Saturday, June 17, 2017

1928 Ice Cream & Candy Baseball (F50, W502) #5, Gabby Hartnett

This post earns its catch-all "ice cream" title because several mid-Atlantic food makers shared one 60-player checklist and design for multiple promotional sets distributed with ice cream or candy products. Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett's full-length warm-up shot got #5.

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.

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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goudey's many "Babe" Hermans and George Herman "Babes"

If you wrote a book about Goudey Gum's 1930s trading card sets, at least one chapter would talk about the many, many times they squeezed multiple cards from a single photo. Here's a quick look at the guy who got that treatment more than any other, George Herman (Babe) Ruth.

Goudey reworked this on-deck photo four times in 1933 alone, from the above R309-1 Premiums stand-up to three different cards in the main set.

1933 Goudey #53 (yellow)

1933 Goudey #144 (full-length)

1933 Goudey #149 (red)

Ruth changed to a dugout pose later in 1933, perhaps after collectors complained they'd seen the same Babe three times.

1933 Goudey #181 (green)

That's five Babes from two photos in 1933 alone, but Goudey wasn't done. They got another card out of this pose for their 1935 4-in-1s. As with all players in that set, they're re-cropped from earlier Goudey cards. Babe's only meaningful change is "Braves."

1935 Goudey 4-in-1, Braves (Ruth)

Close to my heart is the "other" Babe Herman, #5 in Goudey's 1933 set. It's not clear if this Babe, who was also a phenomenal hitter in the 20s and 30s, picked up the nickname from his Ruthian exploits.

1933 Goudey #5

Why stop there? Herman got the same cropped treatment for 1935 4-in-1.

1935 Goudey 4-in-1, Pirates (Herman)

I'm surprised they didn't blot out Herman's C(hicago) cap, given the move to Pittsburgh, but it was The Great Depression and selling gum packs meant more than minor details like "current team."

Babe's earlier days in Brooklyn included his infamous "double into a double play," explained well by the Parker Pioneer in "Three Men on Third Base."

Monday, June 5, 2017

1934-36 National Chicle "Diamond Stars Gum" Baseball #5, Tom Bridges

This stylish card of Detroit righty Tom Bridges overlays a realistic, posed follow-through on top of an Art Deco outfield and horizon. It shows off the set's typical intense color (more pictures here), with vibrant red and green fighting for your visual attention. It's believed prewar sets show such colorful skies because the coal soot of urban industry transformed late afternoon sun into red, orange, and purplish clouds.

Tiger Stadium (aka Briggs Stadium in those days) might not allow for this exact shot, but the artist appears to have placed actual Detroit skyline highlights behind Tom. Boxes show the relative position of Tommy in black and two prominent "New Center" buildings in grey, as they were in the 1930s. I'm told our leftmost building's the Fisher Building, home to live performance at the Fisher Theater. Its steeple is broadcast tower for WJR. Our rightmost building appears in many skyline photos, but can't find a name so far.

Bridges' long, slender fingers enabled him to throw a highly effective curve. Toss in a decent fastball, adequate control, and you get plenty of strikeouts. Tom broke the Tigers team record for Ks in 1941, which stood until Hal Newhouser came along. This #5 Diamond Star Gum card discusses how pitchers grip the ball, appropriate for his talents.

"Pitching Tips - How to Grip the Ball. Most major league pitchers grip the ball with the fingers across the seams, to obtain a firm purchase. Tom Bridges of the Detroit Tigers, one of the most effective pitchers in the game, holds the ball thus. Yet a few well-known moundsmen hold the ball with the fingers between the seams. This is a matter of choice. But always be sure to hold the ball the same way, both for your curve and fast ball. Do not curl your thumb back when about to throw your curve, a familiar habit among schoolboy pitchers. Smart batters notice such habits. Hold the ball with medium firmness, keeping the fingers and wrist flexible."

I love this phrase: "Tom Bridges...holds the ball thus." That's old school sportswriting. Boston American columnist Austen Lake supplied the set's text and received a byline on each card. Also note those 1933 stats after his bio, because they're our key clue to tracking yearly variations.

National Chicle printed #5 Tom Bridges all three years of their 1934-36 run, revising his short bio paragraph with the previous year's stats. This 1935 series reflects Tom's 1934 win/loss record and World Series success. The copyright date remained the same across all of Tom's cards, even as the stats changed.

1936's printing switched to blue ink and include Tom's 1935 win/loss record. Detroit reached the World Series again in 1935 and this time Tom won twice.

VALUE: I was lucky to receive this card gratis from a collecting friend. Diamond Star Gum "commons" run about $10 on eBay, but players like Bridges, a key part of the first Tigers championship in 1935, could cost more if a team collector's on the hunt.

FAKES / REPRINTS: Many reprints and counterfeits exist for the full set and individual stars of this Diamond Stars set, so familiarize yourself with prewar's thicker card stock and other aspects of similar sets to avoid buying a reprint as the real thing. Bright white borders and thin paper are the easiest way to know for sure you have a postwar reprint.