For 15 years, fans who loved hot dogs and baseball had a chance to collect an annual set of trading cards. Based in Cincinnati, Kahn’s baseball card sets started with only Reds players but the company later expanded its checklists to include players from teams in areas where its products were sold. Here’s an overview of the history of the Kahn’s issues.
The first two Kahn’s card sets, issued in 1955 and ’56, were Reds exclusives. The 1955 set had only six cards but the company created 15 in the following year. 1955 cards are extremely scarce since they were only distributed at a promotional event and not through packages of hot dogs as other cards were.
The 1956 set was the first to be distributed with hot dogs and included a pre-rookie card of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. The Robinson card, in fact, remains one of the most valuable Kahn’s Wieners cards ever produced.
In 1957, Kahn’s expanded to include a second team – the Pittsburgh Pirates. Adding another franchise to the mix helped add a few star players – most notably Hall of Fame Pirates Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski. The Mazeroski card produced in 1957 isn’t as valuable as Clemente’s card but is notable because it can be considered a rookie card of sorts since his true rookie is his 1957 Topps issue.
Clemente was featured on nearly all of the Kahn’s sets and his cards are the key to most of them.
The two-team set didn’t last long. Over the next few years, Kahn’s continued to include more teams. In 1959, the Cleveland Indians joined the fray, and by 1960, the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals were all represented. That opened the door for a whole new group of players. Curiously, Ernie Banks was absent from the Kahn’s Cubs contingent and you won’t find Bob Gibson or Stan Musial among the Cardinals.
The Kahn’s Wieners sets didn’t just grow in terms of different teams included. With more teams, the company produced more cards. In 1960, the set grew to include a total of 42 cards – the most of any set they had created up to that point.
Kahn’s Wieners Changes Distribution
Up until 1961, Kahn’s Wieners cards were only available in packages of hot dogs. That all changed with the 1961 set, though. Containing a record 43-cards, the company made it easier for collectors to get complete sets, making them available via a mail-in offer.
Instead of trading with friends or buying large amounts of product, collectors could now obtain a complete set all at once.
The company had made design changes throughout its years of production but the last five years saw a number of significant differences.
First, in 1964, the company went to a color photo for the first time, replacing the old black and white images. Kahn’s also removed borders from the fronts of the cards, giving its pictures a full-bleed element. The ’64 set included the first Kahn’s card featuring Pete Rose.
The borderless cards remained for one more season before change came again in 1966. In that year, an advertising tab was added to the card. The ad features the Kahn’s logo with a dotted line above the player’s image that collectors could then remove. Today, cards are found with both the advertising portion and without it since many collectors did, in fact, cut that part off of the cards. As you might imagine, the uncut cards are more valuable than the ones that have been modified. That design remained until the end of the company’s series in 1969.
One final change in the last seasons of Kahn’s products were size variations. Some cards (not all) were produced in both a smaller and larger size. Some minor print design variations also exist.
In 1969, Kahn’s Wieners produced its final set. Instead of going out a bang, however, the production run ended with more of a whimper. At only 22 cards minus variations, it was the smallest release created since 1956 when the company featured only members of the Reds. And while the set did include some big names such Hank Aaron, Bill Mazeroski, Tony Perez, Ron Santo, Joe Torre, and Billy Williams, it was also missing many key stars of the era.
The Pirates were represented by Mazeroski but there was no Clemente or Willie Stargell. The Reds had Perez but no Pete Rose or Johnny Bench (who was included in ’68). The set included a decent number of stars but could have been so much better.
In addition to Clemente, the early appearances by Frank Robinson and the latter year addition of Rose and Hank Aaron (1965-69), the Kahn’s sets are light on stars. However, they remain among the most popular regional sets of the post-War vintage era, especially in the areas where collectors remember the company’s famous advertising slogan: “The Wiener the World Awaited.”
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