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 HugginsAndScott.com.
"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.