The 1928 F50 baseball card set was distributed by a variety of manufacturers. While the cards and checklists were nearly identical, each company used these sets to offer different promotions. The F50 set was termed as such by Jefferson Burdick in his American Card Catalog. The ‘F’ in the designation stood for ‘Food’ as F-Cards covered cards in this area. Here’s a closer look at the black and white set.
The four manufacturers distributing the cards were Yuengling, Tharp, Harrington, and Sweetman. The first three of those did in fact produce food to match Burdick’s classification – ice cream to be exact. The Yuengling name will be familiar to most collectors because of their brewery. Yuengling is, after all, the oldest operating brewer in the U.S. having started that business in the 1800s. But approximately 100 years after the company’s inception during the prohibition era, the company turned to other products to make money and one of those was ice cream.
The fourth business, Sweetman, has always been a mystery to collectors because their business had not been identified. But after researching the company a bit in 2016, I learned that the company produced, at least in part, wax candies. It is possible that they also produced ice cream since three of the other four companies did as well. However, that appears to be unlikely since their promotion on the back isn’t tied to an ice cream product as the others’ were.
F50 Card Basics and Stars
The cards are black and white, measuring approximately 1 3/8″ wide x 2 1/2″ tall. The general look of the cards was basic and there was a total of 60 cards printed in each set. Fronts featured an image of a player and included a white border. At the bottom, the player’s name was printed along with a card number in parentheses.
The cards were also related to the W502 strip card set. That set used the same pictures and mostly the same players but had either blank backs or backs with baseball actions on them as they appear to have been printed as part of a game.
The set is also full of some big names. Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb easily trump the list. Other big names here include Pie Traynor, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Tris Speaker, and many more. In all, more than 1/3 of the issue includes Hall of Famers.
While the fronts remained the same across the four companies on the backs varied to reflect mostly different promotions each company offered.
Tharp and Yuengling had the same exact offer. Each company would give the owner of an entire set of cards for one gallon of their ice cream delivered free of charge. In addition, they also offered a free ice cream bar for each Babe Ruth card. One slight variation is that Yuengling also had a second back. These still mentioned the gallon of ice cream but also stated that the Babe Ruth card could be redeemed for a quart of ice cream or a $5.00 skooter (sic).
Harrington’s promotion was similar, but slightly different. They, too, offered a gallon of ice cream for an entire set of the card. However, their cards state that an ‘ice cream novelty’ will be given for Ruth cards. The bottom adds that Ruth cards could be saved for quarts of ice cream.
The Sweetman promotion was the only one not offering ice cream. Sweetman stated that they created a special album, which would hold the set. In exchange for only 15 cents in stamps, Sweetman would send a blank album to collectors anywhere in the U.S.
Prices for these cards vary depending on the player involved and which company is printed on the back.
In general, the Harrington and Yuengling cards seem to be easier to find. Tharp and Sweetman are more difficult and command a premium. Common mid-grade Harrington and Yuengling cards can sometimes be found on eBay starting at around $50 with Hall of Famers commanding more.
Complete sets are virtually impossible to find. REA offered a nearly complete one a few years ago that sold for more than $5,000. That collection was missing Babe Ruth, which is the most expensive card in the set. A Ruth SGC 60 Harrington, sold also by REA in 2014, fetched $3,000 alone.