As a new decade approached, a popular Wisconsin dairy company nestled near the shore of Lake Michigan was looking for a marketing edge. A partnership with the popular home state big league baseball team brought the 1960 Lake to Lake Milwaukee Braves baseball cards to life: two lives actually. These were meant to be traded back to the company for something thought of as a better deal. Today, it’s an issue considered to be one of the hobby’s toughest post-War regional sets.
There would be 28 cards produced in all, although two were extremely tough to find. Ray Boone was traded in the middle of the promotion and his card was pulled. Billy Bruton is rare, too. In fact, kids who started collecting the cards late probably never knew either player had a card. They cards weren’t full color, just a blue-tinted photo with a blue border and the player’s name and position astride the Braves logo.
The distribution method was decidedly unsophisticated. Sixty years ago, there would be no talk of keeping the corners of cards sharp and sticking them in plastic holders or sheets. Kids put bubble gum cards in their spokes. Lake to Lake’s cards were made of a heavy paper stock and stapled to the top of each half-gallon milk carton.
The promotion was heavily marketed, with ads in several newspapers across eastern Wisconsin, where Lake to Lake dairy products were sold. The ads first appeared around Opening Day and continued until at least the second week of June in some areas.
The idea was to save the cards, yes, but once you had accumulated enough, you could send them back to the dairy in exchange for a variety of prizes described on the back: 20 of them got you a Braves pen and pencil set; 40 returned a Braves cap; snare 60 cards and you’d get an autographed Braves baseball and if you drank enough of it to drown a cow, you could trade them for two Braves tickets. We’re guessing the 100 cards for two tickets trades didn’t happen often. The cards were returned to the owner with a punch hole and a stamped notification on the back to assure they couldn’t be sent in again.
The complete Lake to Lake set includes Hank Aaron as card #1 and not surprisingly, it’s the most valuable, with most decent looking copies bringing $200 and up. Hall of Famers Warren Spahn and Red Schoendienst are here, too, but not Eddie Mathews. It’s possible the popular slugger had his own advertising deal with another dairy.
Interestingly, nine cards in the set are easier to locate in high-grade than the others. Some time in the 1960s, Bruce Yeko, one of the hobby’s first card dealers, acquired a large lot of nine different uncirculated cards. Collectors who obtained them had a nice start on a set, but a long road ahead, especially when it came to Boone and Bruton.
Still, complete sets do exist and it’s obvious some cards did survive without being stapled. In 2018, the hobby’s second ranked set, with every card graded PSA 6 or better, sold for $2,880 in the spring, and was offered through another auction house in the fall,where it attained $3,300. An ungraded but respectable set also sold that year, netting $726.
There’s a complete set on Amazon for a little more and a fully graded set and numerous singles on eBay as well. The 1960 Lake to Lake Braves set was reprinted in later years and those cards remain somewhat popular with collectors who don’t want to tackle the real deal.