Wednesday, May 4, 2011

'53 Braves window posters checklist expanded

When the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee for the start of the 1953 season, it is safe to say that everybody connected with the team was overwhelmed by the welcome they received.

Besides spinning stadium turnstiles, the Braves were met with an outpouring of free goods and services, many connected to paying endorsement deals. I'll cover that more fully in a future entry, but one deal deserves special mention because it resulted in the issue of a very rare series of Braves player memorabilia, and because the known scope of that issue has just been greatly expanded.

For the past eight or 10 years, the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards has carried listings for 1953 Top Taste Bread posters and Pictsweet frozen produce posters.

These posters were intended to be placed in grocery store windows to attract sales with their pictures of Milwaukee Braves players holding a loaf of bread or a package of veggies. Identical in format, at about 8-1/2" x 11-1/4," the posters are in black-and-white and feature uniformed players against a plain gray backdrop. At bottom is a white panel with an identification such as, "STAR PLAYER OF THE MILWAUKEE BRAVES," along with the player name. At least one poster, shown here, has just the player's name.

The most recent edition (2011) of the Standard Catalog checklisted five players pictured with the Top Taste bread, and six with the Pictsweet products.

Now, via a message from catalog contributor John Rumierz of Michigan, we know there were at least 19 Braves featured in the promotion.

Here is the list he provided, along with the featured product:
  • Joe Adcock, TopTaste bread
  • Johnny Antonelli, Pictsweet orange juice
  • Vern Bickford, Top Taste bread
  • "Bullet Bill" Bruton, Pictsweet peas
  • Lew Bursette, Top Taste bread
  • Walker Cooper, Pictsweet cauliflower
  • Del Crandall, Top Taste bread
  • George Crowe, Top Taste bread
  • Sid Gordon, Pictsweet strawberries
  • Charlie Grimm, Pitsweet strawberries
  • Harry Hanebrink, Top Taste bread
  • Johnny Logan, Pictsweet carrots
  • Eddie Mathews, Pictsweet orange juice
  • Andy Pafko, Top Taste bread
  • Jim Pendleton, Pictsweet corn
  • Sibby Sisti, Pictsweet (product unrecorded)
  • Warren Spahn, Top Taste bread
  • Max Surkont, Pictsweet green beans
  • Bucky Walters, Toop Taste bread
Rumierz says of the Walker Cooper window poster, "This has to be the only cauliflower card in the hobby!"

In a contemporary article in The Sporting News, it was reported that National Tea Company, which owned Top Taste and Pictsweet, had signed each player (and evidently the manager and coaches) on the roster to a $50 endorsement deal that also included all the free bread and frozen produce they could use.

Because these posters were intended to be taped into store windows and/or tacked to point of purchase displays in the aisles, surviving examples are generally in wretched condition, often suffering from heavy brown toning from sun exposure.

The latest "book value" on the posters is pegged at $150 in Near Mint for average players. Spahn and Mathews were heretofore uncataloged, so your guess is as good as mine on value. In fact, it has been so long since I saw a public sale of a Pictsweet or Top Taste poster that I have no idea what a real-world value would be in today's market.

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