These days, most sports collectors know Wheaties for their popular cereal boxes that have often featured famous athletes. These boxes are collectible and Wheaties has been producing them for decades.
But what many don’t know is that the company produced several other types of sports collectibles in the pre-war era, too.
Introduced in 1924, Wheaties doesn’t have a ton of pre-war collectibles. But it didn’t take the company long to break into the sports market and there are several things of interest that they produced.
Babe Ruth Flip Books
One of Wheaties’ earlier and more valuable collectibles was printed in 1932.
That year, the company produced a special flip book featuring Hall of Famer Babe Ruth. While Ruth’s career was winding down by that point, he was still immensely popular. The year before, the Babe had led the league in home runs (46) for the sixth straight year. In 1932, he led the league in walks and on base percentage.
The book showed an animated version of Ruth’s home run swing over several pages using real black and white pictures. The back contained an ad for Wheaties and the cover is even in their familiar orange and blue theme. Here is the movie in motion when the pages are flipped.
1933 Wheaties Skippy Series
While the Babe was the most popular baseball player at the time, some of Wheaties’ first baseball cards were actually for a fictional character.
In 1933, Wheaties produced a set of cards around the cartoon character Skippy. Even though he isn’t well-known today, Skippy was extremely popular in the 1930s. He was the subject of a 15-minute radio show and Wheaties ran some tie-in promotions with him. Specifically, they used the Skippy character to create a Secret Society club for kids that ate Wheaties. The promotion was a wild success as the club is said to have included more than 500,000 children.
Wheaties produced a series of 12 cards featuring Skippy. While many are of the non-sports variety, a handful featured baseball and boxing cards. The baseball cards pictured Skippy as both a hitter and batter and the cards are still collected today, selling for around $10 each in decent condition.
Minor League Postcards
Wheaties’ biggest impact, however, came on the minor league circuit. The company invested heavily into advertising in minor league baseball markets and created many collectibles, including postcards and photos.
Two Wheaties postcard sets were produced in 1933 for the Seattle Indians and Minneapolis Millers. Both are somewhat rare but the Seattle Indians photos are downright scarce.
The Indians set is so rare that finding a complete checklist is difficult. Only a handful of subjects are known.
The Millers set, however, is easier to find. Featured there is Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft, who was the team’s manager. His postcard is shown here.
These postcards usually start in the $25-$50 range. Some can usually be found on eBay.
Also notable was the company’s production of minor league team photos. These photos were a result of Wheaties’ partnership with local radio stations to promote local Radio Day/Radio Night games at stadiums.
These photos are somewhat rare today and several included hidden gems. In addition to the team, they usually included a picture of the team’s radio announcer.
In 1937, a photo of the Columbus Redbirds featured Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter. 1939 team photos included Cooperstown inductees Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto.
But it’s a 1938 photo that is usually the most sought after. A 1938 Minneapolis Millers picture (shown here) features the legendary Ted Williams in a fantastic pre-rookie issue.
The Millers photo doesn’t come cheap but isn’t overly expensive, either. One sold in an auction for nearly $250.
You can search for some of those late 30s Team Photos here.
A final note should be mentioned here about the 1930s Worch Cigar photos.
For many years, these photos were incorrectly attributed to Wheaties. However, that changed with the discovery of several of them inside of envelopes for Worch Cigar.
The photos, produced in the early 1930s, are popular with collectors and feature major league players, including Babe Ruth and many more.
Since then, these have been correctly identified as Worch Cigar photos.