A few weeks ago, a collector shared the following Pee Wee Reese photo on Twitter, asking if anyone had any idea what it was.
He had just picked it up on eBay for $20 and had never seen it before. The eBay seller called it a 1950s Manny’s Baseball Land photo. However, the collector noted that according to PSA, TCDB, and a Google search, Manny’s first issue was in 1961, and there was no Pee Wee Reese.
I’m always happy for any excuse to help do some research; plus, I do like team photo packs. They’re an interesting hobby segment I’ll be jumping into much more, mainly for my collection (they are often reasonably priced), moving forward. Many were team releases that fans used to get signed or a souvenir to take home from the stadium.
The first thing I did was check The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. But none of the many Brooklyn Dodgers Picture Packs listed had an example of a card that looked like the Pee Wee Reese. And the 1955 and 1957 sets, which didn’t share a photo example, described the cards as blank-backed black-and-white portraits surrounded by a white border with the player name at the bottom in all-caps and “Dodgers” in upper- and lower-case type.
So, while not a perfect match for the card, I knew that many teams released photos that were used for multiple sets and felt I was on the right path.
Then I read on PSA’s card facts entry that “The 1955-1957 Brooklyn Dodgers Picture Pack baseball set featured souvenir photographs of Dem Bums in their final years playing in the New York borough before heading west. The picture packs began being distributed in 1940 at souvenir stands at Ebbets Field and the final issue came in 1957. Each 5″ by 7” picture card featured a black-and-white portrait photo of the player surrounded by a white border with his name printed at the bottom (in all CAPS) and the Brooklyn Dodgers name printed beside it. These unnumbered relics were also sold as a set for 25 cents in a white paper envelope. In 1955, the envelope read “World Champion Dodgers” in blue. In 1956, the Dodgers and the New York Yankees teamed to create a 50-card set known as the ‘World Series Picture Portfolio.'”
I found examples of the 1955 and 1956 envelopes for sale on eBay along with the Reese cards that matched the description from The Standard Catalog but not the card the collector shared on Twitter.
PSA’s reference to the New York Yankees was the next clue. I checked for 8″ x 10″ Yankees picture pack cards and found a promising pair. First, the 1956 New York Yankees “Action Pictures” set was described as follows, “This set of 8″ x 10″ black-and-white pictures was sold for 75 cents in a paper envelope marked ’12 ACTION / PICTURES.’ The white-bordered pictures have facsimile autographs or printed names on front and are blank-backed.” A 1957 New York Yankees set was also described as being nominally 8″ x 10″ but that the size varied.
With a few more keywords, it didn’t take much digging into some auction house history to ultimately find what I was looking for. In Huggins and Scott’s Auction history, I found a sale from February 2013 that included an exact match for the Pee Wee Reese Card. Huggins and Scott sold a pair of 1955 NY Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers Teams 8×10 “Action” Photo Packs in their original envelopes for $325. The Yankees envelope is the same as the one The Standard Catalog shared for the 1956 Action Pictures set.
Huggins wrote, “After losing the World Series to the NY Yankees five times in the previous eight seasons, the Brooklyn Dodgers finally captured the Championship in 1955, temporarily interrupting the “Bombers” dynasty. Presented are 1955 Yankees and Dodgers team photo packs with original envelopes. Each of these remarkably well preserved photo sets includes (12) 8×10 images of the team’s top stars including Mantle, Berra, Ford, Martin, Robinson, Campanella, Snider, Reese and Newcombe. While many 5×7 photo packs exist it is believed these 8×10 photos are quite scarce. The cover price on the front of the envelopes is 75 cents. The Yankees envelope is printed with the names of the included players, the Dodgers envelope simply reads “Brooklyn Dodgers.” Both sets are labeled “12 Action Pictures”.”
I shared my finding with the original requester on Twitter, who agreed that the Reese was a 1955 Dodgers Team Action Photo pack card. Should these be considered a 1955 release as described by Huggins or a 1956 set like The Standard Catalog labeled the Yankees set? I’ll leave the conversation for a future Post-War Cards Newsletter.
It’s incredible to me how relatively inexpensive these pictures are, given how rare many early post-war picture pack cards and sets are, but perhaps it’s because many are hard to identify and categorize. But if you’re a fan of specific players, they’re a great way to expand your collection and feature some great photos. Happy collecting!