In the 1930s, Worch Cigar produced three sets of small photographs featuring minor league and major league baseball players. The pictures were available as a mail-in offer with Minnesota-based Worch Cigar, who would send them in exchange for cigar bands from their products.
Here’s a look at all three Worch Cigar issues.
1932 Worch Cigar
These photos were previously thought to be a Wheaties release. However, some were found with the original mailing envelopes (such as this in this auction) and that identified them as a Worch Cigar set instead of one from the popular cereal company.
The set includes a total of 24 photographs of players from the local Minneapolis Millers, a minor league team. That makes the Worch connection even more understandable as Worch was based in nearby St. Paul. The Millers are a minor league team but recognizable to many baseball fans for their many notable alumni. Numerous big names played for the Millers, including Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and Zack Wheat, among others.
The 1932 set isn’t star-studded but does feature many major leaguers. That makes sense as the Millers were quite good in 1932, winning the American Association championship. The set includes major leaguers such as Rube Benton, Jess Petty, Paul Richards, and Donie Bush, who was the team’s manager. Legendary Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen also played four games with the club that year but is not included in the set.
The 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ photos were black and white with white borders and replica signatures while the backs are blank.
The 1933 Worch Cigar set is easily the most popular since it is large and features major league players. 146 are in the set and the overall look is mostly the same as the 1932 issue with black and white images and a nearly 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ size. The biggest difference n terms of the design, however, is that pictures do not include replica signatures. Instead, the player’s name and team are printed on the fronts. Backs of the photos remained blank.
The set is the most desirable because it is the only one featuring major leaguers. The set includes some big names, too – none bigger than Babe Ruth, whose Worch Cigar issue is extremely popular. Right behind him is his Yankees teammate, Lou Gehrig.
Other major Hall of Famers in the set include Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Rogers Hornsby, Al Simmons, Connie Mack, Ducky Medwick, and Hack Wilson. In addition to those players, there are many other lower-tier Hall of Famers included, too.
The final Worch Cigar set is the American Association distributed in 1933 and possibly 1934. It’s listed in certain places as a 1933 set and others as from both 1933-34.
Like the 1932 Worch Cigar set, this is another minor league issue. Because of that, there are a few players here that reached the major leagues but the release is also short on big names. None really stand out too much in the known checklist. The series includes players from several minor league teams in the American Association.
That checklist, by the way, has never been fully confirmed. It is believed to include around 60 cards but the checklist may not be yet complete.
Just as the 1932 set can be distinguished from the 1933 major league edition, the American Association set can sometimes be differentiated from those two issues pretty easily. Despite having the same size and general look, American Association Worch Cigar photos often have the name of a newspaper printed on the fronts as the photo credit, identifying where the pictures came from.
Worch Cigar Prices
Worch Cigar photos, from any year, are difficult to secure and the prices reflect that. Mid-grade photos start around $100 for commons and work their way up in price from there, depending on the player involved. The most expensive ones are the 1933 major league set and Ruth leads the way in terms of price. An SGC 60 example sold in an REA auction for a little more than $3,500. You can often see a few listed on eBay.