A variation of some B18 blankets exists and is difficult to locate
Most experienced pre-war collectors are at least vaguely familiar with the B18 blankets. While called ‘blankets,’ they aren’t really that at all.
Instead, these are squares of cloth measuring approximately 5 1/4″ x 5 1/4″ in size. Distributed inside of packages of Egyptienne Straights cigarettes, the idea here was likely to do something a little more unique than a traditional card.
The blankets were uniformly even squares and could even be sewn together to create new products, such as tablecloths or sheets. We know this because they have, on occasion, been found stitched together like that. Printed in 1914, these came just after the boom of the main tobacco card era in the United States. While they are a tobacco insert, Jefferson Burdick chose to catalog these as ‘B-Cards’ for blankets.
Today, these blankets aren’t too hard to find. You can usually scoop up commons on eBay for $20 or so and they’re a good way to get affordable collectibles of stars. Even players like Ty Cobb can be found for a few hundred dollars. Joe Jackson is probably the most expensive and even he’s cheap for a Shoeless Joe collectible, checking in around $500-$600 as a starting point. Compared to many traditional cards, they’re pretty cheap.
However, a tough variation of these is the exception to that rule.
Red Infield Blankets and Checklist
While an assortment of colors was used for the infields, pennants, bases, and base paths on the blankets in this set, a very rare version has red infields. Currently (according to REA, anyway), 17 players have known blanket variations with the red infield. Those players, it should be noted, all come from either the Detroit Tigers or Boston Braves.
I’m still trying to nail down a fully confirmed checklist of the red infield cards. But here’s what I’ve come up with thus far. This site lists 14. Additionally, I’ve seen a red infield of Hub Perdue and Joe Connolly, taking us to 16. Finally, while I’ve not yet seen pictures of it, this checklist also lists Bill James, which gets us to REA’s 17 mentioned.
- Del Baker
- Paddy Bauman
- George Burns
- Marty Cavanaugh
- Ty Cobb
- Joe Connolly
- Harry Coveleski
- Ray Demmitt
- Hank Gowdy
- Tommy Griffith
- Bill James
- Les Mann
- Rabbit Maranville
- George Moriarty
- Hub Perdue
- Lefty Tyler
- Bart Whaling
It should be pointed out that I am not sure a fully confirmed checklist truly exists. For example, a King Cole has been mentioned as a possibility and others could be, too.
The red infield blankets are ridiculously expensive. That’s not driven because of this particular set, obviously. We know that because the others are relatively cheap by comparison. Rather, its driven solely by their rarity. At most, there are probably only a few known copies of each blanket and some may be limited to a single known copy. That is part of the reason fully confirming the checklist may be difficult — they are incredibly rare.
They usually sell for at least a few thousand dollars and stars obviously cost more. A Ty Cobb sold for nearly $9,000 and that was way back in 2010. Given how hot Cobb stuff is these days, I’d suspect it would sell for more than that today
Cause for Confusion
These tougher variants could easily go unnoticed by collectors. They are the same as the less-scarce B18s with only the color change in the middle. The reason they would be tough to identify by those unfamiliar with them is because B18s come in many different colors. To most, they would simply look like just another ‘regular’ color variation. Because of that, I have no doubt that some of these are buried away in collections with their owners completely unaware of what they have. Even many experienced pre-war collectors would be in the dark, I imagine.
Even for those looking for them, the red infields can also cause some confusion because of the location of the red. There are plenty of blankets with red base paths and those are not rare. Thus, a collector hoping to strike it rich can be duped if not paying attention. It’s the infield that has to be red.
Finally, another chance for confusion exists as well. Red infield blankets should be brightly colored and an obvious red. It must be noted that there are brown colored infields that can come off as a faded dark red. Obviously, those are not rare and can be another type that dupes buyers.