In his American Card Catalog, author Jefferson Burdick categorized candy, gum, and caramel baseball cards. These issues spanned several decades and in an effort to better classify them, he broke them out into two sections – E-Cards for early candy and gum cards and R-Cards, later candy and gum issues. While the two classifications exist, however, the line is somewhat blurred for most collectors.
Burdick tried to properly classify both types of cards. But part of the problem he had was that he didn’t have the exact dates of several sets. As a result, he was left trying to guess which set belonged with which classification.
E-Cards vs. R-Cards
The American Card Catalog is relatively unclear on the E-Card era. The book cites these cards as ‘US Early Candy and Gum’ issues dated until the early 1930s. No specific date is given and the ‘early’ part could be up for interpretation.
Burdick sort of clears this up in the R-Cards, however. He calls the first R-Cards candy and gum issues, citing their production from 1933-1942. That would seem to indicate that the last E-Card issues would be 1932.
But even with the dates somewhat cleared up, some misclassifications have muddied the water further.
As stated, Burdick couldn’t really get this exactly right because he simply didn’t have exact production dates for cards. Without specific years of when cards were printed, he wouldn’t have been able to get it 100% right from purely a dating perspective – and he didn’t.
One example of that are the 1933 Rittenhouse Candy cards. These cards are now known as a 1933 issue but were classified by Burdick as an E-Card (E285). We know that he was a little confused on their release date because he only classified them as a ‘1930s’ set and didn’t indicate a specific year. Looking more in appearance to a traditional 1910s or 1920s strip card, my guess is he listed them as an E-Card since they looked nothing like an R-Card at all.
There were a few other mixups as well. For example, Burdick categorized the 1929 Kashin set as R316, despite its earlier release date, which meant it should have technically been an E-Card. Finally, he did the same with the 1932 U.S. Caramel set, calling it R328 when it didn’t fit the date parameters established in his book. This one is more understandable because it looks like a traditional 1930s gum card. One could even say that, regardless of date, the R-Card classification should have been applied here, which is what Burdick did.
So where does this leave us? I believe Burdick’s original intent was to establish a cutoff line of 1932 for the end of the E-Card era. However, one possible reason he was a bit ambiguous on the dating was because he purposefully wanted to leave it open to interpretation. Perhaps the dates were loose parameters of a sort but they weren’t entirely defined boundaries. But looking at it purely from a dating perspective, we’ve got some later E-Cards and some earlier R-Cards, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense on the surface.
Burdick’s ‘mistakes’ don’t really hurt the issues that have been cataloged. Even though they may be wrongly classified as E-Cards or R-Cards, at least they have a classification. Plus, other American Card Catalog inconsistencies exist, too. It’s not that big of a deal, really. But as a result of the murky E-Card/R-Card eras, the uncataloged cards produced from the late 1920s and early 1930s (i.e the 1929 Leader Novelty set) don’t really have a truly confirmed home and it remains difficult to determine where they really belong. That’s particularly true if we’re defining these more by look and card thickness (smaller/thinner for E-Cards and bigger/thicker for R-Cards) because that can be interpreted differently by different collectors.
In reality, the 1932 cutoff is probably the correct one to use for uncataloged sets. But because most collectors don’t know the exact cutoff date, a consensus may never be reached in trying to classify the issues that don’t appeared in the American Card Catalog as E-Cards or R-Cards.