1934 Butterfinger Overprints a Rare ‘Variation’
While most 1934 Butterfinger photos are relatively common, a much rarer type exists
The 1934 Butterfinger set included photograph premiums of baseball players. Cataloged as R310, these pictures are distinctive, in part, because they are printed on very thin paper. If you’ve ever held one, they bend quite easily and feel like they are a page from a very old book. Because of that, it’s common to find them with creasing or even more significant wear, including tears.
They measure just smaller than an 8″ x 10″ photograph so they aren’t traditional cards at all, even though Jefferson Burdick listed them in the American Card Catalog.
But while these photos are usually pretty easy to get your hands on, a tougher type exists.
Now, calling these ‘variations’ as I did in the title is a bit misleading. That’s because these aren’t variations at all. Instead, they were advertising displays that promoted the actual photographs that were available.
These ads were printed on a thicker stock and are more durable. But the most distinctive feature is a bright red overprint stamp at the top of them. That stamp, as shown here, is pretty important. It not only distinguishes these from ‘regular’ R310 Butterfinger photos but also gives us some insight on how they were available.
The stamp mentions that the photos were free with the purchase of a five-cent Butterfinger candy bar. That was different from many other premium items, which often required a bunch of purchases, similar to the 19th Century tobacco albums that were made available. Without these, we may never have been able to trace their origins or even know that these were Butterfinger photographs.
Given that they were distributed with such a small purchase, the flimsy stock on which they were printed also makes much more sense. I expect if collectors were required to make numerous purchases to get one, they would have been printed on a higher quality paper. But, given away with a five-cent purchase, there was no way the company could have printed them on a much nicer stock and made much money.
So how many are there? Tough to say. To my knowledge, only Beckett currently grades them and most are raw, so population reports do us no good. However, there are not many and they are rarely seen. In addition, the overprint is not known to exist on all of the 65 photos.
In fact, to date, we know of only 17 that have the advertisement. Those are Dick Bartell, Walter Berger, Ralph Boyle, Tex Carleton, Ray Chapman, James Collins, Paul Derringer, George Earnshaw, Benny Frey, Frankie Frisch, Lou Gehrig, Ray Grabowski, Johnny Moore, Bob O’Farrell, Mel Ott, Al Spohrer, and Steve Swetonic. Now, given that some have only been confirmed in recent years, more may certainly exist featuring different players. Still, I have not seen more than 2-3 for each of these at the most (many, only one) and the overall population is surely pretty low.
While rare, you can find these overprinted displays today with some digging around. You should expect to pay much more for them than a typical Butterfinger photo, however. While regular Butterfinger photos often start around $10-$15, these are usually in the $75-$125 range for commons.
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