The Polar Bear backs are not only pretty to look at but are unique for a few reasons. One of those is because they exhibit a back that is almost entirely a dark blue ink. Other backs in the set merely have the cream colored back with some colored ink on them. Polar Bear-backed cards are almost entirely blue.
The cards were also the only ones packaged with a scrap tobacco product. Other cards were packed with cigarettes. As a result of being included with scrap tobacco, Polar Bear cards often have all sorts of staining and, in some cases, even small pieces of 100-year old tobacco still affixed to them.
In terms of uniqueness, they are probably at the top of the list in the set.
The Polar Bear cards, however, have one other distinguishable characteristic – they are known for all sorts of print flaws. Here are several of them.
Because the backs used so much blue ink, printers likely had a hard time keeping up on the refills. It’s clear that some boundaries were stretched as printers tried to go as far as they could without adding more ink.
As a result, you have some Polar Bear cards that are solid and entirely dark blue while others are more faded by comparison and with more white specks seen. There’s not really a premium either way but the amount of ink used varies from card to card.
This relatively new discovery features cards that appear to have a typo. Backs of the cards state that they are part of the ‘Base Ball Series’. But while the word ‘Series’ shows clearly on most cards, a few are known that read ‘Ser s’, missing the ‘ie’ from the middle of the word.
This is likely not the result of an actual typo on the back and probably more the result of the ‘ie’ being covered with too much ink or something on the plate.
These cards are not entirely rare but they are not real common, either. You do see them on occasion but the ‘error’ is not widespread, either. I have approximately 75 Polar Bear cards, for example, and have none with the mistake.
Prices on these are certainly higher than standard Polar Bear cards. The error is not overly common and collectors will pay premiums for them. How much they are worth, however, varies greatly as they aren’t widely known to all collectors. Right now, these cards are largely still in the stages where collectors are sometimes able to find them with no premium assigned due to a lack of knowledge.
Other Ink Blotches
Similar, but less dramatic ink blotches are found on the card backs as well. Again, these would have been due to some kind of issue with the plate, I imagine.
This Net54 thread breaks down various ones, showing several examples as an indication that the error was not a one-time deal. As a result, you see some letters appearing to miss parts of them, random ink spots, and the like. Some are large enough to obscure letters but the ‘IE’ cards are the only ones I have seen where letters are completely missing.
These, like the IE, are kind of rare but probably to a lesser degree because there are so many of them.
The Polar Bear card ink errors continue with another example. These cards have problems with the ink in the borders on the backs.
On normal Polar Bear cards, the backs have a thin squiggly decorative border line around the edge of the blue-ink advertisement. However, these cards have ink missing in part or even all of that line, resulting in a funky look.
The card here, for example, shows this border line normally down the sides and at the bottom of the card. However, the top is missing almost all of it, making for a strange picture. This is just one of many examples of how the border is affected. Some cards have ink missing in other parts of the border line and, as stated, some have the border line almost entirely or entirely not showing.
in terms of value, these are similar to the IE cards. Basically, the price will fluctuate greatly depending on who wants to buy the card. Factors will not only include the usual ones, such as the specific player and the condition, but also how much value a particular seller and buyer will place on the deviation.