Rare Runkel’s Cocoa Baseball Trade Card Surfaces

I recently bought a baseball card and, well, I know nothing about it

As you know from the In the Mail articles I post here, I’m always on the lookout for unique stuff. Sure, I like a good T206 or 1933 Goudey card as much as anybody else does. But that stuff, for the most part, isn’t that rare. It’s the really unique stuff that drives me and those are the cards I can’t get enough of.

I recently stumbled upon a card that was not only rare but literally something I’d never seen or even heard of before.

That does happen, of course. But the amount of baseball trade cards that I’ve never seen seems to dwindle these days. There’s lots of stuff I’ve never seen for sale, for example, but I often at least have seen it somewhere or heard of it. And if not, I’m usually able to find some sort of information on it.

But in the case of this rare baseball card from Runkel’s Cocoa, I got virtually nothing.

Runkel’s Cocoa and Chocolate were legitimate products with the company located in New York. And if you search that name, you’ll find an assortment of trade cards. The company’s name and advertisements are littered on an assortment of tins and some trade cards. But this is the only baseball product from them that I’ve seen. The company appears to have been started by two brothers in the 1870s.

I found some addresses for the company, but unfortunately that doesn’t help with the dating of this card since no address is present. But the company apparently had at least three fires documented at their facilities in 1879, 1885, and 1901. I’ve seen reports of the company existing until at least the 1930s, so that also doesn’t help much with dating.

The card is an oversized one, to be sure. But it’s also slightly smaller than a typical ink blotter, measuring about 2 3/4″ tall by 5 3/4″ wide. It is, however, certainly no blotter. It doesn’t exhibit the soft type of back you find on those and also has a large, fantastic ad on the back. The front has a terrific baseball scene with a red background.

The entire back advertisement is printed in red ink, advertising Runkel’s five-cent milk chocolate bars. The front mentions their cocoa product as well and their trade cards or advertisements often mention both products.

The majority of advertising trade cards, of course, date back to the 1880s. However, while this card was advertised as being from the 1890s, I am not sure it is even that old and haven’t seen anything definitive to date it.

One thing that could indeed help with dating is the price of their candy if we can pinpoint when it was priced as such. And this page mentions the company had a more expensive six-cent Vienna chocolate bar in 1892. Still, trying to assume the card predates that is folly as well, simply because, even if that is correct, that appears to be a different product.

The card is also not your traditional 1880s trade card. Those are typically smaller and on thinner card stock. This one is printed on a thicker stock, almost as if it was a display card. It’s just a fantastic early baseball card and I’m not sure how many can possibly be in existence.

For now, it remains very much a mystery card but one I’m thrilled to have.

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