Monday, March 7, 2011

When Feller pedaled Roadmaster bikes

Among the goodies that collector Al Moore sent for possible use in future editions of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (see entry for March 1), is featured this time around.

Even though we had already cataloged this item some years back, I don't think it has ever been properly shared with the hobby.

The piece in question is a circa 1948 premium photo of late Hall of Famer Bob Feller issued as a promotion for Roadmaster bicycles. The 8x10" black-and-white picture was advertised as being available for 10 cents via a mail-in offer found in various magazines aimed at youngsters.

Feller did a lot of advertising for The Cleveland Welding Company in the 1940s and early 1950s. As seen by the list of features on the back of the premium photo, the Luxury Liner mus have been a top-of-the-line bicycle. It was produced from 1948-1953 by the Cleveland manufacturer.

This premium is one of at least nine different featuring six players. Three versions of the Feller premium are known. On the earliest photo, in the same format and with about the same pose and facsimile autograph, Feller is shown in the home uniform worn by the Indians from about 1940-1944. That premium is blank-backed. A later picture, showing Feller standing besides a bicycle, appears be part of a group issued in 1951. The other players featured in that issue are Willie Mays, Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Stanky, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Henrich and Allie Reynolds. All pictures except the 1948 Feller that is the principal subject here are blank-backed. 

Values for the photos probably range from about $125-175 in VG for most of the players, up to $300-400 in NM. Mays would probably bring at least twice that.

In poking around the internet for information, I found that in 1998, Cleveland Welding issued a 50th anniversary edition of the Roadmaster Luxury Liner. It appears that 5,000 bikes were produced, and may have carried a retail price of up to $3,000. Today they seem to be widely available for $800 or so.

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