While I do not generally collect them, I’ve been fascinated over the years with the 1929 Kashin baseball photos for a number of reasons. And the recent discovery of an old newspaper advertisement helped to answer a long-time mystery about the origins of some of the photos.
What are the 1929 Kashin Photos?
Often categorized as baseball cards, the 1929 Kashins are actually small photographs. Measuring about 3 1/2″ x 4 1/2″, these paper thin cards were issued in boxes of 25. Each photo pictured a baseball player with a replica signature.
The photos include black and white images of players from the era. While a few big names are likely missing, the series includes plenty of Hall of Famers and stars, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Lefty Grove, Mel Ott, Al Simmons, Hack Wilson, and plenty of others.
The backs of most of the photos were blank. However, a select few of these can be found with advertisements for movie theaters on the reverse. As I wrote about five years ago, they appear to be the product of a theater promoter named Maurice Kashin. A similar series of movie stars was also produced by what appears to be his outfit, Kashin Publications.
Photos of Ruth and Gehrig were the highlights of the set and generally sell for the most money. The photo of Ruth was particularly easy to obtain, as his was included inside each box in later runs of the series.
Anthracite Baking Kashin Photos
Even though the Kashin photos are not something I have been too interested in buying for my own collection, I became fascinated with them when I discovered three of them in a 2022 auction.
The three were not any ordinary Kashins. These included overprinted stamps on them referring to a company called the Anthracite Baking Company. The stamps are printed in purple ink across the player pictures on the fronts. To date, I have never seen any in a different color of stamp, nor with any printing on the back.
Overprinted cards bearing advertisements, of course, are nothing new. While most are generally quite rare, an assortment of companies used baseball cards in this manner, affixing their name to the fronts or backs to advertise a business. This was especially common when it came to strip cards, which often bore no company name.
The interesting thing that has always puzzled me is the type of overprint stamp found on these photos. The stamps do not simply mention the Anthracite Baking name. Somewhat curiously, the stamps read: For Deposit Only: To the credit of Anthracite Baking Company, Inc., Shenandoah, PA. While I was able to verify the Anthracite Baking Company as an actual business from that time period, I had never been able to determine the origin of these stamped photos and why they were made.
But an advertisement in a 1932 newspaper changed all of that.
A Unique Promotion
Rich Mueller, Editor and founder of this site, forwarded me an advertisement he’d found from a May 14, 1932 edition of a Pottsville, PA newspaper. Pottsville and Anthracite Baking’s home in Shenandoah are separated by only a dozen miles so the mention of them in that publication makes sense.
Seeing the advertisement solved the mystery of the Anthracite Baking overstamped Kashins. The photos were part of a promotion for a $1,000 giveaway. While $1,000 is not that much money today, in 1929, it was the equivalent of more than $17,000. Anthracite Baking wasn’t giving away $1,000 in one shot. Rather, the promotion was a mix of cash, redemptions, and prizes. The promotion seemed to be a bit convoluted. But based on the advertisement, here is what seems to have occurred.
The photos were packed inside of Anthracite Baking’s A.B.C. bread. Every loaf included one of the pictures and the five patrons collecting the most of the pictures won the top five prizes. First prize was $50, second was $25, third $15, fourth $10, and fifth $5. Winners had the option of picking a prize instead of the money. In addition, Anthracite Baking offered 20 additional $1 prizes, presumably to the next 20 highest ranking patrons.
So, that’s $125. But how did the giveaway reach $1,000?
In addition, there were two more ways patrons could get in on the promotion. Some of the photos were apparently marked on the front, indicating that they were redeemable. These were worth $1 in trade each.
While the stamped Kashins do not state the $1 amount, the ‘For Deposit Only to the Credit of Anthracite Baking Language’ suggests that those were the ones that could be redeemed for $1 in trade. And given that those would need to be surrendered to the grocer, that would explain why so few remain in existence today. At times, some companies running these types of promotions would deface the card (i.e. with another stamp, a hole punch, etc.) but I have never seen any ‘canceled’ types of Anthracite Baking photos. The advertisement clearly states that the redeemable photos for $1 prices were only found on the face of some of the photos and that seems to be these.
A final, additional part of the promotion causes some confusion. Part of the advertisement mentions photos of the ‘Home Run Twins’ — Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Ruth and Gehrig are mentioned at opposite ends while the ad states that ‘Hundreds of these pictures are inserted daily’ and that they could be exchanged for five cents in cash or trade by a grocer. It is somewhat unclear if the ad is stating that hundreds of Ruth and Gehrig cards were issued daily, or if that referred to all of the pictures. Either way, the remainder of the $1,000 pot would have included these five-cent redemptions.
While the advertisement helped solve the mystery of the origin of these photos, it also gives us something else to ponder.
These photos are typically dated by dealers or in publications as 1929 issues. However, the advertisement for this promotion is from 1932. Additionally, some of the advertisements seen promoted movies released in 1933, according to this thread. Both of those things indicate that they were either still being distributed or even being printed that late.
The American Card Catalog does not provide a date for this series. However, if they were initially offered in 1929, it is possible that the printing could have spanned several years.
Rarity and Pricing
The Anthracite Baking-stamped Kashin photos are quite rare. To date, I have purchased four of them and have seen only a couple of others. It is not clear how many of these photos have been stamped. However, given that they were worth $1 each, the number is likely a fairly small one. If only a complete set of 101 was stamped, that would make any that exist a true one of one. To date, I have never seen two of the same stamped card. Because of the rarity, pricing can be all over the board and it is difficult to determine market value for them.