HOF Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett got #5 in this full-length warm-up shot. Other players appear in profiles or action poses and all 60 might be reused newspaper or magazine photos.
Even to a vintage collector's eye, these hazy photos and white stock look like fakes in real life. Being the late 1920s, we can chalk the set's cheapness up to limited technology and ad budgets. Unfortunately, set rarity also means reprints and fakes exist--it's hard to separate the real from the chaff and few collectors attempt to build complete, authentic sets.
Each of the involved food companies 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. TCMA reprinted one "flavor" (Tharp's Ice Cream) in 1972 and I profiled it back in 2010.
|1972 TCMA Tharp's Ice Cream reprint (back)|
It's not clear if kids kept their cards after getting free ice cream, but I suspect not; companies might've recirculated redeemed cards to save on further printing costs.
Here's a list of companies known to use this front design with varying backs, followed by catalog number. (Links go to their Old Cardboard set profiles, which include 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)
The "Game Backs" include simple baseball situations. With enough cards, I assume kids could flip their way through 9 innings a la 1951 Topps Red Backs and Blue Backs or the 1978 Topps game.
It's hard for me (or collectors in general) to get excited about crude black-and-white sets when soon-to-follow 1930s Goudey cards look so great.
|1933 Goudey #202, Gabby Hartnett|
Yeah, that's better. A lot better.
UPDATE: Here's the rarely-seen Babe Ruth card, scarce thanks to the ice cream bar trade-in offer.
Value: eBay sellers want to believe singles are worth hundreds of dollars, but dozens of dollars is more likely, unless you've got a HOFer like Gabby Hartnett. Those legitimately run $100 and up. (Ruth cards cost in the $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.