If you lived in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and western New York in the 1950s, you probably knew about them. If you loved sports, you probably begged mom to buy a certain brand of potato chips one summer. The 1954 Dan-Dee baseball set put one baseball card inside each bag of greasy goodness. Today, it’s one of the most desirable “food issue” sets of the post-War era.
The Dan-Dee Pretzel and Potato Chip Company started in 1913 and four decades later, the company was still at it. With post-War America booming with young baseball fans, they more than likely decided the time was right for a special summer promotion.
1954 Dan-Dee Set Breakdown
The 2 1/2″ x 3 5/8″ cards were put right into the chip bags, which led to much frustration on the part of collectors in later years who paid more attention to condition than youngsters did in the 1950s. None of the cards were numbered which likely kept kids guessing whether they owned anything close to a complete set. Some had facsimile autographs in a box containing the player’s name while most did not. The backs contained the player’s batting record and bio.
Focusing mostly on players who toiled for teams in the company’s snack distribution area, there were 14 Cleveland players including Bob Feller, eight Pittsburgh Pirates and seven players from various other teams including the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. Thankfully, the company had the foresight to make sure Mickey Mantle was included in the set. The Dan-Dee Mantle, a posed portrait of the smiling youngster, ranks among Mantle’s best cards. His exclusive deal with Bowman meant there was no Mick in the Topps set in 1954, so the Dan Dee card gives collectors another early career card to collect.
For a small set, the 1954 Dan-Dee baseball issue is packed with players who eventually made the Hall of Fame. Ten of the 29 cards feature Cooperstown enshrinees with a couple of others, including Gil Hodges, that have received strong support over the years.
The set includes two short prints: Paul Smith and Walker Cooper.
Not for the Mint Freak
The cards were printed on thin stock, which doesn’t help the hunt for higher grade examples. Those concerned about the odd look to the edges of the cards shouldn’t worry; it was simply a result of the cutting method used in production. Some nice examples have survived but only about two percent of the overall population of graded examples rank as mint 9 or better. Only about 11% have been given an 8 or 8.5. Among the tougher cards to find in high-grade are Smith, Cooper, Bob Friend, Max Surkont, Frank Thomas and Wally Westlake.
On the rare occasion when a high-grade Mantle is offered, bidding is intense. In 2015, a PSA 9 example sold for over $15,000. An EX grade Mantle is valued at a little over $1,000.
A near complete set of 1954 Dan-Dee cards, missing just one and graded a shade over EX sold for $4,067 earlier this year. The more easily found lower grade sets typically sell for $1,200-$2,500, depending on the grades of the Mantle and other stars.
You can see a fairly good selection of Dan Dee on eBay here.
And in case you’re wondering…the Dan-Dee Preztel and Potato Chip Company was eventually sold to Troyer Foods, which still makes use of the old school brand name for some of its snack chips.