For three years from 1953 through 1955, Wisconsin-based Johnston Cookies produced Milwaukee Braves baseball cards with their product. Here’s a special look at the string sets distributed by the manufacturer.
While the Johnston Cookies cards were first printed in 1953, the company’s roots began long before that. According to the Milwaukee County Historical Society, the company was founded by a Scottish immigrant more than 100 years earlier. That immigrant, A.J. Johnston, settled in Milwaukee and started a confectionery and cracker company. The company continued to gain popularity over the years and by the 1920s, was producing all sorts of products.
By the time the 1950s rolled around, they had a strong following in Milwaukee and that’s when the cards began.
The First Johnston Cookies Set
The cards were no doubt a hit with collectors. Not only did they feature the hometown Braves, but the design was also eerily similar to the 1952 Topps design with a player image on the front and a white box at the bottom with the player’s replica signature. Because this was a 25-card team set, there were plenty of commons here. But with Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, there was some star power, too.
The Mathews card is particularly important since it was a second-year card of the star.
Johnston Cookies followed up a popular debut with another strong set in 1954. The theme for the sophomore issue from the company?
The cards were slightly thinner, but taller from the previous year, measuring at nearly four inches in height. The cards weren’t only larger in stature than the 1953 release, but there were more of them as Johnston Cookies upped the set to a total of 35 different cards.
And while we’re on the theme of ‘big’, there was no bigger card in the three Johnston Cookies sets than the Hank Aaron rookie card found in the set. Aaron’s recognized rookie card is his 1954 Topps issue but Johnston Cookies had the foresight to include the future Hall of Famer in his set as well making for one of the biggest oddball rookie cards likely produced in the 1950s.
The Aaron card isn’t the only prize in this set, however. The release also included Spahn and Mathews as well, and also a short-printed Bobby Thomson card.
Six-Card Panels Made Final Johnston Cookies Release Unique
For its final act, Johnston Cookies came up with a new idea, printing cards in six-card panels. A total of (6) six-card panels were produced and included inside boxes of the company’s products. In addition, cards could be purchased through a mail-order program. Because all of the cards were printed in panels, it isn’t uncommon to find them still in that format.
The set, as usual, contained the team’s biggest stars. Headlined by a second-year Hank Aaron card, collectors would also find cards of his Hall of Fame teammates Mathews and Spahn for the third consecutive year.
Measuring at 2 7/8″ wide x 4″ tall, the cards were also the largest the company produced in its three years manufacturing the collectibles. Design was similar to the previous two seasons with a player image on the front with their name and a replica autograph in a box at the bottom.
It isn’t clear why the company ceased production on its baseball cards in 1955, but for three years, Johnston Cookies gave Braves fans a unique collectible.
While somewhat rare, the cards are still relatively affordable. A mid-grade run of complete sets sold earlier this year for under $2,000.
Click here to see Johnston Cookies cards for sale and auction.