They said goodbye to Brooklyn and moved across the country and for residents of southern California, the Dodgers were now all that and a bag of chips. Make that in a bag of chips, as in literally.
One of the franchise’s first endorsement deals was made with a snack maker. Bell Brand made potato chips and corn chips and for four seasons the company gave Dodgers fans an extra reason to buy their snacks. The Bell Brand Dodgers baseball card sets are now more than 55 years old but remain popular with fans of the club and those who appreciate vintage regional sets.
The sets can frustrate collectors of high quality cards, though. Even being inside cello wrappers sometimes didn’t stop the grease from the chips as it sometimes left a stain, especially on the edges of the cards.
Here’s a look at all four sets.
1958 Bell Brand Dodgers
The first set of Bell Brand Dodgers arrived in L.A. as the team was playing its first season inside the Coliseum. The checklist included ten players. The cards were rather odd-looking with a green wood grain border surrounding a sepia-toned photo. At 3″x 4″, the cards were a bit larger than the three sets to come.
Young Sandy Koufax is the headliner but collectors can also chase Hall of Famer Roy Campanella, who was given a card despite the off-season accident that left him paralyzed. Campy was card #1 in the set. Don Drysdale, whose Topps rookie card had arrived just a year earlier, is in the set along with Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider.
Single-printed cards of Gino Cimoli and Johnny Podres are tough to locate and collectors will also need to find popular singles of Gil Hodges, Don Zimmer and Junior Gilliam to round out their set.
The 1958 Bell Dodgers are easily the most expensive and most rare of the four sets produced.
1960 Bell Brand Dodgers
Wait…you missed 1959. No, actually there was no 1959 Bell Brand Dodgers set but after LA won the World Series in 1959, interest apparently returned to a revival and the set got a makeover for 1960. This time, the photos were in full color with a white border and dropped in size to 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. Like the 1958 set, the cards were sequentially numbered.
A local business trade advertisement indicated the 1960 set was available in 39, 49 and 59-cent bags of Bell Brand’s potato chips and 39 and 49-cent bags of corn chips.
Koufax is again the most valuable card in the set today but for some reason, Drysdale wasn’t included in either the 1960 or ’61 set. There are three single prints, however. Clem Labine, Johnny Klippstein and manager Walter Alston are much tougher to locate than the other 17 cards in the 20-card offering. Duke Snider appeared in all four sets and Maury Wills, who had no regular issue Topps cards until leaving Los Angeles, has an unofficial rookie card in the 1960 Bell set.
1961 Bell Brand Dodgers
Bell opted to number the 1961 set using only the players’ uniform numbers so while Larry Sherry is #51, there are still only 20 cards in the set. There are no short prints in the ’61 set (or in ’62). Koufax, Snider, Hodges and Wills are the four cards on most collectors’ want lists.
The set looks much the same as the 1960 set with a player bio, a small ad for the cards with a Bell logo and a home schedule on the back. The card stock is a bit thinner in 1961 and the width of the cards is just a tad smaller.
1962 Bell Brand Dodgers
The Dodgers finally vacated the spacious Coliseum for their new ballpark in 1962. Dodger Stadium was a great place to munch on chips but it would be the last summer fans and collectors would see a Dodger inside their bag.
Of the four sets, the 1962 is probably the nicest thanks to the use of glossy photos, which was often enough to deflect the grease stains. According to ad posters that have survived to this day, there were three million cards inserted into chip bags.
Drysdale returned to the set, joining Koufax and Snider as the three most valuable cards for today’s collectors.
Complete Bell Brand sets can be pricey if they don’t have the pesky stains. Budget-minded collectors, though, have come to expect a little “character” with their cards and all but the rarest cards can be found for fairly reasonable prices considering their scarcity. Click here to see Bell Brand Dodgers cards for sale and auction on eBay.