The 1933 Rittenhouse Candy set is an intriguing one. This somewhat obscure set of candy cards from the 1930s offered cards and a special promotion to collectors. Here’s more on this interesting set.
1933 Rittenhouse Candy Cards Overview
The 1933 Rittenhouse Candy cards featured some of the top baseball stars of the day. To say the cards were printed inexpensively is probably an understatement. Cards were printed with only one of three colors – red, green, or blue and they are on a low-quality paper stock. To most, they look like standard strip cards and less like a real candy issue.
Of note here is that they are classified as E285 in the American Card Catalog. Typically, such a card would have usually been called an R-Card as a 1933 issue. But the lines between the latest E-Cards and earliest R-Cards were sometimes blurred and, as I wrote here, Burdick probably did not know the exact date as he only called them a 1930s issue in at least one version of his book.
The cards measure about 1 1/2″ x 2 1/4″, though the exact measurements can vary a little. There are 52 in all as the cards were really a deck of playing cards. That’s clear not only by that checklisted number of 52 but also by the playing card design, obviously. Numerous stars and Hall of Famers are found in it, including Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Hack Wilson, and many more. Ruth is one of a few players featured more than once.
But while the players on the front are the feature attraction, the backs were just as interesting.
Rittenhouse Candy Backs
The backs of most of the Rittenhouse cards generally included a single letter. That wouldn’t seem to make much sense but a few cards with different backs provide an explanation.
As stated on the backs of a few of the cards, collectors were supposed to find all of the letters needed to spell out ‘Rittenhouse Candy Co.’ Anyone accomplishing that could earn a prize of a fielder’s glove, a pair of skates, a first baseman’s mitt, an air rifle, a baseball, or a pearl knife. Collectors were instructed to select one of the gifts and then mail all of their cards with the appropriate letters to the Rittenhouse Candy Company, which was located in Philadelphia.
Like most companies running these sorts of promotions, Rittenhouse wanted to limit how many prizes they would have to shell out. To do that, they likely made one or two letters very tough to find. All indications point to that being ‘H’. This website tried to locate all of the letters and ‘H’ and ‘O’ went undiscovered. However, I have seen several cards with the ‘O’ on the back.
While most of the cards had letters, it should be noted that some of these cards are found with numbers as well and are tied to a separate promotion. Those are significantly rarer than the cards with the letters.
Rittenhouse Candy cards are not rare by the definition, I suppose. However, they aren’t overly abundant, either. Part of that could be due to redeemed cards that were sent to the company if they were not returned to the collectors. Despite that, the prices really aren’t too bad for a classified candy issue.
There are usually fewer than 100 on eBay at any given time. Commons in decent shape generally start around $25-$30 with prices increasing rapidly for stars and Hall of Famers, as well as for cards in better condition.
The Ruth cards are usually the most expensive in the set and an SGC 70 sold via Heritage Auctions not long ago for nearly $800.