As baseball card food issues go, it was an impressive run. While Kelloggs released an unbroken string of baseball (and some football) sets in the 1970s and 80s, Kahn’s Wieners card sets were regional issues that required a lot of hot dog eating to collect. The Cincinnati-based company issued baseball card-oriented promotions from 1955 through 1969 and as our research shows, they were pretty serious about promoting it–at least for a while.
Kahn’s focused on the hometown Cincinnati Reds for the first two years, then began expanding to other areas of its marketing region including Pittsburgh with the checklists expanding and contracting based on the number of teams that were featured.
Kahn’s advertised the program extensively in 1956, ’57, ’58 and ’59 with the latter two years seemingly the most heavily marketed. While they often used the players and their cards in the newspaper ads, some were more generic. Typically, the ads were run in Cincinnati, Dayton, Pittsburgh and Cleveland papers, depending on which teams were in the set. Later, Kahn’s placed a limited number of ads in Atlanta, when Braves players were included. Weekly grocery store ads often mentioned the “baseball photos” when they had Kahn’s on sale.
Ads for Kahn’s first showed up in the summer of 1955, the first year of the promotion, when a Reds player appeared in one-pound packages of hot dogs each week. There were six in all, but apparently Ted Kluszewski was in big demand.
The ads usually ran in the sports section, but not always.
In ’56, Kahn’s suggested mom should buy several packages so that junior could complete his set of “autographed” photos. It was a little deceiving since the signatures were part of the card, not inked by Wally Post and his teammates.
Advanced collectors know that Frank Robinson’s first baseball card wasn’t in the 1957 Topps set. He appeared on the 1956 Kahn’s checklist and “Frankie” was among the first players Kahn’s touted when it promoted its set two years later.
Sometimes the company simply went all text with its advertising. The story-telling route showed up in Pittsburgh in May of 1958.
Kahn’s didn’t just slap some stats on the back of its cards. They created stories for the backs of some of the cards including the “Biggest Thrill” and “Biggest Play I Have to Make.” Getting youngsters hooked on tales from the ballpark was a big part of the marketing message. Kluszewski had moved to the Pirates by then.
In 1962, the ad below was Kahn’s style. Interestingly, they featured a small photo of Roberto Clemente (yes, Roberto, not “Bob” as Topps continued to call him). By this time, they had started referring to the promotion as “baseball cards” rather than “photos.”
Kahn’s also produced football and basketball sets during the fall and winter months and while they weren’t as heavily promoted as the baseball issues, newspaper ads did feature both at times.
Oscar Robertson, whose Kahn’s rookie card pre-dates his “official” one from Fleer, was congratulated by the wiener-maker in 1964 after he was named MVP of the NBA All-Star Game.
While the Kahn’s cards got more colorful throughout the 1960s, the promotion was all but over by the fall of 1969, but the company had left behind quite a marketing effort that kept hot dogs on the table of sports-loving families for 15 years.