Rare 1935 Illustrated Current News Supplement Boasts ‘Rookies’ of Jesse Owens, Joe Louis

A unique supplement features the two legends before they became all-time greats and predates their 1936 ‘sophomore’ issues

Cards for early superstar athletes Joe Louis and Jesse Owens have risen sharply in the last two years. The pair has known rookie cards in 1935 but a rookie collectible for them has sort of gone under the radar.

The Illustrated Current News was based in New Haven, Connecticut and was published three times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the issues that I found). Their publications included supplements of all sorts of non-sports and sports subjects. These supplements varied in size over the years but the earlier ones are roughly 12″ x 18″.

These glossy supplements were folded and delivered with the publication. Over the years, surprisingly, a decent number of them still exist. However, that should not give the idea that they are common. That’s an easy trap to fall into. They are a bit like the Old Judge baseball cards. So many were issued that merely finding one is not terribly difficult. However, trying to find a specific one can be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. eBay usually has a few hundred available but given that several thousand different ones were printed, you can see that that is a relative drop in the bucket.

Despite their age, many of these have sold very inexpensively over the years. They were issued for many decades, covering both the pre-war and post-war times. ‘Commons’ with lesser subjects, for example, might sell for around $10-$15. However, the series included a number of major stars, including the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and more. Ruth supplements can command significantly more, starting around $100-$150.

Typically, issues like these don’t interest me too much. Figures such as Ruth and Gehrig, for example, were so popular that they appeared in many photographs, magazines, newspapers, etc. And since those issues are oversized, storing/viewing them can be a pain if you aren’t going to frame them. I generally stick to smaller card-sized issues.

But I stumbled upon one of these, which sort of changed my mind a bit. A month or so ago, I found one of these while looking for Jesse Owens 1935 collectibles. His 1935 Muratti tobacco card is the only card I know from that year but I wondered what other ‘stuff’ he might be found on.

The easy is answer is, not much. Aside from photographs and newspapers, I didn’t find much of anything. That isn’t too surprising since he really didn’t become the global star he was until after the 1936 Olympics. So as I dug around, I saw the usual hodgepodge of stuff and didn’t see anything beyond that. At least not until I found a 1935 Illustrated Current News supplement featuring champion athletes.

The supplement includes a total of ten athletes. There’s baseball star Mickey Cochrane and football star Jay Berwanger. Helen Wills Moody, the Hall of Fame tennis player is there. There are golfers Lawson Little and Sam Parks. Heavyweight champion James Braddock is there along with wrestler Danno O’Mahony and Indy 500 winner Kelly Petillo. But without question, the two most interesting subjects are Owens and Louis.

Owens is cited as starring at Ohio State and Louis is there as a ‘heavyweight sensation.’ The piece is dated to Christmas Day of 1935, making it a very clear rookie collectible for the two. As stated, Owens’ primary rookie card is his rare 1935 Muratti. That card sells for thousands of dollars, even in modest condition (A PSA 2.5, for example, sold for more than $3,600 in November). Louis is on a few 1935 cards, found in the United Tobacco and J.A. Pattreiouex/Senior Service Sporting Events and Stars sets. A few other cards of Louis could also be rookies but dates are a bit murkier on those. His rookies aren’t cheap, but starting at a few hundred dollars, they pale in comparison to Owens’ admittedly much tougher first card. When you consider those prices, you can see why this supplement of the two from the same year should garner some interest.

Collectors looking for these, or other Illustrated Current News supplements with bigger names, should be somewhat cautious. Some of the popular ones have been reprinted. In hand, determining a reprint between the authentic ones may be somewhat easy. However, buying them online adds difficulties. Ones without the machine creases that were created to mail these with the publications should probably be viewed as reprints. Additionally, the reprints, as is the case with other reprinted issues, can appear darker with heavier shadowing.

Also note that Owens and Louis are found on other supplements. Specifically, Owens is found on the multi-subject 1936 Sports Champions supplement as well. That one, of course, would not be considered a rookie edition.

How rare is the Owens/Louis supplement? Like most of the others in the series, that’s very tough to say. I’ve found only a handful of examples documented online but more than that surely exist. And that makes establishing a true value for them just as hard. But considering the few number of rookie card examples of Owens, in particular, and given that his card values have taken off, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on when they surface.

Follow Pre-War Cards on Twitter and also be sure to like our page on Facebook.