The 1921-22 E121 American Caramel cards featured a number of different advertising backs. One of the rarer backs features a unique scene and advertisement for a baseball player’s candy company. The Lou Gertenrich sponsored cards tell an interesting story.
Gertenrich was the son of a confectioner and as he got older, his baseball talent was discovered. Gertenrich’s problem, as this article indicates, was that he never was able to focus fully on his baseball career. Often, he was splitting his responsibilities between his involvement with the candy company and with his baseball teams.
Still, his baseball talent was undeniable and after playing semi-pro baseball, he got a brief chance in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers, who were battling some injuries and happened to be playing in his home city of Chicago. His stay in 1901 was only temporary as he collected what would be the only hit in his career in three at bats over two games. Gertenrich would return two years later to play a single game with the Pittsburgh Pirates before his major league career came to an end.
Gertenrich ended up playing for several more years including a stint with Chicago in the Federal League during its 1913 inaugural campaign. Reports suggest that Gertenrich never was able to fully concentrate on playing in the majors because of his candy company and that the game was robbed of his talent as a result.
Lou Gertenrich Cards Background
Gertenrich’s candy company got into the baseball card business years after his major league career had ended. The firm printed was just one of many sponsors of the E121 American Caramel baseball card set. However, its advertisement is easily the most fascinating in terms of pure design. The Gertenrich cards are the only ones that feature an actual picture – all others have only text.
The left side of the Gertenrich advertising back features a closeup of him that was also later used in a 1921 Spinks book series called, “One Thousand Sport Stories” (pictured above). The right side of the cards a generic baseball scene sandwiched in between the Lou Gertenrich name and the phrase, “The Baseball Player – Candy Manufacturer.”
Fronts of the cards are the same as the standard E121 American Caramel card issues. They feature black and white player images with names, teams, and positions at the bottom inside of a white border. There was no card of Gertenrich in the set–just the advertising back.
One unique distinction of the cards is paper loss found roughly in the same spot on many of the backs. Paper loss on the backs of pre-war cards is relatively common since some were glued into books and then removed later. But the paper loss on the backs of the Gertenrich cards in the same general area makes it seem as if they may have been previously owned by the same collector.
If you’re hoping to add Lou Gertenrich cards to your collection, they aren’t easily found. It isn’t even known how many different Gertenrich cards exist. To date, PSA and SGC have graded fewer than 50 combined.
In low mid-grade condition, commons sell for several hundred dollars depending on the player and exact grade. Ruth’s cards would be the most expensive Gertenrich issues. Somewhat surprisingly given the rarity of the set, four have been graded by PSA and SGC. An SGC 40/3 sold for nearly $10,000 in 2014.
Gertenrich continued his involvement in baseball until his death in 1933.