Baseball lovers in the 1950s had plenty of options to collect star players. For those who could not afford to buy packs of baseball cards, products like Royal Desserts offered MLB standouts at reasonable prices. If you could convince Mom to buy the boxed desserts, then you were in business.
From 1950 to 1952, Royals Desserts issued a set of 24 cards featuring some of the top baseball players of the era. The players’ cards, called “Royal Stars of Baseball,” appeared on the backs of various Royal Desserts products. Like Post and Jell-O cards that appeared on boxes a decade later, all you needed was a sharp pair of scissors and a steady hand to cut out the 2 5/8-inch by 3 1/4-inch cards.
Royal Desserts was owned by Standard Brands Inc., a company founded in 1929 that was “blazing an exciting trail in the field of grocery promotion.” In 1952, a shopper could purchase six boxes of Royal Dessert or pudding for 39 cents. In addition to Royal Desserts, Standard Brands’ portfolio included Chase & Sanborn coffee, Fleischmann’s Yeast, Tender Leaf tea and V-8 vegetable drinks.
Royal Desserts was not just handing out baseball stars. Other cards of prominent movie stars were also found on certain boxes.
There were more goodies, with some directed toward housewives. In 1950, for example, a consumer needed just three face panels from any of its products — plus 35 cents — to receive “four lovely cover dishes in sparkling plastic.” Or, for three face panels and 50 cents, a consumer could get a double string of simulated pearls.
And for kids, for three face panels and 25 cents, one could obtain a “Spy-Detecto Writer” to put messages in code. Definitely a “must-have” item for a kid during the Communist scare of the 1950s. And in 1951, the company issued a 16-card set featuring scenes from the new Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland.
The baseball cards issued from 1950 to 1952 featured future Hall of Famers such as Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese, Warren Spahn Phil Rizzuto, Joe Gordon, Luke Appling and George Kell, along with very good players like Dom DiMaggio, Andy Seminick, Tommy Henrich, Alvin Dark, Bobby Thomson and Virgil Trucks.
What is interesting about this issue is that there were variations in the 24-card set. Various sentences in the cards were changed to update their careers, with some players having four different cards. In total, the 23 biography variations pushed the master set to 47 cards.
In 1950 Royal Desserts issued cards with two different tints — black and white with red, and blue and white with red.
The cards had blank backs, but on the card front, next to the player’s black-and-white photo, was a biography with vital statistics and career highlights. Across the player’s photo was a facsimile autograph.
Some sample cards from the set have advertising on their backs. These cards are worth nearly double the regular issues.
Seminick (card No. 7) has a base card and three variations. It is one of three cards in the set with that many variations. The other are Ray Scarborough (No. 14) and Dick Sisler (No. 19). The Scarborough card is notable because he is listed on a three different teams — Senators for the base cards, two variations with the White Sox and one with the Red Sox. Interestingly, Scarborough played for the Red Sox and Yankees in 1952, but there is no New York variation.
Two players have a base card and a pair of variations — Andy Pafko (No. 6) and Trucks (No. 21).
For the 1950 set, 240 hand-cut cards have been sent to PSA for grading. Predictably, there are no 9s or 10s. There is one PSA 8s — Dark’s No. 18.
Not surprisingly, the most cards graded belonged to a Cardinal — Musial. PSA has examined 14, with none rated higher than 5. There were 37 variation cards that were assigned a grade, with a pair of PSA 6 cards topping the list.
As an added bonus for collectors, Royal offered an eight-page, comb-spined booklet to store the cards for 15 cents and three box fronts from any dessert. The booklet, which could hold up to 16 cards, measured 3 1/8 inches by 3 1/8 inches, according to newspaper advertising in October 1950.
In 1952, Royal added a premium set with 16 unnumbered black-and-white cards. Each card measured 5 inches by 7 inches and included a facsimile autograph along with the notation, “To a Royal Fan.”
Seventy-three cards from the 1952 variations were graded, and there is one gem mint specimen. That belongs to Ferris Fain. Five cards from the set were PSA 9s, with 10 earning a PSA 8 grade. Musial led the way with most graded cards again, with eight. One graded as high as PSA 9. Reese has seven graded cards, while Rizzuto has six. The highest graded card for each of the Hall of Fame shortstops is PSA 8.
Most Royal Desserts singles–even those featuring Hall of Famers– are relatively inexpensive, especially those in lower grade. You can see some for sale and auction here.