|W502 card front in graded holder
The "ice cream or candy + baseball" combo would've been big news for kids in those days, but its ho-hum design underwhelms as a collectable. These hazy photos on white stock resemble photocopies when held in real life, so need close examination to authenticate. Few collectors attempt to build sets without sticking to graded cards.
Each food company customized their card backs with promotional info, a brief player bio, or trade-in contests that encouraged kids to swap Babe Ruth or complete sets for ice cream. I profiled TCMA's reprint of one such set in 2010.
|1972 TCMA Tharp's Ice Cream reprint (back)
Here are the backs of my two Hartnett type cards, one with ONE BAGGER...
|Card back with promo text
...the other with THREE BAGGER, a straight in-store promo exchange. This tells us baseballs and perhaps other giveaways accompanied the card shipments. (Rewards weren't always ice cream or candy.)
It's not clear if kids got to keep their cards after getting a freebie, but I suspect not. Companies might've reclaimed and recirculated redemption cards to save on further printing costs.
At least five companies share this same front design and checklist with varying backs, linked below by catalog number to their Old Cardboard set profiles, which show checklist and back variations.
- 1927-28 York Caramel (E210, 3 types)
- 1928 Sweetman Candy (F50)
- 1928 Yeungling's Ice Cream (F50)
- 1928 Tharp's Ice Cream (F50)
- 1928 Harrington's Ice Cream (F50)
- 1928 Game Backs (W502)
UPDATE: Here's the rarely-seen Babe Ruth card, scarce thanks to the ice cream bar trade-in offer.
UPDATE #2: Here's a #5 back with Yuengling's ice cream offer, Babe Ruth for a bar or the whole set for a gallon.
Value: Each graded #5 type cost me $40 on eBay. Sellers want to believe singles are worth hundreds of dollars, but dozens of dollars is more likely. Bigger superstars legitimately run $100 and up, with Ruth cards netting $1000s.
Fakes / reprints: Reprints and fakes exist, so buy from reputable dealers if you're looking for a type card and aren't familiar with the sets themselves.