Red Grange was one of American football’s first collegiate and professional stars. Grange rose to stardom first at the University of Illinois and later with the Chicago Bears. In 1926, Grange was out of college and starring in a motion picture, called “One Minute to Play.” That year, the Shotwell Manufacturing Company sought to capitalize on his fame and created two card sets around him known today as the Shotwell Red Grange sets. A maker of popcorn and candy, Shotwell was somewhat of an ideal partner for Grange as they were based out of Illinois where he played as a collegian and a pro.
Shotwell’s Red Grange cards were packed inside of their Red Grange candy bars. The two sets were distinctly different, although some of the pictures were duplicated.
1926 Shotwell Red Grange Ad-Backed Set
One set was a 12-card issue featuring mostly action football shots of Grange on the field. Three cards were non-action shots but the majority of the issue included Grange in football poses, which makes it the more popular of the two for most collectors. Each card is black and white and has a brief caption and card number at the bottom. A white border extends all the way around the card.
These cards are distinctive for their advertising backs for the Shotwell Manufacturing Company. The backs touted Grange as the greatest football player of all time and stated there were 12 cards in the set. For forty cents in stamps, a collector could receive an autographed 11″ x 14″ picture of Grange. For thirty-five cents, collectors could purchase an album of 12 pictures (presumably the same ones used on these cards) along with the story of Grange’s career.
Collectors should note that a rare variation exists for this set as there are actually two different No. 9 cards. The common version is titled, “Illinois Famous Half Back” while the rare version is “Red Calls this his Lucky Number.” Only two copies of that version are known to exist.
1926 Shotwell Red Grange Blank-Backed Set
Shotwell also created a second set of Grange cards in the same year. This one included 24 cards and featured Grange primarily in action shots from his movie, One Minute to Play. Many of these depicted him in a non-sports capacity and are less desirable to football collectors. As they feature scenes from the movie, Grange is not alone on many of the cards as he is seen with some other co-stars from the picture.
These cards are also black and white but have longer captions, stating they feature scenes from the movie and are packed with Shotwell’s Red Grange candy bars. These cards also have larger numbers printed on them and, unlike the first set, have completely blank backs.
Unlike the 12-card issue that has only vertical pictures, the blank-backed set features both horizontal and vertical shots.
1926 Shotwell Red Grange Prices
Both sets of Red Grange cards are pretty rare and not easy to locate in any quantity. Even in low-grade, it is nearly impossible to find these cards under $100. Most sell for roughly the same amount but any featuring Grange in football poses often bring a premium.
Complete sets are scarce but are occasionally seen at auctions. A lower-grade 12-card set sold for nearly $2,000 in 2017.
One of the two rare variations of No. 9 known to exist sold recently for nearly $3,700 by BST Auctions, even in BVG 1 grade.
You can click here to find Grange Shotwell cards listed on eBay.