With a career that spanned 21 seasons in Major League Baseball, there are any number of collectible Frank Robinson cards. But it’s not just Robinson’s vintage top cards collectors should pursue. The Hall of Famer has many great oddball cards that are worth a look – here are five of his earliest editions.
Robinson was part of Bazooka’s first all-baseball set, with the cards meant to be cut along perforated lines from the bottom of the boxes that held penny pieces of gum. The color shot of a young Robinson with the Reds depicts him warming up with a pair of bats and a small card number (Robinson is No. 29) at the bottom. Robinson would go on to be featured in a string of additional Bazooka sets but this was his first appearance for the company. These cards are somewhat rare, but as a hand-cut example, generally are affordable with at least a couple usually offered on eBay.
Breaking away from the traditional card a bit, another interesting Robinson collectible is his Armour Coin from 1959. Armour meats first produced baseball coins way back in 1955 before bringing them back in 1959 and 1960. Robinson made his way into the 1959 set, which was collected through packages of hot dogs.
Additionally, some of the coins were available as part of a mail-in offer to the company. Robinson’s collectible features a headshot on the front with his name, team, position, and batting average on the back. One important note is that these coins were produced in a variety of colors with some being more scarce. Overall, they are relatively affordable as Robinson’s is often available in the $15 – $30 range.
3. 1957 Swift Meats
Robinson has two widely known rookie year oddball cards and this is one of them. The design won’t win the hearts of too many collectors but the Hall of Famer’s 1957 Swift Meats card is … well, something to behold. Swift Meats lone baseball card issue was perhaps the purest definition of oddball. Each card featured a 3D cutout of various pieces that fans could pop out and piece together like a puzzle of sorts. As you might imagine, many of these didn’t survive unscathed as younger collectors no doubt punched out the pieces to assemble their favorite player. But the card remains a popular one – particularly when it can be found all in one piece.
While not from Robinson’s rookie season, his 1959 Home Run Derby card might be the pinnacle for serious collectors of his card. This rare issue is one of his most difficult pieces to acquire and was an index card-sized black and white card produced by American Motors in anticipation of the Home Run Derby that season.
“See Home Run Derby on TV” is featured prominently on the front with an up-close shot of the slugger.
Even low grade examples fetch a pretty penny. If that’s too rich for your blood, try one of the readily available reprints that were distributed in the 1980s.
1. 1956 Kahn’s Wieners
Kahn’s Wieners produced a variety of baseball cards from the 1980s and into the 2000s but some collectors would be surprised to know that they first got into the market back in 1955. The company stayed in the game for a surprisingly long 15 years (16 if you count the company’s 1970s Carl Yastrzemski single-card issue) and along the way created some of the earliest Robinson cards from his days in Cincinnati, even beating Topps to the punch by including him in their 1956 set during his true rookie season. The black and white card of a young Robinson is a perfect example of an oddball card gone entirely right.
While it’s not an “official” rookie card, most can agree that this is the one of the best oddball Robinson cards to own. If it’s on your wantlist, it can be a little difficult to find. Robby also appears in the ’57 Kahn’s set, but it’s also a tough one to locate. Fortunately, you can find his other Kahn’s issues all the way up until the Reds traded him to Baltimore. The regional sets focused on players from Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh so Robinson was a natural. You can see several for sale and auction here.