There are sports card scarcities and then there are those instances in which there are things that are not only rare, but remain mysterious many years later. One of those is the 1924-25 William Paterson Beaton’s Bars overprint issue. To date, this is the furthest we have reached with documenting these stamp backed versions that appear to be associated with the 1920s William Paterson hockey set. There is no definite conclusion drawn, however many logical hypotheses are presented as we walk through history.
With the end of World War I and in the years that followed, the western world slowly reclaimed their social and economic independence and this recovery set the stage for the Roaring 1920s to enter a new age. Sports and non-sports trading cards would also undergo a dramatic shift on how they were offered to the public.
Long gone were the days when trading cards were inserted into cigarette packs for the adult audience. The 20s would see the confectionary industry step up with trading cards being inserted in more “kid-friendly” products such as chocolate bars, candy, popcorn and ice cream.
The first company to kick-start the hockey card market for the 1920’s was the William Paterson Company out of Brantford, Ontario, located about an hour west of Toronto.
In 1923-24 William Paterson released a landmark set of 40 cards within their “Hockey League” branded chocolate bars. This set is more commonly referred to as V145-1 which was allocated by Jefferson Burdick, the hobby pioneer who documented all trading cards of North America in his American Card Catalog.
Included with the 1923-24 issue of William Paterson bars was a redemption for a free pair of skates in exchange for a full set of the 40 different blank backed, sequentially numbered cards. Little did consumers realize that Paterson–and many other confectionary companies of the era for that matter– would set a rather unscrupulous trend of restricting the production of one particular card in the set, making redemptions nearly impossible. The shortcoming behind this deception would only hurt their business going forward as frustrations were shared by word of mouth of past purchasers and would certainly become their downfall for future sales.
The following year, Paterson issued a similar set of cards in 1924-25 (V145-2). The cards in this issue were a tad narrower in size and the set checklist had increased by 20 cards for a total of 60. It is uncertain if the same redemption offer for free skates was continued. Likely so, but the issue was now without a short-print. The extra cards were compensation to the company’s bottom line. We find ample cards in the marketplace from the inaugural release but the V145-2 Paterson issue is on the backend of about a 3-1 ratio.
Enter the 1924-25 Beaton’s Bars overprint (stamp) version. These cards had a stamp located on the back of the cards. Referring to them as “scarce” is an understatement. Only three cards have been found to date with the stamp. The company advertised that anyone collecting a set would get a free box of Beaton’s Bars.
So, how exactly were these stamped versions issued and was Beaton an affiliate of Paterson Chocolate, a fellow business associate, friend or an independent company? With a newly found advertisement, we can clearly see that the font used in the ad is identical to the overprint found on the back of the cards.
The many years it took to figure this out was mainly due to the assumption that Beaton’s was another chocolate company. Who would have thought the Beaton’s name would be related to a dairy and that the type of bars being referred to were apparently made of ice cream? Good things come to those who wait…
Out of the three known Beaton’s Bars overprint cards, two have 1/4c redemption value while one has a 1/2c redemption value. The half a cent version was likely for multi-purchased bars in a which was a sharp marketing tactic by Beaton’s. Also, why give two cards when they can just reward one, another hinderance in the efforts to build a 60-card set.
Beaton’s Dairy Products Ltd., was located 250 King St. West in Toronto. Was it plausible they were an affiliate of William Paterson? Not likely, but it’s possible they were associated in some way or we could speculate that William Paterson may have been a customer with Beaton’s as their milk supplier. They must have been connected or in contact with each other at some point for Beaton’s to acquire cards to supply this marketing venture.
Another angle that could be entertained is, were William Paterson’s sales so poor that they had extra sheets made, well beyond their sales forecast and were unable to utilize all the cards versus product sold? Interestingly enough, there are two known uncut sheets of the William Paterson V145-2, when no other uncut sheets from this era are known exist.
It is also conceivable that Beaton’s Dairy possibly ordered or bought out the balance of the assumed unsold hockey cards from Paterson.
To further this discussion, did Beaton’s stamp the back of the cards upon every purchase or were they pre-stamped and inserted in Beaton ice cream bars within a glassine envelope, as Crescent Ice Cream had done with their 1920’s hockey card sets?
Playing the devils advocate; why are there so few overprints in the marketplace today? A thought would be that it wasn’t a very successful promotion in a year that had stiff competition for hockey cards in confections. Might there be a near set in existence somewhere that one kid, just one, that almost finished collecting, to redeem a free box of Beaton’s Bars, but never completed?
Subsequently, William Paterson was purchased by George Weston of Weston Foods in 1928. Did the tainted short-print of their first offering hurt their sales going forward and lead to their ultimate demise?
There are clearly many questions left to be answered to better understand this scarce issue. If you have any of these Beaton’s Bars backed cards, please share.