‘It’s In The Details’
|Title||F52 Fro-Joy Champions Series
|Size||2 1/16″ x 4″
|Images||Black and White
|Number in Set
||12 (six Ruth cards and six Tunney cards)
1927-28 F52 Fro-Joy Champions Series Babe Ruth and Gene Tunney Overview
In the 1920s, there were numerous baseball card issues packaged with ice cream products. One, the F52 Fro-Joy set, featured Baseball Hall of Famer Babe Ruth and boxing legend Gene Tunney. The set is commonly referred to as only a Ruth series but Tunney was featured just as prominently. Tunney, in fact, was the first athlete featured in the series.
The cards are often advertised as a 1928 issue, but that is true of only the Ruth series. Tunney’s cards were actually the first ones in the issue and available in 1927. Both were cataloged by Jefferson Burdick in the American Card Catalog as F52 and called the Fro Joy Champions Series.
Ice cream and baseball was an ideal combination. More candy and ice cream cards were printed after the tobacco card era and since these new types of cards were marketed towards children (who found unique ways to get a hold of the tobacco cards), packaging them with products they purchased, such as ice cream, made a world of sense.
The cards were obtained during a special promotional week, as described on the backs. One free Ruth card was given away with Fro-Joy cones from August 6th through the 11th in 1928 (Monday through Saturday). Tunney’s cards were distributed from July 18th through the 23rd in 1927 (again, Monday through Saturday). Because there was such a limited amount of time to get the cards to exchange for the premium, the premiums are very rare as well.
The cards had basically the same design and even the layout was similar as each series included five vertical cards and one horizontal. But there are some differences between the Ruth and Tunney sets. The earlier Tunney series featured quotes from him at the bottom discussing eating Fro Joy Ice Cream with his replica signature. The 1928 Ruth cards had short descriptions of the Ruth and the picture shown with no signature.
The Fro-Joy set consists of only six cards for each athlete. It centered around Ruth and Tunney, and also allowed consumers the chance to obtain a replica-signed 8X10 photo premium of each player.
One reason why the cards are hard to come by is because collectors had to trade a full set of all six cards for the Ruth or Tunney photo. Who knows how many cards that were traded in were subsequently destroyed?
While these photos are not altogether common, they can be found with a bit of searching. The photos featured a black and white image of Ruth swinging a bat. All photos were signed ‘From your friend’ with Ruth’s replica signature added to the bottom.
Despite the photos not containing hand signatures, these photos are still quite valuable today, generally costing several hundred dollars if in good condition.
Part of the reason the cards are rare is because some were exchanged by customers for the Ruth premium photo. It is believed that the cards were not returned and, instead, customers sending in their sets received the Ruth premium and also an uncut sheet of the cards.
The uncut sheets of the cards are printed on a slightly different paper quality and not 100% exactly the same as the original Fro-Joy cards. They are not fakes as they were legitimately distributed by the company. However, they are not the same as the original cards, either. Think of them as more of a collectible.
As mentioned, like the cards, these have also been faked over time. Note that a color uncut sheet was also printed. Any color cards are not authentic 1920s issues and were printed later.
Forgeries and Reprints
One side note is that Fro-Joy Ruth cards are one of the among the most heavily forged cards in the pre-war era.
Because of the high number of Fro-Joy forgeries, the two foremost grading companies, PSA and SGC, will no longer grade them. Graded examples are out there from ones already graded, but they are not grading any new submissions. If you are buying one of these cards, purchasing a grading one is highly recommended.
And, as stated, the uncut sheets have also been faked and reprinted. All color sheets of the cards are reprints and not authentic.
1927-28 F52 Fro-Joy Champions Series Babe Ruth and Gene Tunney Checklist
Here is a full set checklist of the cards.
Gene Tunney (1927)
- Full body, front view
- Full body, side view
- Portrait, shirtless
- Portrait, with suit
- Standing in corner
Babe Ruth (1928)
- George Herman “Babe” Ruth (portrait)
- Look out, Mr. Pitcher!
- Bang! The Babe lines one out!
- When the Babe comes home (sliding)
- “Babe” Ruth’s grip! (picture of hands)
- Ruth is a crack fielder (fielding)