Two International Releases are Cited as Shirley Temple’s Earliest Cards
The documented ‘rookie cards’ of Shirley Temple date to 1934 and were printed outside of the U.S.
Collectors are paying more and more attention to the first cards of non-sports subjects. While that’s a great thing because many of those issues had often been ignored and deserve some recognition, it isn’t necessarily always easy to determine a subject’s first card.
Case in point. As I tweeted recently, the 1947 Turf Cigarettes card of the legendary Frank Sinatra is often touted as the crooner’s first card. That, however, is incorrect as Sinatra was featured a couple of years earlier in the 1945 Leister’s Autograph set and, according to PSA’s population report, on an anonymous biscuit card in the 1930s. That doesn’t even include a fan club card dating to as early as 1944 that bears his image.
As confusing as rookie cards are for athletes, they’re even harder to determine in the case of non-sports subjects, simply because so many non-sports sets are not well cataloged.
That’s particularly the case with international cards. The ‘rookie’ cards of child star Shirley Temple, which are starting to catch on a bit more, were issued overseas.
I have to preface this with a disclaimer of sorts because, as stated, it is notoriously difficult to determine the true rookie card for many subjects — especially actors and actresses, which appeared in a slew of obscure sets. In fact, on a worldwide level, actors and actresses were likely the most heavily printed cards.
Those issues were so common that it caused Lady Margaret Macrae, one of the earliest notable collectors of cigarette cards, to famously opine in a 1930s issue of the Cigarette Card News (at the time, the most popular card collecting newsletter of sorts in the UK) that there were so many cards of film stars that their ‘countless repetition’ was boring. Simply put, there were a lot of those cards and they were made all over the globe.
Thus, even American stars such as Shirley Temple could be found as far away as Cuba, the UK, Australia, and probably even Africa. And when it comes to her first cards, the two most recognized ‘rookie’ issues of Temple date to 1934 when the actress would have turned six years old.
Neither card is what I would necessarily call rare. However, because they were printed internationally, they are not commonly found here in the U.S.
The first is from Godfrey Phillips’ 1934 set issued in the UK and titled simply as Film Stars. This standard cigarette-sized card features a young colored photo of Temple on the front. Her name is not on the front of these cards with somewhat thick white borders.
Ages of the stars were sometimes incorrect on these cards and that was the case here. Temple is cited on the back of the card as being only four years old but that does not match up with her biography. Her bio on the back lists her famous movie, “Stand Up and Cheer,” as one of her credits. But that movie did not debut until just a few days prior to her sixth birthday.
Of note is that the cards are credited as Godfrey Phillips cards but they were not exclusive to that brand. The backs of the cards state they were a product of Godfrey Phillips but also said, “and associated companies.” How many cigarette brands included these cards is not entirely clear.
Temple’s other 1934 card is from popular German cigarette brand Garbaty. Garbaty was a popular German manufacturer of cigarettes and issued hundreds of cards of movie stars in the 1930s. As I’ve written before, their sets also extended to include some athletes, though what they are really known for in the card collecting world is their cards of actors and actresses.
Temple was featured in their “Moderne Schönheitsgalerie,” (translated roughly to Modern Beauty Gallery) series, which ultimately included several sets.
It is important to note that Temple has several Garbaty cards in the 1930s. However, the one shown here is card No. 237 (in a set of 300) is credited as being issued in 1934, the earliest of her appearances in the sets.
Finally, there have been some missteps in tracking down Temple’s first cards. For example, PSA states that she has three cards from 1930 in her checklist registry. However, that should really be ‘1930s.’ In 1930, Temple would have only turned two and was not even yet acting. Additionally, PSA has graded a Haus Bergmann Film Photos card of the star as a 1932 card but that set is not believed to have been introduced until 1935.
But what of the pricing on those aforementioned 1934 cards? In raw condition, these cards are quite affordable. However, prices can vary quite a bit given that some sellers are more knowledgeable about their origins or importance than others. Raw cards can sell for as little as $20 to $50 or more. In the case of the Godfrey Phillips card, buying an entire set can cost roughly the same amount.
Graded cards are a different story, of course — particularly high-grade ones, which command hundreds or even over $1,000.