In 1938, the Chicago-based Sawyer Biscuit Company offered cabinet photos of Chicago Cubs and White Sox players. Today, these cabinets are tough to find and they are so rare that the checklist is still being defined.
1938 Sawyer Biscuit Basics
The Sawyer Biscuit cabinets were offered through the mail, which helps explain their rarity.
For ten cents as well as a coupon from one of Sawyer Biscuits Butter Cookies packages, a collector could purchase one of the black and white photos that was mounted into a red frame. Sawyer Biscuit was a Chicago company and kept the checklist confined to the teams on the city’s north and south sides.
Collectors will take what they can get as they are rare. However, some of the highlights of the set are Dizzy Dean, Tony Lazzeri, and Ted Lyons. Lazzeri, in particular, is a little interesting. After spending the majority of his career with the New York Yankees, the Hall of Famer played in a part-time role with the Cubs in 1938 before finishing his career in 1939 with the Dodgers and Giants. This is one of the few collectibles out there highlighting his brief time in Chicago.
While the photos came inside of a frame, you will sometimes see them without it. These,for example, were offered by Heritage Auctions. Sawyer Biscuit even specifically stated in their correspondence that the photos could be removed from the frames, allowing collectors to use the frame for one of their own pictures. For collectors unfamiliar with the set, seeing these individually without the custom red frame can make them more difficult to identify.
How many of these photos are still in existence is a mystery butwe do know that they are very tough to find. They rarely pop up in traditional auction houses and even finding them on eBay is unusual.
The set is so uncommon that even the known checklist is still growing 80 years later.
47 had been the accepted number of checklisted items until recently. Last year, I noted a 48th, as a letter referenced an available cabinet for a broadcaster, Dolores ‘Babs’ Gillen. Gillen had done some work with Bob Elson, who was a sportscaster for both the Cubs and White Sox. Elson, as has been confirmed, was also available in the set. While her cabinet has not been located yet, the letter indicates it was available.
Additionally, a 49th cabinet of former pitcher and then Cubs coach Roy Johnson was discovered by a collector.
With these new additions, it is possible that a few more could surface as well.
These cabinets are rare and typically not too cheap. Commons, such as this one offered at a 2014 auction, usually start around $300. Stars and Hall of Famers are rarely seen for sale and, of course, sell for more, depending on condition and the person. Pictures with the full frame are more valuable than the ones that have been removed.
And while individual photos are tough, complete sets are nearly impossible. As of this writing, a full set of the Cubs, though, is being offered on eBay. Just make sure you’ve got a hefty balance in your Paypal account.