Bakery cards are generally among the more difficult types of pre-war cards to find. Often, these were regional issues limited to a small area. As such, they sometimes focused on only specific teams. One of these is the 1921 White’s Tip Top Baltimore Orioles set.
1921 White’s Tip Top Baltimore Orioles Cards
The Tip Top name will be known by many pre-war collectors for their 1910 set of Pittsburgh Pirates cards, cataloged as D322. However this is a much rarer issue.
This scarce set was issued as a premium with loaves of Tip Top Bread from White’s Bakery. According to ads in the Baltimore Sun newspaper during the spring of 1921, a different card was available every day from the bakery. Thus, it would have been hard to collect an entire set without returning to the store each day. And if the cards were only issued on one specific day, that would help explain the rarity.
The set featured players from the 1921 Baltimore Orioles, then a highly successful franchise in the International League. Around the size of a postcard, each picture featured a sepia style photo of players on the team.
A total of 19 cards are known in the set. However, what is not known is if that checklist is complete as new cards have been discovered in recent years. A few more could still surface in the future and, unfortunately, the Tip Top advertisement did not state how many there were.
Many of the players are not household names but the set is known for producing a minor league rookie issue of Hall of Famer Lefty Grove.
For Grove, 1921 was only his second year in professional baseball. He started his career in 1920, playing in Baltimore and Martinsburg. He would remain in Baltimore until he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in the majors in 1925. Grove went on to win 300 games and was the Most Valuable Player in 1931, ten years after the release of the Tip Top set.
Notably, Grove is called Lefty “Groves” on the card. But as this thread indicates, that is not actually a typo as Grove was born with the surname Groves.
Another well-known name in the set is Jack Dunn, who signed Babe Ruth out of St. Mary’s Industrial School in 1914.
Rarity and Pricing
These cards are quite rare. To date, none show up in the PSA population report and SGC shows only a total of 40 examples graded.
The 1921 Tip Top cards have a few different types of collectors after them, including Orioles collectors, International League collectors, and Type and Player collectors. They are rarely seen in auctions but do pop up from time to time. This common sold in a 2014 auction for just over $500. As for that Lefty Grove card, a low-grade example sold for $18,000 in 2013.
Rarely are more than one offered in any given auction. But an REA auction offered six (shown here) in 2013 that sold for nearly $5,000.