Are Some BF3 Issues Really BF4 Pennants In Disguise?

Introduction

The BF3 Felt Pennants are well known by many vintage collectors. A set of hundreds of pennants and 12 different types (as characterized later by collectors), these felt pennants are a massive issue from the mid to late 1930s featuring baseball players, teams, and colleges. Many examples of these pennants can be found quite easily.

The BF4 issue, however, is much more of an unknown. The American Card Catalog classifies it as the ‘Baseball Players Names’ set and says it is about 6″ from around 1935. That is the relevant part, although Jefferson Burdick’s book also goes on to state that it was distributed with either gum or candy.

If you try to track down the elusive BF4 issue, you will generally come up empty. No past auction results, nothing on eBay, etc. BF4 issues are not catalogued in prominent hobby publications, either. Recently, I was doing some research on other pennant sets when trying to make sense of the BF4 anomaly. Some issues were easily dismissed due to time period, size, etc.

One BF3 type stood out dramatically – Type 7.

Making the Case of BF3 Type 7 Pennants as BF4s

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BF3 Type 7 issues are pennants also featuring the names of baseball players. So what is my logic for thinking the BF3 Type 7 pennants are really BF4s in disguise? Here are a few reasons.

First and foremost, it’s a felt pennant issue that features a baseball player’s name, which is what Burdick claimed BF4s did. While a lot of pennants have been produced over the years with teams, there aren’t a ton of pre-war issues with only names. That in and of itself won’t move the needle too much, but the time period on the BF3 Type 7s matches that of Burdick’s BF4 set. Burdick says these pennants were produced circa 1935 and what we know as the BF3 Type 7s are from that same general time (1936 or 1937). Those two links give us a great start.

Now, there are several BF3 Pennant Types that feature baseball player names. In addition to Type 7, Types 1, 2, 3, 9, and 10 all have names of individual players. So what makes Type 7 the right one?

The immediate thing that stands out is that the BF3 Type 7 Pennants include a player’s name inside of a sort of cartoonish way and have a much different look than the others in that series. Other BF3 types look much more clean cut, so to speak. If you ran a search on all 12 types of the pennants, the one that sticks out like a sore thumb purely from a design standpoint is Type 7. And beyond the design, it is also larger than other BF3 types.

bf3-7johnsonAlso, and perhaps more importantly, Type 7 is the only one that reasonably meets Burdick’s size requirements. Burdick says the BF4 issue is approximately six inches. BF3 Type 7 seems to fit that description, measuring at nearly 5 1/2″. The others, Types 1, 2, 3, 9, and 10, come in at around 4″ to 4 1/2″. Add it all up and BF3 Type 7 sure seems like the right one.

Changing the designation of BF3 Type 7 Pennants to Type 4 would not change the American Card Catalog at all or mean that Burdick made any sort of mistake. Burdick did not identify a set number of BF3s in a set nor did he specifically state that those pennants with that design were a BF3 issue.  The ‘Types’ as mentioned here were all separated later by other collectors.

In fact, Burdick’s description does not even state that the BF3 series included individual baseball name pennants, calling them only, ‘Baseball, College, Cities.’ That doesn’t mean that all of the other types featuring individual baseball player names don’t belong there. The only thing this theory says is that this specific pennant is not one that Burdick says is definitively one of the many BF3 issues.

Conclusion

Are the BF3 Type 7 Pennants really BF4 Pennants? That’s for you to decide but it seems like a pretty clear cut case in my book. In digging around, I also found this discussion from a few years ago on Net54 and I’m apparently not the only person that has this opinion.

I would argue that there is sufficient evidence for changing the classification as we know it based on this evidence. And if the BF3 Type 7 pennants are not the BF4 issue, then where are the BF4s? Sure, we are still trying to sort out some issues in the American Card Catalog and identify them. But Burdick also didn’t classify BF4 as some sort of scarce issue as he did others – certainly not definitive evidence for the issues as BF4s, but just another interesting factor.

Chances are that we will never know the true answer. But the felt pennants we’ve identified as an industry as BF3 Type 7s seem an awful lot like the ones Burdick referenced in his BF4 designation.

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