In 1928, ice cream maker Fro-Joy created a unique promotion to sell more cones during the month of August. Partnering with Babe Ruth, the company created a unique six-card set that’s still being collected today. Here’s a closer look at the Fro-Joy Babe Ruth set.
Fro-Joy Babe Ruth Basics
During the week of August 6th-11th, consumers would receive a card of Babe Ruth during Fro-Joy Cone Week with the purchase of a Fro-Joy cone. Each day, a new Ruth card was available so there were six cards in the set.
One thing I appreciate about the set is that it includes a variety of poses. Ruth was obviously known for his hitting and it would have been easy to simply feature The Babe taking hacks in the release. But a variety of shots were used instead with two showing him batting, one fielding, one portrait, one sliding, and one as a close-up of his grip on a baseball bat.
Cards were getting larger by the 1920s but the Fro-Joy cards were oversized even by those newer standards. Measuring approximately 2 1/4″ wide x 4″ tall, these black and white cards can even be considered small photos to some degree.
Many collectors have heard of the Ruth Fro-Joy cards but most do not likely know that a set of boxing legend Gene Tunney exists as well. A set of six Tunney cards actually preceded the Ruth cards and were distributed in 1927. The cards are similar in appearance but, unlike the Ruth cards, contain replica signatures on the front.
Finally, uncut sheets exist as well. Some of these are authentic and were distributed by the company. Many, however, are forgeries or reprints.
Collectors securing all six Ruth cards could receive a special giveaway as part of the promotion in which Fro-Joy would give a large photograph of Ruth that contained a replica signature.
While the photos are somewhat hard to come by, they are available. They also help to explain why the cards may be so rare these days. Many collectors may have traded their six cards to receive the photograph and it isn’t clear what happened to the cards afterward. Some companies offering similar promotions would alter (i.e. using a hole punch or a stamp) the cards before returning them to the collector along with the prize. But altered and stamped Fro-Joy cards in large quantities don’t really exist, meaning the cards could have simply been destroyed.
In addition, since the promotion lasted only one week, the cards would not have been printed in tremendously large quantities, anyway. That coupled with the possible destruction of redeemed cards helps explain why so few exist today.
Reprints and Forgeries
No review of Fro-Joy Babe Ruth cards would be complete without a mention of the numerous forgeries floating around the hobby. This remains one of the most heavily forged pre-war sets in the industry.
Many reprints are easy to spot, exhibiting the normal ‘fake’ wear. Others were also printed in color and any of those are not real since the original cards were printed in black and white. But forgeries of the Fro Joy cards have become so advanced that PSA and SGC no longer grade/authenticate them. Beckett remains the only one of the Big Three grading companies that continues to authenticate them.
In the reprints and forgeries category are also several collectibles advertising the promotion such as advertising or display pieces.
Fro-Joy Babe Ruth Prices
Prices on Fro-Joy cards have risen pretty steadily over the years, particularly on graded copies that have been authenticated. It is difficult to find graded cards in even low-grade condition for under $100 or so and mid-grade examples towards the lower end of the spectrum generally start in the $300-$500 range. Buying graded examples is suggested because of the number of reprints and forgeries that remain in the marketplace.