We all have our collecting passions. Some of us may consider ourselves well versed on a particular type of material or a specific trading card issue. We pontificate in forums. Answer questions from the less learned. Maybe write an article or two if we have that kind of skill. Only the most devoted do what Dan Mabey did, however.
He literally wrote the book on Post Cereal baseball cards. Make that ‘books’.
Over 20 years, he soaked up enough knowledge to produce a different spiral-bound tome for each of the four sets that carry the cereal maker’s name. The California native and current South Carolina resident turned a childhood hobby into a scholarly, yet fun quest to present the hobby with as much information as he could possibly gather. His books were produced over a period of years in the 1990s, but not widely distributed.
‘Cardboard, Crunch, Milk and Scissors’ includes 18 chapters covering the 1961 set. ‘Bragging Rights: The Complete Guide to 1962 Post Cereal Baseball Cards’ is even larger at over 200 pages (did you know there are 543 variations in this set?). Mabey explores the 1962 Post Canadian set with ‘Northern Exposure, The Perils of Collecting the 1962 Canadian Post Baseball Card Set’. He wraps up the series with ‘Postage Due, the Comprehensive Guide to the 1963 Post Cereal Baseball Card Set’.
These are not e-books or basic guides slapped together in a few hours. They are voluminous, meticulously researched guides to one of the hobby’s most popular food issue trading card promotions of all-time. He spent hundreds of hours making sure he had the most comprehensive collection of information possible, driven by his own curiosity and what he calls a “Virgonian penchant for infinitesimal detail”. Much of that stemmed from a long career working for the Department of Defense and NASA on space, missile, warning and surveillance systems.
Despite their depth, the books maintain a collector’s sense of wonder and a sort of treasure hunter feel as Mabey takes us on a journey that begins in the Kennedy era with a cereal company simply looking for an edge in a competitive market.
“All of these books were labors of love, and little did I know just how many people would warmly receive the information,” he told Sports Collectors Daily recently. “All of the books were researched, written, produced and bound by me — out of my home.”
It wasn’t easy.
After ten years of trying to convince company officials he was sincere in his efforts to chronicle the Post Cereal baseball card saga, he finally spoke at length with the men who were actually employed by Post in the early 60s and created the promotion, worked on the cards, handled the advertising and went about the business of marketing what was one of the most ambitious trading card projects of all-time. Their recollections help piece the Post story together.
Mabey doesn’t just describe the cards and list the variations. The books include lists of the cards and specifically which brands of cereal they appeared on and why commonly accepted ideas on scarcity aren’t always accurate. Utilizing charts, graphs and lists, he paints a picture of how the cards went from conceptualization to store shelf to breakfast table.
Like many 1960s kids, he collected cards but it wasn’t until the 1980s when his obsession began. A large purchase at a southern California baseball card shop rekindled his interest and he began to not only collect sets, but chronicle everything about the issues.
Each book includes exhaustive narrative, drawing from his personal experience of 20+ years specializing in Post/JELL-O) cards, vintage hobby articles by pioneers such as Gavin Riley, and personal interviews and exchanges with men in Battle Creek and White Plains who planned and executed the promotions. There is no price guide, per se; however, the reader can glean relative values based on scarcity analysis.
Along the way, he’s met many collectors of those early 60s issues and gladly shared what he’s learned with those who are more interested in knowing everything they can about the sets rather than wondering how much they’re worth.
“It seems that the Post/JELL-O enthusiasts have retained that unique throwback characteristic that typified baseball card collectors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which induces sharing experiences and having fun with assembling the sets,” he related.
Below is a question and answer session with Dan about the 1961 Post set. We’ll also share some fascinating images you have most likely never seen before.
Q: Post actually produced oversized photo trading cards in 1960, using players from baseball, football and basketball. They’re fairly rare today, but was the promotion’s apparent success one reason why they opted to produce a 200-card baseball set for 1961?
DM: I have never been able to uncover General Foods or Post cereal documents pertaining to planning, execution, and assessment of the nine card 1960 promotion. However, we can assume that Grape-Nuts Flakes sales improved as a result of the sports card campaign. Company executives must have concluded that product sales and brand recognition benefits outweighed the expense to secure licenses and contracts, acquire photographs, write biographies, generate copy art, and produce cereal boxes housing the portrait cards.
Q: There had been “food issue” sets prior to the 1961 Post set but it had to rank among the most ambitious projects of its kind. How much did Post have riding on this project and whose idea was it?
DM: From my perspective, the 1961 Post cereal baseball card set is the landmark sports-related promotion of the modern era. I find it remarkable that Fred Smart, Post group products manager, had the vision and courage to advocate a 200 card baseball card set that could be assembled by cutting cards from cereal box panels and via a mail-in offer. To this day, we do not know if the decision and success was driven by unparalleled “thinking outside of the box”, superior market analysis, or luck coinciding with General Mills and Kellogg offering no significant sports-related promotions for 1961. Genesis of the idea or scope of the promotion is unknown; I suspect it may have been a collaborative project involving the advertising agency, Young & Rubicam (Y&R), and the Post group products division. My book on the 1961 Post cereal set good-naturedly weaves a story on how a conversation may have proceeded in March 1960, as key representatives brainstormed the promotion. The scenario is fictional, but illustrates the dimensions of planning and executing such a complex campaign.
Q: In your book, it was shocking to see you make a reference to the fact that some 400 million 1961 Post cards were produced, enough to stretch around the globe. I understand Post actually promoted this in their literature. What do you make of that number?
DM: At first glance, citing 400 million cards seems like an imaginary gee-whiz figure conjured up by an enterprising sales brochure advertising executive. However, I believe the plan actually envisioned the availability of that number of cards. My book goes into excruciating detail deciphering product distribution patterns, which in turn influence the number of cereal box cards that actually found their way to grocery store shelves. Conceding that my analysis requires a fair degree of speculation and interpolation, there are some hard facts upon which we can rely. There are 361 different box cards. A total of 73 different box panels were planned. A total of 16 cereal varieties and sizes participated in the promotion. These numbers are based on original General Foods/Post product-to-player lists, vintage articles and personal observations by hobby pioneers, generous contributions of advanced Post and JELL-O collectors, and interviews with former Post cereal employees. To top it off, I have viewed originals or copies of 72 panels. The only complete panel that advanced collectors have never seen is the Alpha-Bits 8.25 oz panel comprised of #17 Coates, #53 Buddin, #98 Ramos, #140 Mizell, #167 Snider, and #200 Elston.
Q: Post took their responsibility to produce an accurate set quite seriously, didn’t they?
DM: Yes, they did. I did not fully appreciate the effort undertaken to ensure an aesthetically appealing and statistically accurate product, until my conversations with former Post cereal employees. In particular, William (Bill) R. Betts and Howard T. Slutz were incredibly generous in furnishing insights into the layout and proofing of advertising items and preparation of copy art. Bill was the Art Director at Post in Battle Creek, Michigan during the 1961 promotion. Howard also worked in the art department, and was responsible for proofing each completed copy art (mock-up board) before dispatch to rotogravure plate etching.
My book relies heavily on the recollection of these two gentlemen, as they spoke about last minute corrections to erroneous biographical and statistical data furnished by major league baseball (MLB) and Y&R. They also had to contend with improperly marked and misplaced photographs. As modern collectors will attest, some errors did get through and selective updates to reflect trades or major accomplishments are reflected on certain box and mail-in (a.k.a. company) cards. I found it interesting and endearing to hear stories from art department architects. At one point, Bill Betts (who has now passed away) mentioned that Post employees would periodically scrutinize biographies and statistics furnished by MLB. Bill chuckled as he recalled receiving calls from around the plant exclaiming, “This is ridiculous. Don Drysdale didn’t do this, or Bob Shaw didn’t do that.” These spontaneous exhortations must have been a real confidence booster for Post employees wishing to produce a quality product against a tight delivery schedule!
Q: The arrival of the cards caused a bit of a stir, didn’t it? Weren’t there some newspaper articles printed about the set that spring and summer?
DM: I suppose the best way to answer your question about the 1961 Post cereal baseball card campaign causing a stir, is to put it in the first person. I was ten years old when the promotion landed in my hometown of Montebello, California, just outside the Los Angeles city limits. The Dodgers relocated from Brooklyn in 1958, and my life revolved around baseball. My preoccupation with baseball cards began in 1959 and was largely devoted to Topps. With the exception of the cellophane-wrapped Dodger cards inserted into Bell Brand potato chip bags, I was oblivious and indifferent to other food issue sports promotions. This included the Hires, Swift, and even 1960 Post issues. But when the Post ad campaign and cereal box displays filtered down to me and my buddies, we went crazy. Locally, there were radio and television ads to complement the in-store displays. As a kid, I never thought about what went into the planning and execution of the campaign. But, the Post cereal folks in Battle Creek, Michigan and General Foods executives in New York obviously knew what they were doing!
I have a full chapter in Baseball, Crunch, Milk and Scissors dedicated to in-store and media promotion material, including photographs and text emanating from The Battle Creek Inquirer, General Foods company newsletter, and trade publications. Heavy reliance was placed on Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees players to represent the product. Lou Burdette and the Braves batboy are featured in the company newsletter, and a promotion still shows a grinning boy holding a fanned array of cut-out cards with cereal box fronts in the foreground featuring Eddie Mathews and Dick Groat. Posters with the likenesses of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle announcing the 200 card set were taped to store-front windows. Don Drysdale represented the West Coast contingent in ad copy, and a free standing, large pin-wheel display with oversized cards and a grinning boy was a central focus of attention in many grocery stores.
Brief mention must also be made of a couple of newspaper articles focused on the baseball card promotion.
Located in the “Cereal Capital of the World”, the Battle Creek Inquirer understandably featured news and commentary about happenings at Post and Kellogg. In the case of the 1961 Post cereal baseball card promotion, the advertising and marketing departments used this conduit to announce significant events pertaining to the product and its employees. However, lest modern day collectors assume the newspaper was in Post’s hip pocket, it is funny to note that one columnist speculated that distribution of cereal boxes seemed uneven and may have been slanted toward withholding star players in the interest of bulking up the kitchen larder. The company responded by denying the allegation.
The second newspaper item worthy of mention revolves around the tagging of cards to Minneapolis. Recognizing the error and wishing to make amends to the Minnesota Twins faithful, Post ran an ad in the local newspaper headlined “A Public Apology to the Minnesota Twins — or, Boy Did We Goof!” As a collector, it is fun to read the narrative which, as the company newsletter GF news later admits, focused on “apologizing, amusing — and selling.”
Q: You have charts and graphs that indicate which players appeared on certain brands of cereal within the Post family. How did you acquire that information and what does it tell us about how the 1961 Post cards were produced and which cards are scarce?
DM: Having read my book, you recognize I have devoted 31 pages to cereal box card availability and scarcities. The factual information upon which I relied consists of copies of an original typed player-to-product distribution list purported to have been sent by Post cereal representatives to consumers in 1961.
I know that last sentence sounds like a mouthful of words, but it is important that collectors understand the source of material. People need to take a moment to reflect on the nature of the sports card hobby a half century ago. There were no price guides. The original Trader Speaks and collector networks formed the basis upon which information was gathered and shared, resulting in (mostly) trade transactions. I did not enter the so-called organized hobby until 1978, having rediscovered my childhood collection of 1959-1966. I stumbled upon the first “national” baseball card convention by the L.A. International Airport by virtue of my employment with the U.S. Air Force in El Segundo, California. It was the first time I had heard the names Mike Berkus, Jack Petrazelli, and Gavin Riley. Why this trip down memory lane? Because it is important that collectors understand how critical folks like Gavin Riley and the emerging hobby were to unearthing information that ultimately enhanced my collecting, enjoyment, and chronicling of the Post cereal and JELL-O gelatin card sets.
The acquisition of the 1961 Post cereal player-to-product list is the key to understanding the ease or difficulty of completing a basic or master card set. Over a period of 20 years, I obtained 3 copies from different sources located in the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, and Virginia. They were furnished by advanced food issue collectors, notably people like Gavin Riley, Terry Mitchell, and Stewart Jones. All lists are the same format, same font and size type, and look to be third or fourth generation reproductions. Precisely where they emanated from is open to speculation, but I would guess that they passed through Dick Tucker’s desk. Who is Dick Tucker? He is the gentleman working in the Post promotions office that, according to GF news, was responsible for assigning each player to cereal box panels.
With the distribution list in hand and my Want List, I attended dozens of Southern California baseball card shows and a few annual national conventions. Gavin Riley was invaluable in providing cards and sharing information. Many of the cards I acquired originated from his collection. As I thumbed through thousands of Gavin’s Post cereal cards, my inquiries regarding scarcity, print, and color variations were thoughtfully answered. He noted a major driver is the cereal variety and size of the box, which influenced the frequency of purchase. Was there a list depicting cereal panel configurations? No. However, I discovered that a gentleman by the name of Clyde Cripe had published a list of players and color/tint and biography variations. Two years later I tracked down Mr. Cripe through an old issue of Sports Collectors Digest. He no longer was involved in the hobby and had no copies to sell. Eventually, a collector I met at the National Convention in Anaheim had a copy of Clyde’s “Post: The American Issue” and offered to sell it to me.
Pouring through more Post cereal cards, over a period of time I began to amass a large number of color and tint variations. Conceding I now had the player-to-product list and player color/tint variation list, a method to catalog consistent traits and hues of cards to cereal variety and size seemed necessary. In some instances, complete panels in my collection provided a baseline from which to depart. I also scoured old copies of The Trader Speaks, Baseball Card News, Sports Collectors Digest, and Baseball Hobby News for advertisements and articles that depicted or described complete uncut or partial cereal box panels.
At this point, other hobbyists and some dealers became aware of my research and asked if I could share the information. I had never intended my obsessive data collection to be disseminated, because it was gathered solely for my personal hobby enjoyment. [NOTE: You can guess. I am a Virgo.] In addition, organizing the information into an integrated and logical format would require reconfiguration and a method to sort data. This gave rise to putting the information into Xcel spreadsheets, giving birth to columnar and pie charts. In return for furnishing the raw data to collectors I deemed trustworthy, I requested color copies of cereal box panels in their possession and sharing their assessment of my preliminary findings. Gentlemen like Ken Marks, Mike Tiry, and Brian Zimmerman overwhelmed me with material and encouragement critical to the analysis. Concurrently, the advent of eBay produced downloadable scans of cereal box panels.
Through the foregoing process, errors and omissions in the player-to-product and player text/color/tint variation list have been identified. Only one 1961 Post cereal panel configuration represented by Dick Tucker’s derived list has not been verified. The Cripe list provided an excellent departure point, requiring augmentation and a different framework to consistently catalog color, text, and tint variations. My master set, including mail-in (a.k.a. company) card variations, has each card identified to the team sheet or box cereal variety and size.
As stated earlier, the availability or relative scarcity of box cards is influenced by cereal variety and size. In addition, assumptions regarding production runs and grocery store distribution over the April through September promotion period provide insight into why certain player cards are more difficult to acquire.
For example, the Post Tens bottom tray (upon which individual serving size boxes were stacked) housed 3 cards each and 7 different panels were produced. With the exception of card #65 Ken Aspromonte, the remaining 20 cards are single prints. Based on an assumption of target market, number of cards per panel, and anticipated consumption or consumer preference, I estimated that each Post Tens variety pack panel (of 3 cards) was produced in a quantity of 285,700. There are 7 different tray bottom panels, totaling 2 million packaged units of Post Tens being delivered to grocery stores. Accordingly, kids across the United States could expect to see a total of 6 million baseball cards appearing on the variety pack tray bottom. [Remember: 20 of the 21 cards are single prints!]
At the other end of the spectrum, let’s look at Sugar Crisp in the 14 ounce package. Seven (7) of the 21 cards are single prints. Based on the same assumptions set forth above, I estimated each 7 card panel of the Sugar Crisp 14 oz boxes were produced in a quantity of 1,833,333. There are 3 different box panels, totaling 5,500,000 packaged units being delivered to grocery stores. Accordingly, kids across the United States could expect to see a total of 38,500,000 baseball cards appearing compliments of Sugar Bear.
The above example demonstrates, in part, why all single prints prints are not created equal. It is true that Bob Shaw, Jerry Lumpe, and Sam Jones are all single prints and appeared together on a Post Tens variety tray panel. It also is true that single prints Bill Skowron, Roy Face, and Mike McCormick appeared with Turk Lown, Jackie Brandt, Whitey Herzog and Tom Davis. However, most collectors and dealers will attest they see the first trio of cardboard heroes far less seldom than their Sugar Crisp colleagues.
Q: Are there any misconceptions about which cards from the ’61 set are truly scarce? Where do the price guides come up short in their analysis of the set?
DM: There is both an easy and hard way to address the question about misconceptions and price guides. Being fair to the authors of price guides, they are focused on big ticket cards or major anomalies that mainstream collectors and dealers wish to know. I respect the pioneers and dedicated sages (dealers and collectors) that are immersed in hobby history and idiosyncrasies, and provide trend data or discoveries to the price guides. If you scan the baseball card catalogs and price guides, you can admire the breadth of the undertaking and sense that they are earnest in reporting market prices. However, as many “oddball” collectors will attest, the guides frequently are way off base when it comes to food issues like the 1961-63 Post cereal and 1962-63 JELL-O gelatin baseball card sets.
For example, if you pick up one of the major annual catalogs, it cites the value of a near mint set of 1961 Post Cereal as $2,000. It also reports that a complete set consists of 200 cards. Yet, it lists significantly more than 200 cards to accommodate both box and company cards. A smattering of corrected box cards are also included. Confused? Well, the brief narrative under the heading and picture should clarify the number of cards in a complete set. Right? The catalog text reads that the complete set price includes only the most common variation of each player.
Having focused on the General Foods 1961-63 sports card promotions over the past 30 years, I acknowledge we are a strange breed and seldom would be mistaken for being mainstream hobbyists. This is where the tension exists between customary definitions of scarcity and price guide accuracy.
My view of scarcity relating to the Post cereal issues is rooted in the quantity of cards produced on a given box panel that actually found their way into collector’s hands. The key here is “on a given box panel”. Here is an illustration. Suppose I’m a Giants fan, and my goal is to obtain the company and box card of Don Blasingame. Identifying the mail-in offer card from the company sheet is a cinch. Now, I pursue the box card. As I thumb through the rows of cut cards, I find a half dozen Blasingame cards staring back at me. Cool! I select the nicest card available, which turns out to not be difficult. You see, that particular specimen came from a popular Post Toasties (18 ounce) 7-card panel that included Duke Snider. I smugly grin over my successful acquisitions, only to have a seasoned Post cereal collector peer over my shoulder and inquire if I have the tough Blasingame. “Huh?! I got the cereal box version! There’s only one listed in my annual price guide!” What I didn’t know is that, indeed, there is another Blasingame card. The other Blasingame card appeared on a Raisin Bran (9½ ounce) 4-card panel featuring a well known scarce, high-priced cardboard hero by the name of Frank Thomas (no. 193).
Using the above example, we can go to a popular price guide and see that a near-mint (NM) box card of Frank Thomas lists at $100. As for #148 Don Blasingame (and #55 Frank Sullivan and #77 Marv Breeding), the NM box card value is straight-lined at $4. The price guide recognizes no price differential for a “common” double or triple print, whether it originated on the least or most frequently purchased cereal variety and size. This is where I disagree. You see, the 4-card Raisin Bran (9½ ounce) panel is a separate issue, meaning that even the multiple printed players have varying degrees of toughness based on the panel from which they were cut. Accordingly, there should be a price differential to recognize the relative degree of scarcity.
Is the foregoing scenario too complex to be factored into a mainstream price guide? Probably! However, it does not change the reality with which advanced Post cereal enthusiasts must deal. The true value to collectors in employing my construct is that it unlocks the door to understanding why certain 1961 Post cereal cards are so hard to find. There is a reason that #81 Jerry Lumpe, #143 Sam Jones, and #23 Bob Shaw are extremely challenging to find! They all came from the same Post Tens variety tray bottom; yet Lumpe is priced at $9, Jones is priced at $5, and Shaw carries a hefty price tag of $125! Huh?! No disrespect intended to Bob Shaw, but is he sought by complete set, White Sox team set, and Bob Shaw fanatics 25 times more than Sad Sam Jones?
So, to answer your questions: Yes, there are gross misconceptions about the relative scarcity (and ready availability) of box cards in the 1961 Post cereal baseball set. As to the second question, I have never witnessed price guides conduct a detailed analysis of 1961-63 Post or 1962-63 JELL-O nuances and idiosyncrasies; they report a consensus of price trends at a given point in time based on submissions by seasoned dealers and respected collectors. The reliance a collector places in these guides is ultimately a function of his confidence in the source of information and, more importantly, the individual’s personal inquisitiveness and experience.
Q: You mention that there are actually 355 different cards that were issued on boxes of Post Cereal. Explain why that’s so.
DM: First, let the record show I was WRONG when the figure of 355 was cited in the original publication of Cardboard, Crunch, Milk and Scissors. The total number is actually 361, and the genesis of the discovery was fully disclosed in the April 1, 2003 updated version. This is what I find great and fun about collecting the Post cereal cards. You think you’ve completed your gargantuan task of cataloging each card, then you get new information. That is precisely the case in bumping the number of box cards up by 6.
If you’ll excuse a slight diversion from your main question, I have to tell you I was always perplexed by color, tint, and register aberrations in the six players that definitively appeared on Alpha-Bits ¾ ounce (individual serving size) boxes. One day in late 2002, I was mindlessly surfing eBay and came across a listing for several cards that I recognized as being cut from Alpha-Bits ¾ ounce boxes. These cards were cut well outside the black borders, displaying a full, vibrant baby blue background. It immediately hit me! These were not the two-tone white and blue design individual servings contained in Post-Tens, but had to be packages inserted in Treat-Paks! I had no previous information, including the original product-to-player distribution list, that would have tipped me off. Naturally, I acquired all six of the cards to complement those already in my master set; this serves to verify the genesis of the cards.
Getting back to your question, the total number of box cards is strictly a function of knowing each cereal variety and size participating in the promotion, the number of different back panels, and the number of cards per panel. The total box score statistics by product are summarized in the book, the highlights being: (a) Different box cards issued = 361; (b) Box single prints issued = 94; (c) Different box panels issued = 73; Different cereal boxes issued = 16. As mentioned earlier, the only cereal box panel never seen in the hobby is an Alpha-Bit 8.25 ounce that featured Duke Snider.
Q: Post produced some in-store marketing materials for the Post sets. How scarce are these items today?
DM: To put it bluntly, the in-store marketing displays and promotion materials are virtually impossible to find. My experience is that Post cereal baseball and football card collectors have an insatiable desire to acquire any planning or promotion materials they can find and, once acquired, virtually never let it go. The 1961 Post baseball card set promotion materials included: stationery with letterhead and graphics; a full-color glossy brochure given to store managers; sample matt-finished complete panels; free standing in-store displays; publicity stills and posters featuring player spokesmen (like Mickey Mantle); banners; company newsletter and trade journal articles; and newspaper advertisements and commentaries.
For a number of years, the prized marketing prop in my collection was the oversized pinwheel of nine enlarged, full-color cards. The “dramatic motion” wheel (as defined in the salesman advertising literature) measures 27 inches in diameter, and features facsimile cards with dimensions of 6 inches by 8½ inches. The double sided cards appearing on the pinwheel are Mays, Face, Ford, Gentile, Lemon, Fox, Ken Boyer, Burdette, and Runnels. Like the majority of such artifacts, I seriously doubt that item will be placed on the auction block anytime soon. However, collectors wishing to view the full-color pinwheel can do so by turning to the back leaf of my book. It really is an incredible item!
Q: In addition to getting cards on the back of cereal boxes, kids could send a dime and two box tops to acquire a sheet of cards from the teams(s) of their choice. In fact, four cards (Bob Turley, Chuck Estrada, Chuck Stobbs, and Eddie Mathews) are only available on the “company team sheets”. What are the most important things to know about the company sheets?
DM: The first important thing to know about the company cards is that you do not have a complete set without the 160 mail-in offer cards. There, I said it! Now, let’s talk a little about the four cards mentioned above, the twelve player transactions reflected on the mail-in sheets, and relative difficulty of finding company cards.
The saga of Turley, Estrada, Stobbs and Mathews is legendary, fueling endless speculation about why the four players never appeared on cereal boxes. The sequential numbering of the players within their team run confirms they were planned to appear in the 200 card set. None of the players were involved in trades in the 1960 campaign that might have impacted photographs, and each of the players enjoyed successful 1960 campaigns. There is one commonality among all four cards; i.e. all contain biographical or statistical errors. It is possible that the Post art department had difficulty obtaining information from major league baseball league offices in sufficient time to support panel layout and cereal box production guidelines. In contrast to the relatively quick offset printing process used to produce company team sheets, the rotogravure process giving birth to cereal boxes is very labor intensive and expensive. It is a certainty that the company mail-in sheets were produced after the cereal boxes, evidenced by the twelve trades reflected on mail-in offer cards.
With specific reference to Eddie Mathews, I speculate that his absence from cereal box rear panels was a function of confusion and dwindling photograph copies. The original General Foods product-to-player mimeographed list cited the Brookfield Bomber as appearing on 4 product packages (without specifying box size). It is possible, by express intent, panel layout (copy art) difficulties, or inadequate numbers of quality Kodak color prints, Mathews was relegated to cereal box front advertising. Expanded scenarios and discussion of how Mathews and his three company-only cohorts may have created curious multiple print box card appearances are contained my book.
Another important point pertaining to the company team mail-in offer is recognizing transactions involving the Tigers, Braves, Red Sox, Phillies, Indians, Giants, White Sox, Reds, Senators, and even the L.A. Angels! I imagine that Post cerealemployees Bill Betts, Howard Slutz, Dick Tucker, and Fred Smart may have felt like they were trying to get JELL-O to stick to walls in capturing “significant” trades and sales of players. Think about it! Beyond the straight transaction exchanges depicted on eight team sheets, you have Willie Tasby being sold by the Red Sox to the Senators, Ken Aspromonte sold by the Indians to the L.A. Angels, and Ken Hamlin sold by the Athletics to the Angels. Of course, there no longer exists a Washington Senators; they moved to Minneapolis, or should I say Minnesota? As for the Angels, the 1961 Post set has no halos gracing the cereal boxes.
A final observation must be made regarding the frequency with which collectors may expect to find company cards. If you live in a given area, like New York or Los Angeles, the probability is that you will find more team sheets or company cards of Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants. The aura of these classic teams also extended broadly across the country. Similarly, recent World Series appearances by the Braves, White Sox, and Pirates probably induced a lot of kids to part with their hard-earned dimes. However, one can logically conclude that, relatively speaking, fewer company team sheets of less successful franchises were purchased by collectors. When you contemplate the original number of team sheets acquired and the tortures a perforated, light-weight cardboard hero encounters in 52 years, it is logical to presume that EX+ specimens of cards like #85 Marv Throneberry (Athletics) may be hard to find. [Enough said!]
Q: What is the most important thing you learned about the production of the 1961 series that might help collectors today?
DM: Two things.
First, always strive to understand the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the set you are collecting. No single person, whether they are a dealer, hobbyist, or author (smile!) knows everything about the 1961 Post cereal set. Notwithstanding being blessed with generous collector friends, and my best efforts to produce an accurate and entertaining account of the Post cereal issues, invariably there is new information flowing into the hobby. A prime example is an article written a few years ago by Gary D. Hailey in Sports Collectors Digest. By virtue of his profession, geographic location, and access to trial records involving an FTC antitrust lawsuit against Topps Chewing Gum in 1962, Mr. Hailey uncovered marketing, sales, and contract data directly related to the 1961 Post cereal baseball card campaign. His hard data supports and, in some instances invalidates, recollections of some people I interviewed in researching my books. This is a good thing from the perspective of collectors who genuinely revel in the history, legacy, and mysteries of classic sports card sets. This hobby is not just about amassing a collection; it’s about sharing information and fostering good will.
Second, and most important: HAVE FUN!!!