augie Ruiz
  3. Paul Bain
  4. Alfredo Mejia
  5. Skip Mann
  6. Mike Marshall
  7. Rocky Cordova
  8. Steve Perry
  9. Jesse Baez
  10. Jim Nobles
  11. Larry Powers
  12. Johnny Walker
  13. Bill Swoope
  14. Stan Wasiak, Manager
  15. Miguel Franjul
  16. Jerry Bass
  17. Bob Foster
  18. Chris Malden
  19. Brian Hayes
  20. Hank Jones
  21. Evon Martinson

Value: Skip's #5 cost $2 at and most of his teammates would run the same.

Fakes / reprints: Mike Marshall made a splash for LA in the 1980s, so he's the highest risk for fakery. (Haven't seen any in the actual marketplace.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

1977 TCMA St. Petersburg Cardinals Baseball #5, Denzel (Danzel) Martindale

If there's one boogeyman of low-budget set production like TCMA offered to a growing roster of minor league franchises, it's editing. Tracking stats, player movements, and getting baseball's bevy of unusual names just right take a back seat to finishing, printing, and delivering team sets to their clients on schedule. Thus did Danzel, a two-year pro in the Florida leagues, became Denzel, a jersey-and-hat-wearing Jack Black look-a-like.

According to Martindale's card back, 35 years ago today--June 28, 1977--St. Petersburg hosted Winter Haven's Red Sox, as managed by baseball name All-Star Rac Slider. I hope they included wacky mid-inning promotions you find at today's minor league parks, like the Bat Spin Race or Mascot Races.

St. Petersburg's TCMA team roster includes 25 players and an unnumbered card for staff member Mike Nagle.

  1. Kelly Paris
  2. William Bowman
  3. Felipe Zayas
  4. John Littlefield
  5. Denzel Martindale
  6. John Fulgham
  7. Raymond Searge
  8. Frank Hunsacker
  9. Michael Stone
  10. Terry Gray
  11. Daniel O'Brien
  12. Jorge Arazamendi
  13. Hub Kittle, Manager
  14. Thomas Herr
  15. Raymond Donaghue
  16. Henry Mays
  17. Scott Boras
  18. Claude Crockett
  19. Michael Pisarkiewicz
  20. Robert Harrison
  21. Hector Eduardo
  22. Alfred Meyer
  23. David Pennial
  24. Benny Joe Edelen
  25. Ralph Miller Jr., General Manager

Thanks to the Internet, you can view card scans for everyone save Mr. Nagle. Its biggest names include future All-Star Tom Herr and sports agent Scott Boras, who played four years of minor league ball before moving on to legal work and sports representation.

One wonders--did Boras pitch his services to former teammates? Given that many of his former clients came back to work for Boras after retirement, I'm thinking probably yes. He came across as sharp and self-possessed as a panel guest at this year's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, qualities most people like in an agent or employer. This on-site interview says a lot about his current perspective.

Value: Mr. Martindale cost $2.50 at "Full" sets might or might not include the unnumbered Nagle, so check with the seller if you want every card.

Fakes / reprints: These black-white-yellow cards would be easy to fake with modern equipment, but low demand means few people attempt it. Tom Herr's the riskiest for counterfeits, since his playing peak coincided with a card market boom in the mid-1980s.

Friday, June 22, 2012

1969 Globe Imports Playing Cards Baseball #5, Willie McCovey, Earl Wilson, Bud Harrelson, Met Stottlemyre

I've seen today's playing card set throughout my two decades of collecting, often mixed into odds-and-ends quarter boxes at shows or set aside for team collectors. It wasn't until recently, however, that an SCD taught me they're an "official" set--printed by the Globe Imports company--and not just a fan project made with old photos and copy machines.

Printed with blank backs and no company info, these small (~1.5" x 2") cards come on cheap paper and look like a one-weekend job. Globe Imports distributed them via gas stations in southern states and they might not've been an MLB-approved product. Baseball's players union started licensing player images in the late 1960s, so Globe might've paid them for the photos instead of working through team ownership. Or they might've told (and paid) no one, as hinted by an example below.

Most of the set's 52 suited cards match up to one player, but a handful get two variations.
  • 3 Hearts: Tony Conigliaro, Don Drysdale
  • 3 Clubs: Jerry Koosman, Mike McCormick
  • Ace Clubs: Richie Allen, Yaz
  • Ace Diamonds: Bob Gibson, Babe Ruth
  • 2 Spades: Denny McClain, Cesar Tovar
  • Ace Spades: Ken Harrelson, Mickey Mantle

There's also a joker, making 59 cards in all. See the PSA registry for a master set checklist and several scans.

Bud's one of the few players with a head-on photo. Unfortunately, this shot also confirms another reason Globe cards get the hairy eye from collectors: it's a direct copy of 1967 Topps #306.

Not every card took an existing Topps image, but even one is enough to make me think Globe wanted to make a quick buck and copied available newspaper, media, and card photos. (Know more about the set's history? Add your voice to the comments.)

Value: The KeyMan Collectibles profile named four key players: Drysdale, Mantle, Mays, and Yaz, which might cost a few dollars. Most singles belong in quarter boxes, thanks to poor production quality and low demand.

Fakes / reprints: It'd be easy to reproduce these grainy, black-and-white cards with modern equipment, so I hope their low value keeps people out of that mindset.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Favorite (Vintage) Baseball Card: 1956 Topps #30, Jackie Robinson

Fellow blogger Fuji's running a "favorite card" survey over at his Chronicles that asks readers to pick their top vintage or 90s insert. I won't keep you in suspense, mine's this classic right here.

The above Jackie Robinson card made an easy pick, as it's the card that sparked a pursuit of 1956 Topps, my overall favorite set. I originally bought two of this #30 to get both grey and white back variations, but traded one away some years ago--probably to land another star from the same set.

Thanks to today's many reprints, you can find both originals and modern versions at shows or online. The second scan's nicked from 2001 Topps Archives #410 on COMC and costs a fraction of Jackie's vintage cards. Almost everyone can afford a dollar, right?

Got a favorite card to call out? Stop by Fuji's blog and chime in.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fourth Anniversary HOF Winners

Thanks to all thirty-eight people who entered last week's contest and every one who reads my blog. A search through the card box turned up a bunch of vintage HOFers as prizes (with two *), including the clean-cut character below.

Feel weird saying it, but Roberts looks sharp in that Orioles cap, even if it's not Philly pinstripes. Let's warm up my dice-rolling hand!

  • 1951 Bowman #46 George Kell: The Dimwit
  • 1957 Topps #25 Whitey Ford: Jason
  • 1959 Topps #408 Luis Aparicio / Nellie Fox: Matt (Tenets of Wisdom)
  • 1960 Topps #1 Early Wynn: FISHLEGBOOTS
  • 1961 Fleer #57 Heinie Manush: Rhubarb Runner
  • 1961 Topps #380 Minnie Minoso (*): BA Benny
  • 1961 Topps #440 Luis Aparicio: Josh D
  • 1963 Topps #125 Robin Roberts: Mark A
  • 1964 Topps #38 Harmon Killebrew: Reds Card Collector
  • 1964 Topps #342 Willie Stargell: Mariner1
  • 1969 Topps #410 Al Kaline: The Diamond King
  • 1971 Topps #50 Willie McCovey (*): arpsmith

Let's explain the asterisks. First, Minoso is a member of the Hispanic Baseball Hall of Fame, but makes for a terrific baseball card, so couldn't leave him out.

Second, I originally rolled up arpsmith and Mariner1 near their favorite players, so swapped in a 1971 McCovey and (ideally) made them both happy.
Winners, please email me (glidden period matthew at the gmail) with your address for card delivery! Thanks again to everyone for reading and look forward to more giveaways soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Baseball Fathers Day

Starting in 1976 and returning in 1985, Topps honored father and son duos with subsets picturing both dads on older sets and sons as current players. Night Owl did a nice breakdown of them back in 2010, which you can revisit now.

Dad and I played catch quite a few times and pretty sure he helped ferry me to and from Little League games across the five years I spent on those mini-diamonds. Thanks, dad!

Can't remember any bleacher fights from my own years in a kid-sized Cubs jersey, but I understand that people get a little rowdier these days.

"Happy Fathers day! Give your kid something to remember by starting an angry, drunken brawl at a little league game... Oh the memories." - Dirk Hayhurst (Twitter: @TheGarfoose)

I recently finished Hayhurst's pair of baseball memoirs, The Bullpen Gospels and Out Of My League, available at Amazon and finer public libraries across the country. He paints a harrowing family picture that pitching helped him escape and reshape. They're worth a read for both baseball insight and Dirk's longer-term introspection.

I wish we'd had another round of Father and Son cards in the 90s, at least to see these guys.

The back-to-back homers Griffey Sr/Jr hit on Sept 14, 1990 remain the only ones hit by a father-son duo and the Seattle Times put them first on their list of Junior's 10 most memorable long balls.

(P.S. Thanks to the many Fourth Anniversary HOF Giveaway entries. Compiling the cards for prize announcements tomorrow.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Baseball (and more) Blog Contest Roundup

Thanks for all the entries so far in my Fourth Anniversary Giveaway! The contest ends Friday, so there's about 30 hours left to throw your name in the hat. Here's another vintage HOFer that'll be part of the fun, confused expression and all.

Don't forget these other sites running concurrent card contests--enter everywhere and you're pretty much guaranteed to end up with cards. ("Pretty much" = not based on actual statistics or math.)

Fuji's running his 3rd annual The Chronicles of Fuji, requesting your flea market finds. How can you ignore a prize package with samurai headband cats? You can't.

Visit the buffet of BA Benny for Legends of the Hall (and a contest), whose prize includes HOFers Clemente and McCovey. is gifting a pair of autographs for fans of the NBA (Bob Sura) or NHL (Colin Greening).

"You did WHAT with the cup?" a.k.a. dgreen1899's LA Kings-themed giveaway.

Did I miss any? Add a link below!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fourth Anniversary HOF Giveaway

The first #5 type card profile went up four years ago yesterday. Big, cardboard-y thanks all who've read my blog, follow tweets @Number5TypeCard, or just enjoy a nice vintage set from time-to-time.

To commemorate, I'm giving away several vintage HOFers from the years when Yogisms sprang fresh from the mouth of Berra himself. Cards like this guy...

1964 Topps Giants #38, Harmon Killebrew

TRIVIA: Killer didn't wear #29, so that bat belonged to Julio Becquer (1961), Wally Post (1963), or Chuck Nieson (1964), depending on the photo year.

WHAT'S UP FOR GRABS: 1950s-60s HOFers, including the above Killebrew. Exact number of cards depends on number of entrants and links, as below.

June 19 UPDATE: Winners are picked and posted!

(For the record, my first post was 1952 Topps Larry Jansen on Things Done to Cards. I later updated the set's profile here with intact back scans.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1977 TCMA Cedar Rapids Giants Baseball #5, Ken Feinburg (Feinberg)

This young Kenneth Feinberg ("e," not "u") spent three years in Iowa and California pursuing his dream of pro ball, collecting 252 hits and 34 minor league homers along the way (career stats at Ken hit well as an everyday player at 22, but made few appearances thereafter and might've struggled with injuries or set off-the-field goals that eclipsed a long-term baseball career, like so many before and after him.

TCMA kicked off their minor league sets with Cedar Rapids in 1972, so today's Creamsicle color combo marks the sixth straight year that fans from Iowa's second-largest city could take home local baseball heroes, starting with the players below.

Minor league affiliations change rapidly, but Cedar Rapids kept its team alive, as they have since the Canaries took their positions in 1890; find more franchise history at Wikipedia. (This is the same city Rob Deer and John Rabb shared time on in 1979 and current LA phenom Mike Trout tore up in 2010.)

Two local McDonald's signed on as co-sponsors for TCMA's set, but are they still operating at 3916 First Ave N.E. and 2615 Williams Blvd S.W. in Cedar Rapids? The latter location is, despite that buzz-killing NO NOISE sign Google Street View spotted at its entrance.

1977's checklist includes 24 numbered players and one unnumbered, late-season addition (John Laubhan).
  1. Rich Murray
  2. Bob Brenly
  3. Dave Anderson
  4. John Sylvester
  5. Ken Feinburg
  6. Brian Moulton
  7. Phil Nastu
  8. Henry Macias
  9. Gary Ledbetter
  10. Ken Barton
  11. Jack Mull MGR
  12. Drew Nickerson
  13. Jim Pryor
  14. Mike Wardlow
  15. Dave Myers
  16. Bart Bass
  17. Steve Sherman
  18. Jon Harper
  19. Don "Bucky" Buchhiester GM
  20. Mark Kuecker
  21. Dan Hartwig
  22. Chris Bourjos
  23. Jeff Shourds
  24. Steve Pearce

Many online sellers call Laubhan's card "rare," but I'll believe something's hard-to-find when Google can't spit out online images on the first try.

Value: Fulls sets cost about $20 (with Laubhan's card adding a premium) and singles cost a few dollars.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace. If Laubhan really is rare, it's likely someone tried to fake the card for the sake of scarcity.

Friday, June 8, 2012

1979 TCMA Cedar Rapids Giants Baseball #5, John Rabb

TCMA didn't snap today's shot on a baseball diamond, unusual for the "surprise, it's a camera" approach often taken in minor league photos. John Rabb's wearing a Cedar Rapids hat in front their Giants logo, so I'll guess it's a locker room intro, and perhaps an early-year press conference.

Single-A teams aren't expected to be All-Star factories, but Cedar Rapids hit the low end of expectations and produced just three future big leaguers in 1979: Rob Deer, John Rabb, and Jeff Stember. (This card calls Rabb an outfielder, but he actually spent more time behind the plate in Iowa and added a handful of games at 3B.)

John's versatility continued in the big leagues, splitting time at C, 1B, and OF across stints with San Francisco, Atlanta, and Seattle. He might've pushed for everyday playing opportunities that didn't exist in SF, as the Giants ultimately dealt Rabb to the Braves for a veteran player with a similar skill set, Alex Trevino.

TCMA included an above-average 32 players in this set, including the aforementioned Rob Deer, whose home run power won over many a Milwaukee fan in the 1980s and 90s. (He's also the only man ever to hit .220 or less and slug more than 220 career homers.)
  1. Steve Duckhorn
  2. Jesus Cruz
  3. Mark Benson
  4. Jorge Mundroig
  5. John Rabb
  6. Robbie Henderson
  7. Jeff Stadler
  8. Matt Sutherland
  9. Francisco Fojas
  10. Rick Doss
  11. Bruce Oliver
  12. Bill Bellomo
  13. Glen Fisher
  14. Bud Curran
  15. Wayne Cato
  16. Jeff Stember
  17. Paul Plinski
  18. Jose Chue
  19. Rick Mean
  20. George Torassa
  21. Ned Raines
  22. Lou Merietta
  23. Craig Hedrick
  24. Kelly Anderson
  25. Harry Wing
  26. Juan Oppenheimer
  27. Ray Cosio
  28. Rob Deer
  29. Don Buchheister
  30. Phil Sutton
  31. Doug Linduyt
  32. Bob Cummins

Value: John Rabb cost me $2 at Rob Deer will run a little extra, at least in Wisconsin.

Fakes / reprints: Cardboard Zoo notes that TCMA reprinted several team sets as "collector kits" in the late 1980s, but I'm not sure about this 1979 set specifically. Founder Mike Aronstein's interview about their Cal Ripken card says a little more about how young stars (and hobby demand) led to minor league fakery.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

1979 Oklahoma City 89ers Baseball #5, Robert Michael DeMeo

As minor league publishers TCMA and Cramer Sports Productions grew to serve more and more of America's "small-park" cities, fewer and fewer franchises printed their own team set. Today's #5 came from one of those few.

The 89ers editor did an OK job (pun intended) with their presentation, but black-and-white comes off flat compared to contemporary color options used by teams who did take advantage of companies like Cramer.

This Phoenix set (starring manager Rocky Bridges) came out the same year as DeMeo and that orange really jumps off the card. I was glad to see most minor league teams using color just one year later (1980 TCMA #5 profiles).

Robert's 1978 Mendoza line matched his career batting average, which might explain why he never reached the majors as a player (career stats at B-R). DeMeo stayed with Oklahoma City through 1980 but appeared in just two more games and likely spent that non-playing time coaching younger players or prepping for a life after baseball. 

This 89ers set checklisted by uniform number, with #4 pulling double-duty for Lee Elia and Lonnie Smith.
  • #1 Fred Beene
  • #3 Ramon Aviles
  • #4a Lee Elia MANAGER
  • #4b Lonnie Smith
  • #5 Bob Demeo
  • #6 Jim Morrison
  • #7 Orlando Isales
  • #8 Kerry Dineen
  • #9 Keith Moreland
  • #10 Luis Aguayo
  • #11 Jose Martines
  • #14 Kevin Saucier
  • #16 Carlos Arroyo
  • #17 Dickie Noles
  • #18 Dan Larson
  • #20 Orlando Gonzalez
  • #21 Don McCormack
  • #22 John Vuckovich
  • #23 John Poff
  • #24 Jack Kucek
  • #25 Pete Manos
  • #26 Marty Bystrom
  • #28 Cot Deal COACH
  • #29 Gary Beare

Lonnie played a full season for OKC, but also appeared on 1979 Topps #722.

Value: This #5 cost $2 at

Fakes / reprints: Many of this set's players reached the majors, but few were famous enough to be worth faking their minor league cards.

UPDATE: Guru mentioned Rocky's interesting pose choice--let's not forget his all-out 1956 Topps card.

Don't know about you, but Rocky the Flying Squirrel comes right to my mind...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1979 TCMA Tidewater Tides Baseball #5, Jeff Reardon

Mets AAA affiliate Tidewater played like the International League equivalent of L.A.'s Dodgers in 1979, finishing worst in runs scored, but best in runs allowed. That staff featured bona fide future stars Jesse Orosco, Mike Scott, and Jeff Reardon, the latter two finding success further from New York's bright lights. (As of this post, today's guest is 7th on the all-time saves list, slotted between Eck and Troy Percival.)

Jeff's bland, ill-fitting Tides uniform made me think of Dirk Hayhurst's Out of My League. Among many other vignettes, Dirk tells the tale of minor leaguers jockeying for uniform pieces prior to opening day. Non-MLB teams watch their bottom line closely and don't splurge on--just one example--fitted pants. The more you know! (And his book helps you know a lot.)

Jeff's hometown is close to (but not quite) the stated Pittsfield, MA. The nearby Dalton raised Reardon and dedicated him a ball park in 1990, pictured in the home state Red Sox cap he wore from 1990-92.

25 players appear in the full Tidewater Tides set, including David Letterman Top-10 List favorite Mookie Wilson. (Search on Mookie for proof.)
  1. Roy Lee Jackson
  2. John Pacella
  3. Jose Moreno
  4. Frank Verdi
  5. Jeff Reardon
  6. Dwight Bernard
  7. Mookie Wilson
  8. Butch Benton
  9. Ron Washington
  10. Jim Buckner
  11. Dan Norman
  12. Mario Ramirez
  13. Marshall Brant
  14. Ed Cipot
  15. Mike Scott
  16. Stan Hough
  17. Scott Holman
  18. Kelvin Chapman
  19. Mike Van De Casteele
  20. Greg Pavlick
  21. Bobby Bryant
  22. Russell Clark
  23. Jesse Orosco
  24. Bob Gorinski
  25. Earl Stephenson

Cardboard Zoo compiled a bunch of info for this TCMA set in 2011 and pointed, in turn, back here. Don't get caught in a link-following vortex!

Value: Semi-stars like Reardon run more than typical TCMA singles and this #5 cost $6 at a dealer on Beckett Marketplace.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace. (If Reardon made the HOF, the risk would be higher.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

1977 Cramer Tucson Toros Baseball #5, Ken Pape

You might look at a 1977 Tucson Toros card and see a disco mullet, meshback hat, and triple-stripe jersey. I look at this #5 and see the height of conservatism next to their upcoming guacamole fiesta, captured forever in the 1980 TCMA set.

Jersey devolution aside, thumbs up to the editor's "Orange Crush" border and Kurt Russell look-a-like photo choices. Eerie resemblance!

Kurt--I mean, Ken--spent 21 games on the Texas roster in 1976 and hit his only MLB homer in baseball's equivalent of "garbage time," late in a 13-3 drubbing at the hands of AL West rival Oakland. Pape also wore uniform #5 for his time with the Rangers, a nice bit of numerological synchronicity. Following that inspiration, the box score for Ken's single homer overlaps with several other #5 luminaries.

Prior to becoming Pacific Trading Cards and chewing through an MLB license during the junk wax era, Cramer Sports Productions competed with TCMA for 1970s minor league attention. 1977 marked their first year in full color, which they brightened further for Southwestern teams like the Albuquerque Dukes.

Tucson's checklist went by uniform, with trainer Chip Steger receiving the single unnumbered card.
  • NNO Chip Steger
  • 2 Dave Moates
  • 4 Lew Beasley
  • 5 Ken Pape
  • 6 Wayne Pinkerton
  • 7 Larue Washington
  • 8 Greg Mahlberg
  • 11 Keith Smith
  • 12 Keathel Chauncey
  • 13 David Moharter
  • 14 Rich Donnelly
  • 17 Rick Stelmaszek
  • 19 Gary Gray
  • 20 Bob Babcock
  • 27 Ed Nottle
  • 32 David Clyde
  • 33 Kurt Bevacqua
  • 35 John Poloni
  • 40 Len Barker
  • 45 Mark Soroko
  • 51 Pat Putnam
  • 52 Mike Bacsik
  • 53 Bobby Cuellar
  • 59 David Harper

Value: Ken's #5 cost me $2 at Teammate Len Barker later hit the apex of MLB success by throwing a perfect game (video highlights at and might run a little more.

Fakes / reprints: I doubt anyone on Tucson's roster found enough collector interest to be worth reprinting, other than immediately after Barker's perfecto.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

1977 San Jose Missions Baseball #5, Milt Ramirez

A 29 year-old veteran of 10 seasons at every professional level, Milt Ramirez spent just 1 year in San Jose due to their brief affiliation with Oakland. As mentioned in two other Missions #5 profiles (1978 here and 1980 here), Seattle "took over" the minor league club in 1978, so the A's moved their AAA team to Vancouver, with Milt in tow.

The card calls Milt a SS, but he actually split 100 games almost evenly with 3B and even played 8 games at 2B. Two different stints at the big-league level yielded a .184 average and 31 OPS+, so let's assume he knew how to turn a double play. contains a vast quantity of info, from stats to oh-so-many-more-stats. Near the bottom of each player page sit Transactions, a log of known movements between teams. While fairly regulated now, plenty of mystery swaps happened in earlier years.

As the movie line goes, "there are 1000 stories in the naked city." It seems Milt Ramirez was involved with at least 4 of them. (Player page at

The Missions set checklist includes several future MLBers. (Milt was both a past and future big-leaguer; after two years with St. Louis in 1970-71, he got a call back to the A's for 1979, his final season.)
  1. Team Photo CL
  2. Rene Lachemann
  3. Blue Moon Odom
  4. Derek Bryant
  5. Milt Ramirez
  6. Mark Williams
  7. Jim Tyrone
  8. Greg Sinatro
  9. Charlie Beamon
  10. Tim Hosley
  11. Denny Haines
  12. Mike Weathers
  13. Don Hopkins
  14. Bob Lacey
  15. Craig Mitchell
  16. Randy Boyd
  17. Denny Walling
  18. Randy Scarberry
  19. Brian Kingman
  20. Ron Bell
  21. Randy Taylor
  22. Jimmy Sexton
  23. Brian Abraham
  24. Dave Johnson
  25. Paul Mitchell

Value: Milt came in a package from MrMopar! Check out my write-up on this gift.

Fakes / reprints: Doubt folks would try to fake non-star minor leaguers and haven't seen any in the market.

Friday, June 1, 2012

1927 Fro-joy Ice Cream Boxing #5, Gene Tunney

Ice cream! As a Wisconsin native, that "dessert" (for me, that means "any meal of the day") figures into both daily life and this blog's traffic, as one of my enduringly popular profiles is a six-card set of Fro-joy spokesman Babe Ruth from 1928, at the peak of his fame. It doesn't matter than #5 shows only his hands--see them in my #5 profile--any collector would be happy to own one.

Fro-joy wasn't the earliest company to sign a sports hero to endorsement deals, but they might've been first to get both home run and heavyweight champs, as they started with this six-pose Gene Tunney set in 1927. Cards show the champ wearing training gear (#1-3 & #5), suit (#4), and even a Tarzan-like glare (#6)--see the whole set at auction on

"I must eat those things which are good for me--that's why I eat Fro-joy ice cream while training for my next fight."

Gene Tenney might've been paid to say those words, but he sure speaks my language.

Fro-joy claimed to be "Chock-full of YOUTH-UNITS" for this era, but what did they imply YOUTH-UNITS were? Based on card text, ice cream offered several benefits.
  • "Builds bones and muscle" (as dairy would)
  • "Contains phosphorus" (part of bones and teeth, helps metabolize carbs and fat)
  • "Contains...lime and iron" (the minerals lime and iron support bone and blood function)

So healthy! And, of course, it calls out to mothers as frequent purchasers and preparers of food for kids. No dad would enjoy ice cream! The notion is preposterous! (Burp.)

Cards backs advertised a swap of the complete set for this large photo and place their original issue as Fro-joy Cone Week, held in mid-July, 1927. I imagine the Babe Ruth set debuted in similar circumstances, with additional availability by mail.

Value (updated June 2018): I picked up #5 for $54 off eBay. Doubt that any individual cards costs more than another, with the possible exception of his ringside shot (#3).

Fakes / reprints: Someone of Tunney's stature would probably be reprinted early and often for boxing collectors. Take similar precautions buying his cards that you would with Ruth and be wary of modern fakes.

1928 Fro-joy Ice Cream Baseball #5, Babe Ruth's Grip

Building a type collection sometimes locks you into buying expensive-but-peripheral cards, like today's Babe Ruth-only issue. Despite the cost, most pre-war cards satisfy a yen for baseball history, offering a contemporary look at an early star. Other times, you get a curiosity piece. This #5 was my first pre-war Ruth--a big step for vintage collectors--but all I got was the Bambino's hands.

The Fro-joy ice cream company capitalized on Ruth's Atlas-like stature to issue this six-picture profile in 1928. Best I can tell, it went into ice cream lids, one card per creamy, tasty box. Studio poses comprise most of this set; Ruth's "flying slide" is the best of its two action shots.

Fro-joy's sponsored cards use an unusual size and above-average printing techniques for the 20s, with thick paper stock, good quality photos, and glossy finish. At least the card quality exceeds comparatively humble strip sets like W519 and W521.

The card back is one of my favorites, just for the phrase "Chock-full of YOUTH UNITS." And who wouldn't want to stay strong and healthful? Eat that ice cream, boys and girls!

My #5 is a solid VG card, with no ice cream stains or other condition shenanigans. Rather than agonizing over creases or marks, a bigger concern for this set is whether the cards are authentic at all. People started reprinting them as far back as the 70s, often using unusual paper and other techniques that stand out like lighthouse beacons. (All cards printed on colored paper are reprints.) Some grading companies even stopped accepting Fro-joys to avoid authenticating a too-good-to-be-true reprint.

Uncut sheets and a premium photo exist in the auction marketplace, almost always accompanied by an original Fro-joy mailing envelope to provide provenance. We can assume the company offered them as promotional items and many dedicated fans took advantage.

UPDATE: Here's a closer look at an uncut sheet.

Value: Low-grade (but authentic) Fro-joy singles cost $150+ and reprints are around $5.

Fakes / reprints: Fro-joy Ruths are one of the most reprinted cards ever, appearing on almost every color of paper, quality of photo, and even size of paper. I bought an SGC-graded card to be more confident that it was the real deal, though it's hard to be 100% at ease with Fro-joys.