From 1953 through 1955, Johnston Cookies produced team sets of the hometown Milwaukee Braves. While somewhat of an oddball issue, the three releases continue to be popular among vintage baseball fans. Here’s a little more on these annual issues.
1953 Johnston Cookies Set
Johnston Cookies’ first foray into the baseball card market began in 1953. The cards were distributed locally and inserted into boxes of cookies and the complete set included 25 players. Cards are only slightly different from today’s standard issues, measuring, just slightly larger at approximately 2 9/16″ wide by 3 5/8″ tall.
The design is similar to the 1952 Topps set as the player’s name and replica signature are printed in a box at the bottom. The cards have the Milwaukee Braves name inside of a tomahawk on the back. In addition, his name, biographical information, and a short paragraph are also present. The bottom included a short advertisement for the company with a slogan “No One Makes Cookies Like Johnston.” Mail-in offers were also available, which allowed a collector to secure a complete set.
Despite it being the oldest, this is actually the most inexpensive of the three sets. It is highlighted by Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn. As Mathews’ rookie card is found in the 1952 Topps set, his card here is a second-year edition. Complete sets and singles are not plentiful, but fairly available on eBay.
1954 Johnston Cookies Set
The company continued its popular series in 1954. The 1954 set is arguably the most desirable as it contains a rookie card of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. Aaron’s presence in the set gave it a big boost and he’s joined here by Mathews, Spahn, and Bobby Thomson, whose card is believed to be shortprinted. The cards had a decidedly different look, measuring only 2″ wide and nearly 4″ tall, making them much narrower than the initial release. A second major difference was that this set included 35 cards, ten more than the first issue. Cards again featured the player’s name and a replica signature at the bottom and a similar layout on the back as the first year. The backs, however, assigned card numbers to players based on their jersey numbers.
Seven cards are believed to be double printed and Thomson’s shortprint is believed to be the result of an early-season injury as his was yanked from production, per the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards. That resulted in fewer of his getting out to the public, making it a scarce card in the set. In addition to the cards, uncut sheets of this set are known to exist.
Obviously, the Aaron card–issued during the same season as his “official” Topps rookie–drives the value of the set which is sometimes found in low grade for around $500. One with high-grade Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn cards sold for more than ten times that amount in 2017.
1955 Johnston Cookies Set
The final year of the Johnston Cookies sets saw yet another significant change as the cards were printed in panels of six. Why the change? No one can probably say for sure. But printing the in panels of six allowed collectors to accumulate sets much easier, so perhaps the company received some complaints about making a set easier to obtain. The design was a throwback, reverting back to the 1953 look on the front and back. One slight change was that the slogan on the back changed to, “Johnston – A Sure Hit Ever Time.”
Panels of six, like the cards in earlier years, were available inside boxes of the company’s product. The complete set includes 35 cards and one (Andy Pafko) was double printed to get an even distribution of six cards per each of the six panels. Key players here again include Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn – the latter two appearing in every Johnston Cookies issue. Individual panels could also be purchased through the mail from the company.
Today, the cards can be found in complete, unattached panels, or individually. Both are desirable to collectors but while sets of individual cards can start around $500, they often sell for more than double that if fully attached, depending on the grade – Heritage sold one at auction last year for $1,140.