As families pulled the baseball cards from the packages of hot dogs in the southeast Michigan summer of 1953, they had to be hoping that maybe it was the start of some telepathic connection that would turn the team’s fortunes around. It wasn’t exactly turning into a banner year.
The Tigers never did right the ship, finishing in sixth place, a whopping 40 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees. Thankfully, the Phillies and Browns were even worse.
Still, what kid wouldn’t like getting a baseball card inside a package of anything and today, the 1953 Glendale Detroit Tigers set is one of the more appealing, but challenging food issue sets of all-time.
It’s not jammed with Hall of Famers but the nature of distribution and the passage of time means the number of cards in the marketplace is small and the number of high-grade examples is minuscule.
The cards were distributed inside packages of Glendale Hot Dogs (“The King of Hot Dogs”), one per pack, and were actually part of a promotion that included tickets to the 1953 World Series. The set of 28 cards was well crafted, with a mix of posed action shots and portrait-style images. The player’s facsimile autograph is below the photo along with the printed version of his name. A Tigers logo is at the left.
The backs of the cards offered personal information on the player, career stats and short biography. Information on how to enter the World Series ticket giveaway was available on the bottom. Three first prizes included a pair of World Series tickets and there were 150 other prizes. To enter, you had to send your cards in to the company. Those who sent in the most cards would win the prizes.
Buying a case of hot dogs didn’t guarantee you World Series tickets, though. Finding a card of pitcher Art Houtteman proved challenging when he was traded to Cleveland on June 15 and was apparently pulled from distribution for the rest of the summer. A run-of-the-mill copy of Houtteman’s card will set you back over $1,000 by itself today.
As a whole, the cards aren’t difficult, but not impossible to find. Not many higher grade examples survive, though. PSA has graded over 1,000 Glendale Hot Dogs Tigers but none have rated higher than 8.5 and only 37 have rated 7 or better.
There was also a 28-page booklet produced, with photos of each card. Likely given away by salesmen and/or handed out in stores in conjunction with the promotion, they are extremely rare today. Robert Edward Auctions sold one for over $1,500 in 2014.
The top-rated set on PSA’s Registry–missing one card–sold for $33,000 in 2018, but a lower grade complete set sold last year, also via Robert Edward Auctions, for $3,600.
Today, you can own lower grade copies of many of the cards for around $50 with some of the more elusive cards or those in higher grade costing more. You can always find them on eBay here.
1953 Glendale Detroit Tigers Checklist