It’s one of the most popular regional sets ever issued, a challenging and somewhat quirky collection of 20 different subjects that were packaged with hot dogs in what some refer to as the ‘golden era’ of baseball cards. The 1954 Wilson Franks set had folks eating a lot of weiners, but not nearly enough to satisfy the demand of today’s experienced collectors.
Dave Hobson of BaseballCardBuyer.com recently completed a deal with an Indiana man whose father actually helped put the cards into production 64 years ago. The find included a total of 54 cards including at least one complete set and one near set. It held two of the elusive and valuable Ted Williams cards, considered one of the hobby’s top post-War issues. There was a pair of Roy Campanellas, two Bob Fellers and multiples of fellow Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter.
The quantity of 54 may not sound like much if you’re unfamiliar with the issue, but consider that there are fewer than 2,300 Wilson cards on the combined grading company population reports. Fewer than 150 are currently for sale on eBay.
Thankfully, the cards never made it to the packages of weiners. The seller’s father was a lithographer in Chicago at the time Wilson created the promotion and worked for the company that was hired to produce the set. He apparently salvaged a few for his son’s card collection.
Issued one per pack of hot dogs during the 1954 baseball season, the cards had a limited distribution as Wilson Franks were only sold in the Midwest.
The hoard that 1950s youngster obtained from his dad was actually four to five times bigger but he told Hobson that he gave away dozens of them to friends in his neighborhood.
“Exciting,” Hobson said after seeing the group that was part of a lot of several hundred vintage cards the man shipped to him after finding Hobson’s company on Sports Collectors Daily. “I proceeded with caution because there were other 1950’s era cards in the group and they were all mixed together. Topps, Bowman, and Wilson Franks, so one, then two, sometimes four Franks would stick their heads out. I would carefully put them in plastic holders and then continue the hunt.”
Before seeing them in person, Hobson knew there were dozens of Wilsons in the group but didn’t have a breakdown of which players the seller had. “So I got a tiny bit of the butterflies, which I have not had in quite some years as a professional dealer. I was being so careful in going through the cards and then coming across some really sweet examples of players. It was fun.”
It’s not his first find of Wilson cards and there have been a couple of others in the hobby as a whole, but this one certainly ranks among the best. The cards appear to be uncirculated but many bear the usual centering issues and small, often uneven borders so it’s not likely the tiny population of NM/MT and MINT examples in the hobby will grow much. Still, the cards are overall very respectable with several expected to grade at least in the 5-7 range—and Wilsons in any grade seldom fail to find an avid group of buyers waiting.
“I know vintage collectors will like these ’54 Franks, as not a single one has staining,” Hobson stated. “They all have bright color and really great eye appeal.”
Once the cards are graded, Hobson says some will be sold through Heritage Auctions while others will wind up on eBay (we’ll keep you posted).
While a total value of the collection will be hard to calculate until the entire group has been graded, It’s a five-figure find that should help fill holes on more than a few want lists.