The Mythical Type 4 1932 Sanella / Astra Margarine Cards

The 1932 Astra and Sanella cards can be found with three different variations … but almost certainly not four

sanella-netballsanella-japanese-baseball-catcherThe 1932 Astra and Sanella Margarine set was a multi-sport release. Featuring more than 100 sports cards, it is most famous for producing a Babe Ruth card. The two sets are parallel to each other but, as I have written before, the Astra cards are far more difficult to find.

The cards are paper thin and were produced in Germany in 1932. They were distributed by Astra and Sanella, which were both producers of margarine. Because of that, they are generally classified as food cards.

Most of the athletes in the set will not be familiar to most and that often is one reason that the non-Ruth cards are not pursued much. But there are some recognizable names here, including Ruth, tennis great Helen Wills-Moody, ice skater Sonja Heine, and boxers Max Schmeling and Jack Sharkey, among some others. Also included is a Japanese baseball catcher that I believe is star Jiro Kuji.

in short, cool, cheap set that’s a lot of fun to sort through.

Three known types

Of little consequence to most collectors is that there are actually three different types of the cards in both sets. I haven’t seen any of them really earn much of a premium even though Type 1 seems to be the harder type to find. But there are definitely three different types of the cards.

Let’s take a look at them.

Three Sanella Back TypesPictured here are the three types of Sanella cards. All three are similar but a little different.

Type 1 is the easiest to identify. That one places the Sanella logo squarely in the middle of the card. Type 2 and Type 3 are a bit different as those have the logo at the bottom. They can be distinguished by the text near the top. Now, that text is in German but that isn’t a problem. Type 2 does not mention a page number while Type 3 does. Many collectors mistake the number at the top for a card number but that is not accurate. Instead, that is the page of the collectible album that the card was to be placed.

These types are found in both Astra and Sanella cards. What I cannot definitively say, however, is if all three types are found with all 112 cards in each set. The three backs shown here are from Babe Ruth cards so we know all of his are found with each type. But while an answer isn’t definitive for the other cards, my suspicion is that they each have the three types as well. However, until anyone goes through the trouble of locating all of the types with all 112 cards, we’ll never know for sure.

Type 4?

One additional note is that a fourth type is often reported. The fourth type, supposedly, has the logo centered but no page number, as is seen in Type 1. The cards would, in theory, look like Type 1 but have the first paragraph at the top look more like what Type 2 does.

While I have seen the reporting of such a type, I have never seen such an example in existence. And I do not believe it actually exists. Still, I wanted to put it to the test. And there was no better (okay, easier) way than to check my own collection.

You see, I’m a big fan of the Sanella cards. I have a complete set, nearly a second complete set, and dozens of more duplicates. I’ve probably got about 300 of these cards. On top of that, I have several dozen of the rarer Astra cards. In short, it was a pretty good sample size I was working with.

What I found in my Sanella collection was a lot of Type 2 and Type 3, a good number of Type 1, and absolutely zero Type 4. I also scanned the several dozen Ruth Sanellas on eBay recently and have not seen one there, either. After I scanned those, I went to my Astras. I found a surprisingly higher number of Type 1 cards but, again, no Type 4. It remains clearer than ever to me that there is no Type 4 card with these sets.

So what’s the problem here? If Type 4 does not exist, how did that rumor get started? I don’t think it’s so much a rumor as it was confusion.

Simply put, there’s a lot of confusion about these sets. Other than the Ruth card, they are not typically on the radar of a lot of collectors. There are nuts like me out there but few others interested in the ins and outs of these cards. There are all kinds of misconceptions out there. There’s the whole card/page number debacle. The year they were released, which was first reported as 1933, but is almost certainly 1932. There is the likely misidentification of the Japanese catcher as Nobuo Kura. All sorts of throwing of darts and such.

That has even extended to the grading companies.

PSA, for example, has graded some of these cards inaccurately. Here’s one, for example, that they graded as a Type 4. Upon further inspection, though, it was merely a Type 1 card that was simply misidentified. And further inspection PSA graded Type 1 cards shows the same type as the one linked here that was listed as Type 4. Both have the Sanella logo centered and both have the page number.

That isn’t a one time thing. Here, for example, was an auction purporting to have all four variations. These were cards graded by PSA but, again, Type 1 and Type 4 are the exact same card as each include the page number 83.

None of that is said to trash PSA or any grading company, really. For the millions of cards they’ve graded, they’ve generally done a pretty decent job. But it does prove that mistakes are made and, in the case of the Sanella cards, have probably contributed at least a little bit to the confusion out there.

My strong suspicion is that no Type 4 Astra / Sanella cards exist.

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