The E123 Curtis Ireland card set is both a massive and rare issue. Featuring nearly 200 hard-to-find cards, assembling a complete set is a virtual impossibility. From the design to the use of quality photographs and even the use of replica signatures on a set that’s nearly a century old, it’s a fascinating part of hobby history.
At first glance, the E123 Curtis Ireland cards look more like miniature photographs than they do trading cards. Measuring approximately 2″ wide by 3 1/4″ tall, they certainly fit the mold in terms of size. It’s the design, however, what makes them look more like pictures.
Utilizing a thick white border, the cards look a bit like something you might print out on your home computer. The subjects are showcased on a somewhat grainy black and white picture along with his replica signature. Cards were distributed by the Curtis Ireland Candy Corporation and inserted inside of their All Star Bar products.
One unique fact about the set is that the cards were enjoyed by Canadians, too. While the Curtis Ireland cards were printed and distributed in the U.S., the same cards were used by Canadian company Willard’s Chocolate in their V100 set at the same time in 1923.
The set is headlined by numerous Hall of Famers and stars. The ‘Big 3,’ so to speak, was the triumvirate of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson.
The cards were part of a unique promotion by the confectionery company.
A total of 20 baseballs were given away as prizes every month from April 1923 through October 1923, when the cards were considered ‘void.’ Ten baseballs were given to the collector with the largest amount of different cards and another ten were given to the collector with the largest amount of any one card.
The names of the contest winners were then to be printed in the St. Louis Globe Democrat every month.
Consumers could get their cards back from the company by including a two-cent stamp along with their submission. Cards that were redeemed were to be marked ‘Cancelled’ so that they could not be used again.
The E123 Curtis Ireland cards are extremely rare, likely for two big reasons. First, they were only printed as a local promotion in St. Louis. While 180 cards were printed, this wasn’t a large-scale national promotion and was limited to the confines of that area.
Second, and equally as important, consider the redemption program. The contest was built on volume so, often, any and all cards a collector had would be sent in to the company to try to win a baseball. And while collectors could get their cards returned, they had to send a stamp to do so. A large amount, no doubt, simply went unreturned and were possibly discarded. Add it all up and it’s easy to see why the set is a rare one.
E123 Curtis Ireland Values
E123 Curtis Ireland cards are rare and, as a result, not cheap. Mid-grade commons sell for several hundred dollars and the bigger names are often into the four figures. A lower-grade PSA 3 Ty Cobb recently sold for nearly $5,000.
You can usually find several on eBay. Click here to see them.