Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Legitimacy confirmed of W514 H.A. Robinson "Our Hero," "Robinson Cruso" peanuts ad back

More than six years ago (Aug. 11, 2009) this blog carried news of the discovery of a previously uncataloged version of the 1920-21 strip card set known by its American Card Catalog number of W514.

Back in 2009, this type of ad-back W514 was known within the hobby in only one, or possibly two, surviving examples. The card pictured on the blog was owned by veteran W514 collector Bob Zych of New York. It pictured on front Chicago Black Sox pitcher Ed Cicotte. This card bears on its back the advertising of a Lynchburg, Va., peanut company, H.A. Robinson.

I wrote at the time, "Perhaps it is because this (heretofore) unknown back is found on a Black Sox card, but there are those in the vintage card community who are not convinced this is a legitimate, circa early-1920s, overprint.

I indicated that I was "on the fence, but leaning towards legitimate," for the following reasons . . .
  • The lack of specimens in the marketplace argues against someone having contrived this variation to cheat collectors. Granted, the Cicotte example had only recently been made public, and if it was a fake, the maker could be waiting for hobby buzz to develop before cashing in by leaking other creations into the market. That didn't happen, in the intervening six years, not a single other example of a peanut ad-back W514 ever surfaced (to my knowledge).
  • The subject matter of the ad-back is rather mundane. A con man might be inclined, if he was going to fake an ad-back, to go with a better-known brand name, a more glamorous type of product, or a more exotic location for the issuer.
  • The details of the advertising are, with a little work, verifiable. There was an H.A. Robinson peanut company located in Lynchburg in the past. Two brands of five-cent peanut packages are mentioned on the card, "Our Hero" and "Robinson Cruso" (it was not unusual to spell the surname without an "e" in times past). A good guess would be that one baseball card was packaged with each peanut purchase, and the Cicotte card certainly shows evidence of having come into contact with some sort of greasy substance.
"If the Robinson Cruso brand rings a bell," I continued, "it might be because the brand still exists today as Robinson Crusoe (now with an "e") Salted Home-style Virginia Peanuts, and was on the list of peanut products recalled in the salmonella scare earlier this year. The brand is now the property of Peanut Corporation of America, which is in bankruptcy and the subject of numerous pending criminal and civil investigations as a result of it being "ground zero" for the salmonella outbreak."

Then I went on to detail my own reservations, "Besides the aforementioned appearance on a "star" card that is so low-grade as to not risk losing much value if it was proven to be phony, the nagging doubt I can't quite shake is that there is a decided lack of corroborative, verifiably vintage, advertising for the two named peanut brands. A company that went to the trouble to create baseball cards to promote its product was certainly savvy enough to have used other types of promotions and premiums, yet these are not to be found by the casual researcher."

Recently, however, I was made aware of this image of an apparently vintage Crusoe-brand peanuts can by hobby buddy Mike Rothstein. He also noted that reproductions of glass counter-top jars from "Robinson Crusoe Salted Peanuts" are regularly found on eBay. 

Additionally, in June, 2013, an eBay seller offered an original, unused five-cent box for "Our Hero" roasted peanuts. A side panel of the box indicates, "A Prize in Each Five Cent Package." It's certainly possible that one of the prizes could have been a baseball card. 

More thorough google-searching turns up images for other Crusoe peanut packaging such as bags and other sizes/styles of cans.

A listing for H.A. Robinson ad-back W514s appeared in the 2011-dated edition of the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, but was inadvertently dropped when the book was downsized to its current vintage-only format.

All of the above is by way of introducing a newly reported example of an H.A. Robinson ad-back W514, card number 87, Cubs catcher Wade Killefer (misspelled Killifer on W514s).

The Killefer W514 was found among the belongings of the parents of a north Georgia woman. It was the only baseball card in the trunk. I was able to acquire the card for study, specifically a detailed study of the ad on back. I am able to now state with certainty that the advertising on back was printed before the card was placed into circulation. In my mind it proves the legitimacy of the issue.

The card also shows the expected signs of its 90+ years on this earth, though the printing -- front and back -- remains bright. There is a corner crease at top-right and, unfortunately, the bottom right corner has become separated and is now held on by a small strip of clear tape.

It remains to be seen whether the hobby will have to wait another six years before an additional example of an H.A. Robinson ad-back W514 surfaces.


  1. The tape appears to be a new addition. Tape will turn the paper it's attached to brown in due time. (Ever see an old comic book that was taped in the 1960s? It's not pretty).

  2. I haven't determined whether or not this is archival tape. I'll take a closer look at it in the near future with an eye towards removing it if it can be safely done.

  3. I love to read about different things folks come up with. I am a direct descendant of the Robinson Peanut folks. My mother's father passed away in 1932, but he still had brothers left that owned the company. My great uncle (Joseph Robinson) and the rest of the heirs sold the company to a firm in South Carolina in the early part of 1970s, I think I remember that correctly. None of my mother's generation is alive today. My mother's father also owned a candy company in Lynchburg, called Goober Puffs. One of my mother's brothers was named after one of the original owners of the company (an uncle I believe) the H. A. stands for Howell Allison and then Robinson of course. I am working on our family history, therefore it is fascinating to find info about my family. I have one of the glass Goober Puffs jars, mine has a tin lid. We used to have a large tin that peanuts came in, but someone in the family has it and I have not seen it in a while. I am inclined to believe that the cards you guys have should be real.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing,


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