In the mid 1930s, the Detroit Tigers rode a wave of success in the American League. From 1934 through 1937, the team never finished below second place in the American League and was one of the best teams in all of baseball. That four-year stretch was culminated with successful back to back trips to the World series in 1934 and 1935.
In 1934, the Tigers narrowly lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. They returned to the championship series in 1935, however, and that time, won it all by defeating the Chicago Cubs.
In 1935, the Detroit Free Press newspaper issued a special set of baseball supplements featuring players on the Tigers. Here’s a closer look at this unique set from the pre-war era.
About the 1935 Detroit Free Press Supplements
The set was somewhat unusual for the time in that it was produced in color–or at least colorized versions of black and white photos. They are believed to have been issued prior to the team’s appearance in the 1935 World Series.
Measuring approximately 9″ x 11″ in size, they were available to collectors as part of a coupon redemption program. Since they are photographs and not traditional cards, they are not pursued by all collectors. But pre-war collectors, as well as collectors of Detroit Tigers collectibles have created a market for them.
Cataloged as a publications issue (M120), these unique photographs included pictures of players. Images of the players appeared inside of an assortment of thin colored borders surrounded by a thicker white border around the edges. The photos were blank on the back and included only the players’ names on the front.
It is notable that the Free Press also created other supplements aside from this set. In particular, one for boxing Hall of Famer Joe Louis is known and regularly cited as being a part of this set. While Louis was not a baseball player, because his supplement used the same design as these, some have lumped it in with the baseball players. Additionally, the newspaper created other supplements for other non-sports personalities, too.
That the supplements are not all that common, of course, is not a surprise. As indicated, they were only offered to readers who redeemed coupons for them as opposed to simply being printed and issued inside all of the newspapers. In addition, as they are 85 years old and were only printed on paper stock that was not too durable, a great many were probably heavily damaged and ultimately discarded over time. Even many of the ones that did survive are often found with a number of flaws, including tears, creases, or paper loss (particularly on the back as some were undoubtedly glued into books).
The checklist has been a point of contention among collectors over the years. As many as 26 supplements have been mentioned as being included in the overall set. However, only 18 Tigers supplements have been fully confirmed in recent years and are formally known.
A checklist for the set is below. Note that the supplements themselves are not numbered. This list is presented alphabetically. Excluding the boxer Louis, the key to the set is generally considered to be the supplement of Hank Greenberg, which is one of his earliest collectibles.
I framed my Greenberg with a 1936 handwritten letter to my Great-Grandma thanking her for baking cookies pic.twitter.com/bZZ1XGVGWA
— SPARTANTIQUES (@SPARTANTIQUES) February 20, 2020
- Elden Auker
- Tommy Bridges
- Flea Clifton
- Mickey Cochrane
- Alvin Crowder
- Pete Fox
- Charlie Gehringer
- Goose Goslin
- Hank Greenberg
- Ray Hayworth
- Chief Hogsett
- Marvin Owen
- Billy Rogell
- Schoolboy Rowe
- Vic Sorrell
- Joe Sullivan
- Gerald Walker
- Jo-Jo White
Rarity and Pricing
85 years after their original distribution, these supplements can still be found. However, as indicated earlier, they are not seen too often and generally are difficult to locate.
Despite the rarity factor, prices for them are generally quite affordable by comparison. Decent commons in the set typically start around $10-$20. The likes of Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane, and Charlie Gehringer, of course, sell for more, though the exact prices for those stars will fluctuate greatly depending on specific condition. A complete set with a handful of extras was sold for $240 through Heritage Auctions in 2018.
It is worth pointing out that prices can fluctuate greatly in general — not just for those aforementioned stars. For one thing, not many collectors know about them and they can often go under the radar when offered at auction, selling for relatively low prices. And because of the rarity, sellers can charge high prices for them, often resulting in desperate collectors paying abnormally higher prices. It is quite common to see a common selling from this set for around $10 in one sale and $30-$40 in another.