It’s baseball cards that most collectors are interested in. But a rare set of pre-war baseball wrappers is getting some interest in the news with the discovery of two that were previously unchecklisted.
About the R301 Overland Wrappers
The R301 Overland Wrappers aren’t what most wrappers collectors would expect. Distributed by Chicago’s Overland Candy Corporation, these weren’t wrappers that once held baseball cards. Instead, these held candy. They are pursued by baseball collectors because the wrappers themselves actually pictured players.
The wrappers have been often cited as a 1930s issue but that’s only partially true. We know the wrappers were printed in both the 1930s and early 1940s because of some of the players and their teams that are found in the set. While the exact dating of the set is not fully known, they were printed over a series of years likely beginning in 1936 and running into at least the early 1940s.
Now, keep in mind, these were wrappers and not cards. That’s important to note for a few reasons.
First, almost all were probably discarded shortly after the product was opened. They might have been fun to look at initially and some baseball fans probably even took the time to read the player biography. But, as a wrapper, I imagine that most would have been thrown away in short order.
Second, even the ones that have survived are often found in poor shape because they are more than 70 years old and they weren’t printed on a durable card stock. Because of those things, it’s not hard to understand why they are so rare. A lot of these have numerous wrinkles, creases, and even some tears.
Many of the wrappers assign nicknames to the players. The tops include a portrait cartoon image of the specific player along with a generic action scene involving a pitcher, batter, and catcher. They include the player’s name as well as a biography that often gives some insight into when the wrapper was printed based on the season/team referenced.
The bottom of the wrappers include the Overland Candy Corporation name, helping us to identify the distributor, and also includes a baseball reference along with a one-cent price for the product that would have been enclosed.
New Wrappers Checklisted
The wrappers don’t get into the news all that often. They certainly are collected but since they’re not traditional cards, many collectors don’t give them a second look. Many, in fact, have never even heard of the set. But every now and then you hear about them and the discovery of two previously unchecklisted ones is worth a mention.
A collector named Anthony Fosco recently emailed me. His message included images of two new ones that were not seemingly known. Anthony’s wrappers feature former pitcher Lon Warneke and infielder Babe Dahlgren. Warneke and Dahlgren both made all-star teams in their career but neither’s cards would typically command big money. But in this case, their wrappers would surely be sought after since they were not previously known to the hobby — at least to publications offering a checklist for them.
Anthony indicated that the wrappers, along with several others, have been in his family for some time. “They were my dad’s,” Anthony told me. They had been stored inside of an old box along with other wrappers and Exhibit cards. Anthony recounted that growing up, his family would entertain visitors with them as the box sat in the living room.
So what could these new wrappers be worth? In short, that’s not an easy question since there is no sales history for them.
Typically, unchecklisted cards can fetch large premiums because set collectors are anxious to get their hands on them. But because of the rarity of these wrappers, I’m not sure many are pursuing complete sets. Further, it’s important to note that there could very well be other wrappers such as these that have gone under the radar and unchecklisted. There’s no guarantee that other unknown ones are not out there. In fact, I might hedge my bet on there indeed being more unchecklisted ones that were produced. Additionally, Warneke and Dahlgren are not big stars and that’s important because if they were, they would command more interest on an open market. For example, even collectors not pursuing this set would be interested in a wrapper of, say, Babe Ruth. But players like Warneke and Dahlgren would be a tougher sell to someone that isn’t a collector of these wrappers.
This isn’t the first time in recent years new ones have been found. REA sold some previously unchecklisted versions in a 2008 auction. But because they were sold as a lot with many others, it is impossible to determine how much of the $7,050 final pricewas attributable to the unchecklisted wrappers. That lot included Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg, two of the more expensive wrappers in the set. Their presence further muddies the water.
Still, we do know that these wrappers would likely sell more than your standard common in the set. And those can start around $200. Stars, of course, sell for much more and some have even topped $1,000. You can usually find a few on eBay.