New York City was the center of the baseball universe in the early 1950s.
Willie, Mickey and The Duke were in their prime. The Shot ‘Heard Round the World was still a recent memory and all but two of the 14 teams to play in the World Series from 1950-1956 called the Big Apple home.
The cards from these years are equally legendary. Topps and Bowman were issuing sets that are now classics, but it was another company from that era more famous for frankfurters than bubble gum that gave collectors scarce sets filled with New York legends.
Stahl Meyer has existed in one form or another since 1836. Based in New York, the cold cut and frankfurter company supplied all of the city’s baseball teams with hot dogs in the 1950s so it was a natural move to the baseball card business. In 1953, 1954 and 1955 Stahl Meyer produced sets of cards depicting key members of the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers – three players from each team in the ’53 set and four from each the next two years. The set’s small sizes – there are just 33 combined cards through all three years – are a bit of a siren’s song for set collectors. Stahl Meyer’s rarity is only slightly outdone by their hefty price tags.
These full color beauties are excruciatingly rare for several reasons. First, they were a regional issue available only in and around New York. Two, they were hard to get even if you lived in the area. Cards were distributed in packages of hot dogs – which is evident by the poor condition of most cards – and at the ballpark. According to an account on a collector’s message board, the cards available at Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium or at the Polo Grounds were issued in strips of two along with a hot dog and a soda on a cardboard tray.
The 1953 set is even more valuable and scarce than its successors. A key reason for this is because the cards were used as entry forms for kids to win tickets to baseball games. Two cards and an essay of 25 words or less “telling why you like Stahl-Meyer frankfurts” were required for entry into the drawing. The 200 “most original letters” won tickets to one of three Yankee, Dodger or Giants dates that season. Wrappers rather than cards were required to fulfill offers for a baseball poster in 1954 and a cap or pennant in 1955. The set includes Mickey Mantle, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and Phil Rizzuto. Willie Mays makes his first and only Stahl-Meyer appearance in the ’54 set.
Sixty-plus years later, Stahl Meyer remains one of the most sought after regional issues around. But if you decide to go after them be prepared to pay a pretty penny even for players not named Willie or Mickey. According to the Beckett Almanac, Whitey Lockman is the most plentiful card in the ’53 set. A best offer was recently accepted on a PSA 6 copy with an original asking price of $950.
With the rank and file players fetching big bucks (with all due respect to Mr. Lockman who represented the tying run in the 1951 Shot Heard ‘Round the World) you can only imagine what some of the brand names go for. A 2004 Legendary Auctions lot for a PSA 9 1954 Stahl Meyer Mays sold for more than $10,000. Robert Edward Auctions has sold several singles and lots of Stahl Meyer cards over the years including this PSA 7 ’54 Mantle – the highest graded according to the auction – went for a whopping $23,500 in 2011.
ne of the coolest cards in the sets has to be Roy Campanella. The card is a zoomed-out version of the familiar shot from Campy’s 1951 Bowman card.
Stahl Meyer’s are expensive even by 1950s Hall of Famer standards. They are rare, yes, but perhaps the appeal of owning something with such a strong connection to baseball at its apex in the world’s most famous city also has something to do with those high prices. You can see what’s available on eBay right now by clicking here.