Baseball, Beer, and Golf make for One Tough Pre-War Find
The rare set of 1939 Piel’s Beer coasters includes a Giants Hall of Famer
One of the more unique types of sports collectibles out there are beer coasters. Some, like the 1932-33 O’Keefe’s Maple Leafs Coasters, are fairly well known. Others are more obscure.
The 1939 Piel’s Beer Coasters are one of those sets.
Are coasters cards? Probably depends on who you ask. But, really, they are a form of advertising card so you could call them a sort of trade card. The original intent wasn’t so much to be collected as it was used as, well, a coaster. For that reason, I could totally accept the non-card identification. But if someone wants to deem them a card, right on.
What you can say a bit more authoritatively is that they just barely qualify as a set. To my knowledge, the full set includes a total of only three coasters with two of them are related to sports. Piel’s distributed many other types of coasters but these are the only ones I’ve seen from the pre-war era that feature real athletes and that have this design. I’m not even positive of the dating of this set. They are often referenced as a 1939 issue, though I’ve also seen them called a more vague 1930s or even 1940s set.
The most notable one in the set is New York Giants Hall of Famer Bill Terry. Terry was a three-time All-Star that won a batting title. In 1930, he famously hit .401, securing 254 hits. The next year, he led the league in runs and triples. A career .341 hitter, Terry would go on to become a player/manager for the Giants before serving only as the manager after his retirement. He led the team to the 1933 World Series and won National League Pennants in 1936 and 1937.
The other athlete in the set is Hall of Fame golfer Tommy Armour and the non-athlete is actress and singer Ethel Merman.
Each coaster has a picture of the subject, their name, and then a phrase about the beer that tied to their profession. It’s clear they were endorsements and a form of advertising. Terry’s coaster says, ‘It sure makes a hit with me,’ an obvious baseball reference. Armour’s says that the beer ‘Suits me to a tee.’ The coaster for Merman, the singer, says the beer is, ‘Something to sing about.’
The coasters are really great collectibles and I’ve been interested in obtaining the coasters of Terry and, to a lesser degree, Armour, for a while. The problem is they rarely come up for sale. I once thought I found a Terry through a website, emailed to purchase, and was told that it had already been sold and was mistakenly still listed. I haven’t been running massive searches for them since then but every time I’ve looked for Terry, I’ve come up empty.
eBay, for example, is almost always a swing and a miss. You will find all sorts of later vintage Piel’s Beer coasters there but on the rare occasion I’ve seen any of these for Terry or Armour, they’ve been for past sales. The Merman is also not an easy one to find, either.
That rarity has not really affected the pricing and it’s a great example of rarity not always being a driver for price, which I covered before. I have seen them sell on occasion after the fact and the price is generally not more than $10-$15. You do sometimes see them for sale at elevated prices. I once saw someone asking more than $50 for Armour. But actual sales for them are not real high.
Unfortunately, if you find yourself looking for these coasters, you might be waiting a long time.