Youngsters who bought Leaf baseball cards nearly 70 years ago had another set to collect, but unless dad was willing to share some knowledge, those “old timers” may not have generated much of a buzz on the playground. Today, the 1949 Leaf Premiums might be among the most underappreciated vintage cards in the hobby.
Each box of Leaf bubble gum cards supposedly contained one of the 5 5/8” x 7 ¼” sepia-toned photos of a Hall of Famer. The checklist included Babe Ruth (three variations) and Lou Gehrig. Printed on thin stock, the premiums included a photo of the player, a facsimile autograph and a short biograph of the player on the front. The backs were blank.
The premiums were placed at the bottom of the box of 24 nickel packs.
At the bottom of each regular issue Leaf card was a promotion for the premiums in which stores were to give the card to anyone who accumulated ten wrappers and turned them in. Some stores probably just gave them away to a kid who bought the last packs in the box.
Today, 1949 Leaf Premiums are quite scarce, but not as expensive as you might think. PSA has awarded grades to fewer than 70, with none rated higher than a 6. Only two Ruths have received grades of as high as 4. SGC has graded just 31 Premiums in all (four Ruths) with only one (Gehrig) as high as 80.
Since they weren’t issued at the same time the players were active, there is likely less interest from avid collectors. Other collectors may not even be familiar with the set at all.
Finding enough cards for sale to build a complete set is a challenge. Ruth and Gehrig are the most valuable, of course, with the “blue background” version of Ruth’s card considered the toughest. A full checklist is below.
You can see a small number of 1949 Leaf Premiums for sale on eBay by clicking here.
Grover Cleveland Alexander
Babe Ruth (light background, no text)
Babe Ruth (blue background, no text)
Babe Ruth (dark background, text)