Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Johnny Pesky and the Case of the Homogenized Bread - I Need Your Help!

Do you love a good baseball card mystery?  If so, then grab a seat by the fireplace, fire up your corn cob pipe a la Sherlock Holmes, and read on, because I need your help!

Today I checked out a brand new hobby shop that I'd never been to, about half an hour from my house.  The owner turned out to be a great guy who, like me, loves vintage.  He's an older gentleman who's been collecting for decades, and has had his own shop for around 25 years now.  He had some amazing stuff, just boxes and boxes of really fantastic vintage cards.  He even had a lot of the oddball stuff that you don't see all that often (at least I don't!) like Berk Ross and Red Man tobacco cards from the '50s, etc.  Anyway, I ended up hanging out there chatting with the guy for almost two hours about cards and players from the golden era of baseball, all the while shuffling through his boxes and display cases.  He even took out extra shoeboxes jammed with vintage from his back room to let me shuffle through.  In the end, I purchased three single cards for my Red Sox collection.

This one, I was particularly excited about.  It's a 1947 Bond Bread Johnny Pesky.  Same height as a standard modern-day trading card, but slightly thinner.  I had never seen these before, so I assumed that they were maybe hand-cut from cardboard bread boxes.  According to the shop owner though, each bag of Bond Bread released at the time contained a single card inside.  Immediately I was drawn to this awesome piece of cardboard, which would become the oldest Pesky card in my collection.

I was especially interested because he had it priced at $20 and was willing to negotiate a little.  Now, normally I will not buy a card like this without some research.  I did a quick look-up on eBay from the shop and found only a handful available for sale.  They seemed to match in size, same photo, etc. and most were demanding much more than $20.  If I had been sitting at home on my couch considering purchasing this online, more research would have been conducted, but standing there in the hobby shop I decided to take a gamble and go for it.  I grabbed Pesky...

...and this awesome Bobby (or "Bobbie") Doerr.  I think this one might be even cooler than the Pesky.  Great shot of the Hall-of-Famer with a nice ballpark backdrop.  I was pretty psyched to land the pair, which actually represents 50% of a Red Sox team set, for $35.  I was happy to shell that out for a HOF great and a new Pesky card, both more than 65 years old!

The card backs were blank, but this didn't surprise me based on the nature of the set, and they definitely showed signs of aging as you can see.

This afternoon when I returned I began researching the cards, and here's where the mystery begins.  I discovered there were two "Bond Bread" sets released in 1947.  The actual, proper Bond Bread set contains just 13 cards, all depicting Jackie Robinson.  The Homogenized Bread set contains 44 baseball cards, (of 44 unique subjects) and 4 boxers.  So, now I know these are 1947 Homogenized Bread cards...or are they?

I noticed upon closer inspection of the cards listed online that many had rounded corners, and my cards are square.  This is where it gets really murky, and I'm hoping someone that reads this may have an answer (if one exists, that is).  Some people claim that the original cards all had rounded corners.  The rumor is that a stash of uncut sheets containing 24 of the original 48 cards was discovered in a warehouse in the 1980s and cut to make the square cards.  You can read more about that here.  To make matters worse, apparently the cards discovered in the '80s were reprinted and "graded" by some fake card companies in the early 2000s.  On top of that, when your only differentiating factor between authentic and fraud is "rounded corners", then any moron with a pair of scissors can go about making his card a true original.  This starts to get like the moon landing or the JFK assassination after a while, with some even suggesting that the 24 discovered in the '80s are additional cards that don't even have originals!  Just keep reading through the thread in that last hyperlink and you will see there are dozens of theories out there.

I can tell the cards I have are older than ten years or so just by the fade and damage to the backs so I'm confident they're not reprints from post-2000, but beyond that I just don't know.  If they're from the '80s though, then why are they referred to as 1947 Homogenized Bread, even by legitimate grading companies like PSA?

So, do you have any information on Bond/Homogenized Bread cards from 1947?  What should I do?  Do I have a couple of cards printed and distributed in 1947?  Or were they printed in 1947, left untouched for decades, and then discovered in the '80s?  Or worse, did some "entrepreneur" print these up in the '80s for a cash grab?  Should I go back to the hobby shop and demand an exchange, or do I just settle for the fact that I'll never possibly be able to know regardless of which copies of these cards I buy, and just enjoy them for what they are?  Are there answers out there to any of these questions???

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