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1939 R334 Play Ball "Free Sample" Advertising Complete Set Minus One (114/115)
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $5,629
Presented is a remarkable complete set (minus one) of 1939 Play Ball "Free Sample" cards, consisting of 114 of 115 subjects, highlighted by extremely crisp, high-grade (SGC EX/NM 80) examples of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and missing only #57 for completion. This is the largest group of these fascinating and rare advertising cards we have ever offered. A group of forty "Free Sample" cards was sold in REA's 2007 auction and was purchased by a collector who went on to complete the entire 115-card set. His complete set, along with the cards presented here, are to the best of our knowledge the largest collections of these cards in existence.
In 1939, Gum, Inc., was all set to produce and distribute baseball cards. To introduce its new product, the very first baseball-card set issued by Gum, Inc., a small quantity of low-number cards (#1-115) were overprinted with advertising for the set, and distributed as “Free Samples” (as noted on reverse) to help generate interest and excitement in the new offering. The red advertising message is printed horizontally directly over the standard text of the reverse, and reads in full: "FREE SAMPLE CARD. GET YOUR PICTURES OF LEADING BASEBALL PLAYERS. THREE PICTURE CARDS PACKED IN EACH PACKAGE OF "PLAY BALL AMERICA" BUBBLE GUM. AT YOUR CANDY STORE 1 CENT." In every other way these advertising cards were identical to the production cards issued in packs. These were promotional cards provided to retailers strictly for the purpose of giving away. We don’t see many of these rare advertising cards in the hobby today, but it must have been very exciting for youngsters to be given a free sample of this new issue in 1939. We have selected ten cards to be graded by SGC. Keys: #3 Ruffing (hand cut, otherwise Vg), 6 Durocher (EX/NM 80), 7 Doerr (EX 60), 26 DiMaggio (EX/NM 80), 30 Dickey (VG/EX 50), 39 Ferrell (hand cut, otherwise Ex), 48 Gomez RC (EX/NM 80), 50 Gehringer (EX+70), 51 Ott (hand cut, otherwise Vg), 53 Hubbell (EX/NM+ 82), 55 Vaughan (Vg), 56 Greenberg (EX/NM 80), 82 Klein (hand cut, otherwise Vg-Ex), 89 Waner (hand cut, otherwise Ex+), 92 Williams (EX/NM 80), 94 Manush (Ex), 103 Berg (hand cut, otherwise Ex+), and 112 P. Waner (EX 60). Approximately 50% of this set appears to have been sheet-cut by hand as the sizes vary and irregular cuts on some cards are present on multiple edges. This makes sense as these special early advertising sample cards were not issued in packs, and the same production methods used on pack-ready cards did not apply. Despite these irregular cuts, most of the cards still present in overall outstanding Vg-Ex to Ex-Mt condition. If submitted to SGC or PSA, some of these cards may receive numerical grades while others may be deemed miscut or hand-cut and only qualify for "Authentic." The balance of the cards (representing the other half of the set), appear to be full-size and machine-cut as one would expect, and range in grade from Vg-Ex to Ex-Mt (averaging Ex) with eight Gd to Vg. Throughout the set, each of the backs is bright, clean, and flawless, which is especially important to these cards, as the clean backs allow the red advertising overprint to be bright, legible, and perfect. This is an extremely significant complete set (minus one) for collectors of vintage baseball-card advertising related items and prewar gum cards. The equivalent SMR value for just the ten graded cards (factoring in the two half grades at the lower whole-grade level and not including the 104 ungraded cards!) is $3,105. This does not account for any premium due to the rarity of the "Free Sample" backs. Total: 114 cards. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500++. SOLD FOR $5,629
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