After World War II ended, the ‘drought’ on baseball card sets was soon over. An oddball set of sorts was distributed in 1948 that provided a small measure of competition for companies like Bowman, which also began printing baseball cards that year — the 1948 Blue Tints set.
Here’s a closer look at this vintage set with plenty of confusion surrounding it.
1948 Blue Tints Overview
The 1948 Blue Tints set is certainly a unique one. With the maker of this issue unknown, it is only known by the Blue Tints name, which describes its printing.
The set was given the designation of R346 in the American Card Catalog. That would indicate it is a candy/gum set but no proof has ever been discovered tying it to that kind of product. A more realistic designation is probably as a W-Card set since these cards were issued in strips.
The Blue Tints name did not originally come from the American Card Catalog. That book only called the set, ‘Baseball Players’ and indicated they were blue portraits. But with only blue ink mostly being used on these cards, the Blue Tints name is easy to understand.
In all, a total of 48 cards were printed in the set. Fronts included a small picture of a player with his name at the bottom, along with a card number. Backs were entirely blank, similar to most other strip card issues, which were generally produced inexpensively. The cards mostly measured approximately 2″ x 2 5/8″ but the actual sizes can vary a little bit as cuts on them vary.
The set includes many big names, such as Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Ralph Kiner, Mel Ott, Warren Spahn, Johnny Mize, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, and more. Cards of Robinson, Spahn, and Kiner are particularly notable as they are among their earliest cards.
Blue Tints Issues, Quirks, and Variations
The biggest mystery of the set, of course, is that its maker/distributor is not known. But the set has some other problems, too.
At least one typo is known as Bob Elliott’s card spells his last name as Elliott. And on top of that, a few of the names look a little strange. Bob Feller’s card, for example, calls him ‘Bobby’ — an atypical nickname for him. And fellow pitcher Johnny Vander Meer is called ‘Johnnie’ on his card. Those, however, are among the more minor issues with the set.
The most problematic card in the set is probably card No. 23. That card has a typo, calling Henry Majeski ‘Harry’ and doesn’t even picture him. Instead, the player pictured on the card is Randy Gumbert. Other minor issues with some different cards have also been called out by collectors, such as missing team information. It should also be noted that teams for Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg are not included. However, Greenberg’s last year was in 1947 and Gehrig had passed away several years earlier, so those missing names could have been intentional.
Additionally, while the Blue Tints name suits the set for the most part, in the case of some cards, it does not. Most of the cards issued in the set are found to be printed in blue ink. But some have been discovered with black ink printing instead. Pictured here is a blank ink card of Greenberg. As stated earlier, strip cards were typically printed in an economical fashion. But it isn’t clear if the printing was accidental or if the printer merely switched black while temporarily running out of blue.
Finally, we know there were several different printings of these cards spaced out during 1948. We know this from the cards of manager Leo Durocher. Durocher began the season with the Brooklyn Dodgers but was transferred to the New York Giants in the middle of the year. Any mid-year managerial ‘swap’ would be noteworthy but as Durocher headed to the Dodgers’ primary rival, it was even more fascinating. The set includes cards of Durocher with both the Dodgers and Giants name, indicating they printed them at least a few times during the year.
1948 Blue Tints Pricing
Commons from the Blue Tints set are relatively cheap, starting in the $10-$20 range for mid-grade examples. Even many of the stars can be found for under $100. Bigger names, such as Robinson, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Williams, however, easily sell for significantly more.
You can see over 100 1948 Blue Tints on eBay here.