Rare Rittenhouse Back Details Company’s Unique Promotion
Can you spell Rittenhouse?
The E285 Rittenhouse cards are some of the more unique candy issues. While they are candy cards, they have the appearance of both playing cards and strip cards.
The cards aren’t too hard to find but aren’t entirely plentiful, either. To date, PSA and SGC have combined to grade only about 250 total. So while you might be able to find a few without much trouble, assembling the entire 52-card set would be difficult.
Printed on low-quality paper and issued sometime around 1933, these odd-looking cards also included a playing card design, similar to the W560 strip cards. But the most intriguing part of the cards was found on the backs.
See, each back included a letter printed on it. The fronts were printed in one of three ink colors (blue, green, and red) but the letters on the backs were printed only in black. It should be noted that some are also found with numbers as part of a different promotion but the focal point here is on the cards with the letters.
What were the letters for? Well, unless you’ve seen a rare back type, you probably wouldn’t know. But a few Rittenhouse cards have been printed with a rather unique back that explains everything.
A Special Ad Back
This particular card was from the collection of noted type collector Leon Luckey and provides quite a bit of insight.
If collectors could gather all of the letters necessary to spell ‘Rittenhouse Candy Co.’, they could receive a special gift. The options, as stated on the card, included baseball gloves, a baseball, an air rifle, a pearl knife, or a pair of skates. Collectors were to send their cards to the Rittenhouse Candy Company in Philadelphia and check the gift they wanted.
One interesting thing here to me is that these ad backs are exceedingly rare. I’ve seen only a couple to date. My guess is that the company surely had to spell the promotion out elsewhere just so collectors knew about it. If it was purely limited to the ad-backed cards, it doesn’t seem as if word would spread quickly given the survival rates of them.
And while these cards are much more desirable than the ones with the letters these days, if they were distributed just like the others that had the individual letters, they likely annoyed collectors at the time, who would have rather had a letter to potentially get them closer to completion in the spelling of the Rittenhouse name.
Spelling it Out
So, how easy was it to spell Rittenhouse Candy Co.? The short answer is probably not too easy.
Old Cardboard gave it a shot, collecting letters from various collectors and still had trouble. They have most of the letters but are missing an ‘H’ and ‘O’. While I have seen the letter ‘O’ on the back of cards, I have not yet seen an ‘H.’
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, obviously. But it could mean that the letter was printed only in small quantities.
That, of course, is not a new trick. Many companies that offered similar type of redemption programs often didn’t print much of a particular card in order to limit the number of prizes they had to distribute.
Despite the fact that some letters may be harder to find than others, these days there isn’t much of a premium for any of them. That is because, mostly, they are difficult to track to find out which ones, if any, are rarer. As I mentioned, only about 250 or so have been graded by PSA/SGC to date and they do not differentiate which letters are rarer.