Holy Cow: Bread Bedlam!

 

For under $5.00, I purchased what was purported to be a 1947 Bond Bread Phil Rizzuto card. I was vaguely aware that cards had variations which affected the value, but the cheap price made me skeptical of the authenticity. To determine if I was truly hornswoggled, I decided to research the history of this card set(s). I discovered much confusion, misidentification and perhaps subterfuge. To be clear, much of the information in this piece is based on supposition by collectors, since source material is scarce or hasn’t been found.

Firstly, identifying all the cards as “Bond Bread” is not accurate. Only 13 different cards-all featuring Jackie Robinson-were distributed in “Bond” brand bread. The Robinson images have rounded corners within a white outside border with square corners. They are slightly smaller than today’s standard cards. Each card has an advertisement for the bread and a message from Jackie on the back. The Robinson set is a fascinating topic. I highly recommend reading the “Beckett” article linked in the sources.

The confusion starts with the release of a rounded corner bread set in ’47 at the same time as the Robinson set. This 48-card set of 2-1/4” X 3-1/2” could be obtained in loaves of Bond’s “Homogenized” Bread. Many collectors have erroneously merged the separate issues. The format–minus the white border–and facsimile autographs are identical to the Bond Robinson cards, leaving little doubt that both were printed by the same company. Also, The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards states that the cards were issued in 12 card sets by the Aarco Playing Card company. This could be a clue that Aarco was the manufacturer of all the sets.

Now, here is where it gets strange. In ’47 another set is produced containing 24 of the baseball players found in the Homogenized Bread set, plus four boxers. The cards have square corners and are printed on thinner stock. Distribution details are far from certain, but some collectors speculate that they were dispensed in arcades, similarly to exhibit cards of the era. Of course, these cards have ended up being lumped in with the previous sets under the Bond Bread label.

But the saga doesn’t end here. In the ‘80s, a flood of the ’47 square edge cards mysteriously entered the collectors’ market. Supposedly, a stash of uncut sheets was unearthed in a warehouse. These are often deemed “impostors,” since they may have been printed in ‘47 but cut into individual cards in the ‘80s. Interestingly, a Harry Brecheen card turned up in this lot but not in the other ’47 iterations.

To further cloud the issue, some unscrupulous dealers reprinted the “found” cards and sold them as high grade originals. This means that if the “warehouse” cards were counterfeited-as some collectors speculate-then these are “fake” fakes.

To top it off, there are two larger format sets of the ’47 Homogenized Bread cards. The first one is known as Bond Bread “Premium,” since it may have been a premium offered by the company to bread buyers. The cards are 6-5/8” X 9” with white boarders. Another 3-3/8” X5-5/8” version was probably produced for arcade distribution. This set contains Walker Cooper, which is not in the base set.

So, what about my “Scooter” card? I’m hoping it is from the ’47 square corner set or even an ‘80s “warehouse” cut. But more likely, it is a fake. Buying it out of the trunk of a Buick behind Vito’s Bar and Grill should have been a dead giveaway.

In closing, the vintage “odd ball” sets are sorely lacking documentation. Over the years, collectors and dealers have done their best to patch together printing, distribution and marketing information. This is an area crying out for research.

Please chime in with any additional information or corrections. This subject was — as my students say– “hella” confusing.

Sources

The Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards

1947 BOND BREAD and its “imposters”….show us your cards ? – Net54baseball.com Forums. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=92743

1947 Jackie Robinson Bond Bread Baseball Cards History. (2016, April 15). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.beckett.com/news/1947-jackie-robinson-bond-bread/

Stufflestreet, C. (1970, January 01). 1947 Homogenized Bread. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://thevintagesportscards.blogspot.com/2010/05/1947-homogenized-bread.html

 

Unfinished (set) business

I’m a man of my word. I keep my promises and I achieve my goals. I don’t get distracted, I stay on task and I always finish what I start. Except…

My income and my passion for cards were at similar peaks throughout the ‘90’s. I finished some old sets I was close to finishing, started some older sets from scratch. There were four sets that I jumpstarted my way into with a series of well-priced, shrewdly purchased lots, and I had every intention of making my way to the end, the final check made in each one’s checklist. I don’t know what derailed me from my goals. Maybe it was the new century and big life changes (job switches, moving to Cooperstown, and so on), maybe it was the changes in the hobby (shifts to grading, disappearance of commons into slabs, moving to Cooperstown, far from big Chicago area card shows), maybe I simply lost interest in those sets. Let’s find out.

 

1933 Tattoo Orbit

tattoo-orbitThere’s something about this size, 2” X 2 ¼,” that grabs me. Tattoo Orbit (or R305, if you want to get technical) is a beautiful little set, 60 cards in all, hyper-stylized. The player photo is slightly colorized and is ensconced in a background that looks like it could have been drawn by a child. Check out Marty McManus here, swinging away, gigantic, in a setting of magnificent red and yellow. It’s a thing of beauty.

I have 16 of the 60, including two of the short prints. Did I ever think I’d really go the distance on this one? In retrospect, I’m not so sure. The set, even in VG, is around $4,000, probably more if I hunt and peck for individual cards. I don’t like spending a ton, so my guess is this one was a bit of a whim, a “yeah, sure, I’ll put this together over time.” Looking at what I’ve got, and how prices have gone up since I began, it’s even less likely I’ll get back to this one. But they are wonderful cards, magnificently simple in design.

 

1947 Bond Bread

bond-breadI’m halfway to the 44 card set of baseball players (though there are also 4 boxer cards). Not sure how these came into my field of vision, but it seems that in the 1980’s a large number of these black and white gems were found in a warehouse and released into the hobby. Maybe that’s why I got so many, definitely why the big time Hall of Famers (Musial, Williams, Jackie Robinson) are relatively inexpensive).

There’s a chance I’ll go back to this set. There are many wonders to be found in the photographs. Stan the Man here looks like he accidentally fielded a grounder during a photo shoot for the new 1947 Packard. Still, hunting down ungraded Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson cards may be a tough task and, it seems like after 2000, a rash of illegally reprinted square cornered cards (some come rounded) made their way not only into the hobby but into grading.  That worries me, though I wonder where the money is in counterfeiting 70-year-old Del Ennis cards.

 

1949 Remar Bread Oakland Oaks

remar-breadWhat’s with the bread cards? Sure, it makes sense to package cards with gum, kids chewing away as they read about their favorite players, but the image of a kid wadding a piece of white bread in his cheek is one I can’t shake. The poor little Oaklander would choke!

There are 42 cards in this set, a strangely sized 2” X 3.” They’re thin stuff, very flexible, but sort of cool. There’s a Billy Martin card, which I don’t have, but is pretty inexpensive in EX, the general grade of the 11 cards I have.

I’ve been scouting out the balance of the set on EBay and it looks like there are ungraded examples at reasonable prices. Completing this set may be a reasonable endeavor, but it’s awfully hard to muster up a real enthusiasm for chasing down an EX example of Maurice Van Robays, whoever the hell he was. Still, I look at my Mel Duezabou card and know that, to someone, he was important. I’m not sure that that someone is me.

 

1952 Parkhurst

parkhurstThis may be the one that got away and that calls me back the most. Almost exactly the size of the 1949 Bowman cards that I love, this 100 card set of Canadian International Leaguers (Montreal Royals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Athletics) is filled with unknowns and a healthy subset of drawings like “Gripping the Bat.” Look at this page – awesome, right?

Though I have half the set, I have none of the key cards, minor league appearances by Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Johnny Podres. They won’t break the bank. I think if I fish around for these, I’m likely to find one or two sellers/dealers who would sell me a bunch at a reasonable price. What could the real demand for the no-names and sketches be? Then I’ll back myself into a corner and spring for the higher priced cards. That’s my methodology – go cheap for as long as I can and then force myself to pony up for the few costlier cards that stand between me and a complete set.

 

I’ve never been a type collector of random cards, never sought out having one from as many sets as possible, so having four partial sets drives me batty. Is it worth keeping what I have if I’m not going to get them all? I don’t know, I debate that a lot. What’s the point of having 51 of 100 1952 Parkhursts if I’m not going to end up with 100? It’s a small scale struggle, but a struggle nonetheless.