More than 50 years after his baseball playing career ended, Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle remains a beloved figure. Even beyond baseball fans, collectors not only pursue his cards and collectibles, but his items are among the most popular in the entire hobby.
Most Mantle items have risen steadily in value over the years and are getting more expensive to the everyday collector. But there are some bargains to be had with the proper amount of digging. One of those, when you can find it, is a rare premium offered in 1961 by a cigar company.
American tobacco issues mostly died out in the pre-war era for a variety of reasons. Some issues, such as the 1950s Red Man Tobacco cards, were still around after World War II. But American tobacco baseball cards were certainly not nearly as popular as they once were by that time.
On occasion, however, tobacco companies did offer some premiums featuring baseball players after the war. I recently wrote about one of those promotions that involved a pair of early Jackie Robinson photos for Old Gold cigarettes. Another popular vintage premium for Mickey Mantle was issued by Phillies Cigars. Let’s take a closer look at this unique collectible.
1961 Phillies Cigars Mickey Mantle Premium
In 1961, Phillies Cigars offered a special Mantle package. For $3.39 and 20 Phillies Cigar bands, a consumer could receive a Mickey Mantle model glove. Along with the glove, a special 6 1/2″ x 9″ photograph of Mantle was also included. This promotion and the pricing is confirmed through advertisements that were printed.
The glove was a Rawlings brand and was advertised as having a retail value of $6.95. And as demonstrated in the ads, it was a children’s size model. Even the advertisements for this promotion are popular with collectors as they feature a picture of Mantle.
The picture is a color close-up of Mantle wielding a bat. The highlight for collectors at the time was likely the replica signature of the icon that it also contained. The photograph had a white border around the edges and was blank-backed. No mention of Phillies Cigars exists on it, front or back, and it could easily be misidentified by collectors that are not familiar with it. Often, I suspect, it is simply bought or sold as simply a Mantle photo with no real ties to a particular company.
Due to Mantle’s popularity (at the time, he had already won two Most Valuable Player Awards and nearly won two others), the glove and photo would have no doubt been popular with children. However, it is unclear of how many were purchased. This was, after all, a promotion from a tobacco company. Users of their product would have been adults and, unless they had children, were probably not all that likely to buy a child-size glove.
Of note is that, while this is offered as a 1961 issue, advertisements challenge that precise dating.
At least one version of the ad places an unusually long expiration date on the promotion, citing its expiration on Halloween of 1964. It is, of course, possible that the photos were offered from 1961 all the way through 1964. But with many offers expiring in a year or less, that long time period seems a bit odd.
If nothing else, even if the photo was offered in 1961, it would have been distributed for several years after that. Most checklisting sources have placed the 1961 dating on it. However, a more accurate date range is probably 1961-64. It is unknown if all of them were printed in 1961 or if the company had more printed over the years as they needed them. And, if the latter, I have not located any source that cites a way to tell the difference between the years offered.
Rarity and Value
Whether due to an improper identification or perhaps lackluster sales, there do not appear to be many of these photos out there. Somewhat confirming this is that, while PSA does grade this issue, they have graded only five to date.
The photos do surface on eBay from time to time but not with great regularity. Decent copies sell in the $150-$250 range. This one in a Leland’s auction, for example, sold for $180. Given the rarity of this item, that is a reasonable price tag for one of the sport’s most popular players. Magazine ads for the glove promotion can usually be found on eBay for less than $20.
Collectors should be aware that reproductions of this issue do exist.