At the time time Kellogg’s was introducing baseball fans and collectors to a new, high tech kind of baseball card, those who snacked on a certain brand of non-breakfast food were seeing something similar. Unlike the “3D” cards that had come to boxes of cereal that season, the 1970 Rold Gold Pretzel All-Time Baseball Greats set had fewer cards and focused on long retired legends instead of current stars.
The Rold Gold cards had a different design, too.
The promotion took place in the summer of 1970, with grocery shoppers and baseball fans as the target market.
Packed in a cellophane wrapper inside pretzel packages, each card honored a former great at a certain position. The checklist was taken from a vote of the best players ever in the first 100 years by the Baseball Writers Association and included:
- Walter Johnson
- Rogers Hornsby
- John McGraw
- Mickey Cochrane
- George Sisler
- Babe Ruth
- Lefty Grove
- Pie Traynor
- Honus Wagner
- Eddie Collins
- Tris Speaker
- Cy Young
- Lou Gehrig
- Ty Cobb
Of the 15 players on the checklist, only Sisler, Traynor and Grove were still alive at the time the cards were distributed.
Ruth was honored twice: once as the “Greatest Ever” (Card #5) and again as the “Greatest Right Fielder” (#14).
A catchy stand-up display inside grocery stores pictured an artist’s depiction of a player that’s clearly Ruth and a showcase of all 15 players at the bottom. A complete display–perhaps the only one to still exist–sold on eBay for over $500 in December of 2020.
The set’s lenticular surface was done by Xograph, the same company that created the Kellogg’s cards in the 1970s and early 80s. In fact, the Rold Gold set was re-issued in 1972 through Kellogg’s Danish Go-Rounds pastry. The only difference between the two sets is the copyright date on the back (Rold Gold cards show a 1970 date while the Kellogg’s cards indicate a 1972 copyright).
The Rold Gold cards aren’t that common but they’re not exceptionally popular either. A modern-era set of cards featuring old-timers didn’t stir much emotion in kids back then but it does offer one of those rare chances to build a vintage set (exclusively consisting of Hall of Famers) that won’t cost the buyer a lot of money.
Today, the cards are easy to find, with ungraded sets typically available for under $100. A complete set with the original mailing envelope costs around $250. One seller has been selling from a hoard of more than 250 sets.
A complete, PSA 9 graded set sold not long ago for $858.
Like their Kellogg’s brothers, the cards are susceptible to cracking but the a large number of apparently untouched cards have trickled into the hobby over the years.
Because so many higher grade copies still exist, it’s been a popular set to grade. PSA has examined nearly 3,000 with 382 rating a Gem Mint 10 grade and well over half of the entire population of graded examples have been rated at least 9. There are four sets on PSA’s Registry in which each card has been rated 10.
Prices for graded copies have risen in the last couple of years. Mint 9 graded Ruths had been selling for $40-60 as late as early 2020, but recent sales have reached as high as $150. Cards #3 (McGraw), #4 (Cochrane) and #14 (Ruth) have single digit populations of 10s. Prices for 10s can run into the hundreds of dollars.
SGC has graded 147 Rold Gold cards in all, including a Ruth (#6) and Collins that have been awarded 10s.
You can check the current eBay inventory of 1970 Rold Gold cards here.