A Look Inside the Scarce Fred Lindstrom 1930s U.S. Caramel Card

The Fred Lindstrom U.S. Caramel card is one of the true pre-war rarities

The Fred Lindstrom 1930s U.S. Caramel card isn’t one that is known to many collectors. And even the most that are aware of it have never seen one in person.

Fred who?

Fred Lindstrom, if you’re not familiar with the name, is actually a Baseball Hall of Famer that played in the 1920s and 1930s. Other than a couple of really exceptional seasons when he hit .379 in 1930 and led the league with 231 hits in 1928 (batting .358 that year), his numbers don’t really scream Cooperstown. There’s the .311 lifetime average, sure, and Lindstrom was an above average defensive player. But statistically, he falls short of many Hall of Fame inductees — certainly the bigger names.

Fred Lindstrom 1932 US CaramelHowever, when the U.S. Caramel set was released in the early 1930s (accounts differ on its exact date with some citing 1932 and others citing 1933 or even as late as 1934), Lindstrom was a well known player. So, it of course made sense to include him. But Lindstrom wasn’t just a card in a set that also featured Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and others — his No. 16 card was the key.

Like many companies issuing cards did, the Boston-based U.S. Caramel company created a special offer for collectors assembling an entire set. Any collector building the set could redeem it for baseball valued at exactly $1. Anyone lucky enough to complete three sets could receive a glove valued at $3.

Now, getting your cards back was no problem. Unlike some offers, the U.S. Caramel promotion on the back of the cards stated that they would be returned. There’s evidence, too, that cards that were redeemed were hole-punched as one of the known Lindstrom cards is. No, the problem was that finding the Lindstrom card was probably next to impossible.

Most of the companies running these promotions were smart enough to drastically shortprint at least one of the cards. That would make completing a set difficult while still allowing collectors to accumulate almost all of the cards. The U.S. Caramel company certainly did that here and the card that is nearly impossible to find is Lindstrom’s.

The company, of course, did not come right out and say that few of his cards existed. But I expect anyone looking for it knew it was very tough to find. And we have evidence of its difficulty through population reports. PSA, for example, has graded several dozen cards of all others in the set. Meanwhile, they’ve only graded one Lindstrom. And a PSA article on the set says that fewer than five total are believed to exist. I even saw an old auction report that said only two were known.

Given that, it is easy to see why the card was not even widely known until only fairly recently. This article notes that until the 1990s, in fact, many checklists did not reference Lindstrom by name, only citing that card No. 16 was unknown.

So what’s the card worth? Cards in such small quantities are always extremely difficult to price. But the lone PSA example (a PSA 3) was auctioned way back in 2001, fetching just under $80,000. Safe to say that, given the increased value of cards since then, surpassing that amount today seems quite possible.

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