E120-like Cards in 1922 Olsen’s Baseball Game Ad a Mystery
In the pre-war era, baseball playing card games were all the rage. There are several of them dating back to the late 1800s and they featured a simulated style of play. In 1922, the Olsen Games Company was one of those created a baseball card game.
Background on the 1922 Olsen’s Baseball Game
The 1922 Olsen’s Baseball Game is rare and a little more difficult to
find. It was created by the aforementioned Olsen Games Company based out of Chicago, Illinois. The game did not include game pieces – only a deck of sixty cards. Half of the cards were blue for the team batting and the other half were red for the team on defense.
The set was packaged neatly in a two-column, thick cardboard box. While the set didn’t include pictures of actual players like some did, cards do feature pictures of generic baseball scenes, which makes them a little more attractive than others. Some sets, for example, such as the 1904 Fan Craze set used many cards that simply had action words on them. The Fan Craze set (not to be confused with the later, more popular 1906 WG-2 and WG-3 editions, which did use real players) did have some cards with a baseball player on them. But many in the set had no images.
An Interesting Ad
While the actual game cards are of interest to collectors, the set included a unique insert. The sheet, printed on thin paper, was a catch-all of sorts. It included the playing board, a sheet of instructions, and an advertisement for some baseball cards. The sheet was a folded 10″ x 14″ page printed using only red, blue, and blank ink.
While combining everything on one front-back oversized page was an efficient way to do things, it also has led to a difficulty in finding these in prime condition. Because the playing board was printed on one side, these are often damaged from use. That fact is emphasized even more since the sheet was printed on a thin sheet of paper. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to find these with tears or rips.
The instructions and game board are needed for playing the actual game but these days, the advertisement for the baseball cards is what most collectors are interested in. The advertisement isn’t only a great part of history, but it’s even more desirable since it contains pictures of the cards of Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb – arguably the two biggest stars in the game at that time.
The choice of players used in the advertisement isn’t too surprising because of that. But seeing the Cobb card displayed is interesting since his name was hilariously misspelled ‘Cob’. The card was not corrected for the ad and, featuring a player that had his name spelled correctly might have been the better way to go.
Regarding the cards advertised, team sets were sold for ten cents each while complete sets of 120 cards were sold for $.50. Collectors could purchase these by mailing requests in to the Olsen Games Company at their 60 W. Washington Street, Chicago, IL address.
Exactly what the baseball cards are, though, remains a mystery today.
So What are These Cards?
For starters, the cards advertised have the appearance of the E120 American Caramel cards utilizing the exact same design. Because of that, some collectors believe that they were E120 American Caramel cards. However, a significant conflict exists in that only 120 cards are offered in the advertisement as the ‘set.’ The E120 issue has 240 cards, so these certainly weren’t complete E120 sets.
Another theory is that the cards are actually the blank-backed version of the E120 American Caramel cards – namely, the W573 strip card set. That theory stems from the fact that these strip cards were issued in other places and not packaged with caramel/candy. While these could be W573 cards, that set also has 240 cards since it mirrors the E120 issue. So, similar to the E120 set, what was being offered here was not a full set of the W573 cards.
Another important part is that the advertisement states that all teams were available for the team sets. So this also is not a case of the company offering only some teams but giving all of the cards for a specific team that are found in the E120 or W573 sets. These had to be shortened team sets from those issues (if they are from one of those releases).
The V61 Neilson’s Chocolate set is a third possibility since that used the same design. And unlike those first two sets, this one actually included only 120 cards so it was the same number as advertised so it seems like a viable candidate. But that one isn’t a fit because Tris Speaker is advertised as a card in the offered set and he does not have a V61 card. Beyond that, the V61 issue was a Canadian set and this was an American manufacturer, so that necessarily jive, either.
Right now, no one knows for sure what these cards are and that’s possibly never going to be known. Short of finding these cards with Olsen’s advertising on the back or something along those lines, we may never even know what cards make up the checklist. Most likely, the company simply used a shortened W573 set since the cards were blank-backed and generic, not tying to a specific product such as American Caramel’s candy.