The 1925 V31 Dominion Chocolate Athletic Stars set and checklist includes 180 cards (two series – one with 60 cards and another with 120) of athletes in a variety of sports.
Cards may be found with the bottoms torn or cut since that part included a coupon from the manufacturer. Collectors could redeem a full set of stubs for a prize. The cards were printed in Canada and have a ‘V-Card’ designation in the American Card Catalog.
Among the various sports were cards of baseball, basketball, football, and hockey players. The football cards can also be considered rugby cards by some collectors. Printed in Canada, obviously the dominant sport of these included is hockey. However, the basketball cards (of various Canadian players) included are some of the only ones in the pre-war card era. Other sports included are boxing, tennis, golf, and wrestling, among others like cricket, lacrosse, horse racing, swimming/diving, cycling, track and field, and rowing.
One important note with respect to the sports is that several of the athletes played more than one sport. So, while they may be classified as a specific sport below in various checklists, it is quite possible to classify them as a different type of athlete. Several athletes are found in both series as well.
A Valuable but Unknown Prize
The coupons or ‘stubs’ at the bottom of the cards offered a ‘valuable prize’ in exchange to a collector who completed a set and mailed them in to the company.
The coupon portion solved a problem of sorts for the candy companies. Often, collectors were forced to surrender their cards in order to receive a prize. Sometimes, the cards were returned but if so, they usually were given back with some sort of redemption marking, such as a hole punch. By attaching a coupon, collectors could keep their cards and still participate in a redemption. This is similar to what was done for the V49 Lowney’s Chocolate set, another Canadian chocolates issue.
But what was the prize? That mystery, to my knowledge, remains unsolved. Around the same time, Dominion Chocolate produced a series of jungle/animal themed cards in their Jungle Land and Dominion Swiss Style cake products sold for five and ten cents. Those cards also offered a prize for a complete set but did not specify what it was.
There are two recognized baseball cards in the set. One is Joe Spring, a Canadian player from the Toronto Oslers. Spring is featured on his card in the Oslers uniform. A second baseball card exists as well – that of Joe Breen. But for a while, his team/uniform remained a bit of a mystery. There’s a little more on that below.
A key hockey card in the set is that of Georges Vezina. Vezina played in the NHL and became a Hockey Hall of Famer. After his death from tuberculosis at the age of 39, the Vezina Trophy was created and is now an annual award given to the top goaltender in the NHL. Other hockey stars, including Aurel Joliat, Dunc Munro, and Newsy Lalonde, are here, too, among others.
To basketball, there are several little known teams included here. Perhaps the most popular card, though, features the famous women’s team, the Edmonton Grads. They won the first widely recognized world title in 1924 for women’s basketball and had an unofficial all-time record of approximately 508-20.
Finally, on the gridiron, while these cards are often called rugby cards, they are considered to be true football cards. That is because by 1909 when Canada received the Grey Cup (the trophy given annually to the Canadian Football League champion), their sport of rugby was being played by rules very similar to American football. A few key players are included in the set, including CFL Hall of Famers Lionel Conacher (who would become a hockey star) and Harry Batstone. Both were inducted into the first class of the Hall.
The Joe Breen ‘Mystery’
Breen was a Canadian athlete that excelled in a variety of sports. He is listed as an all-around athlete and baseball star. He also played for the Oslers, but unlike Spring who wore that uniform, is featured in another uniform on the front. Breen was also a star rugby/football player (eventually, he was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame) and his card is often erroneously listed as a rugby/football card. However, it is really a baseball card as he is pictured wearing a baseball uniform.
I had researched this for some time but had not been able to definitively determine the name on the jersey or if it was even a definite baseball jersey. It appeared to be from the sport of baseball and say Hillcrest, which is, in fact, a neighborhood in Toronto – but I never had full confirmation on either.