Back in the 1950s, collecting baseball cards was all the rage with kids, and companies saw this as a perfect opportunity to promote their products, including the Red Heart Dog Food Co. They released a series of 33 stunning post-war baseball cards in 1954 featuring some of the biggest names in the game, spread across three sets with blue, green, and red backgrounds. To get your hands on each group of these coveted cards, you only had to send in two Red Heart labels, 10 cents, and a coupon for each item to Red Heart Baseball Pictures in Chicago, Illinois.
Red Heart’s baseball card offer was heavily advertised in Sunday newspaper comic sections in 1954. Some collectors even claimed to have received cards from the company as late as the early 1970s, although the coupons showed an expiration date of January 1st, 1955.
Red Heart utilized at least four different advertisements to promote their mail-in offer for the baseball cards. We don’t have any documentation on how to label them; I’ll refer to them as Ad Format 1, 2, 3, and 4.
1954 Red Heart Baseball Card Advertisement Format 1
All four ads had essentially the same information, just formatted into different sizes and locations on the page. This format was unique because it also shared Red Heart’s offers for baseball caps, t-shirts, autographed baseballs, pennants, identification bracelets, charm bracelets, and cards.
Huggins and Scott auctioned off a Red Heart Order Sheet, offering a head scarf and pen and pencil set as well. It sold for $190 in December 2012.
The following comic page that features the ad is from the Washington D.C. Evening Star from June 20th, 1954.
1954 Red Heart Baseball Card Advertisement Format 2
Ad format two is cool because it lists all the players from each series. Maybe this is why the red-backed cards are a little scarcer today? You can see that the same information is organized differently in the space. I’ve found a pair of these formats that probably had different colorings based on the newspaper printer.
This full comic page featuring the ad is from the Washington D.C. Evening Star from April 18th, 1954, the earliest ad I found for the set.
1954 Red Heart Baseball Card Advertisement Format 3
Ad format three also organized the same information a little differently. However, the images on the cards are a little more cartoony compared to format 2. Also, you’ve got to give Red Heart credit for securing rights to Stan Musial; Topps and Bowman couldn’t. The color ad is from a May 1954 San Francisco Chronicle.
1954 Red Heart Baseball Card Advertisement Format 4
Kudos to the collector who made a fantastic display with this ad and a quartet of cards.
The two full-page comic ads are also from the Washington Evening Star; both were published in May.
Another item Red Heart used to drum up sales of its Dog Food via the Baseball Player Pictures was an advertising poster. This one features Stan Musial, Al Rosen, Hank Sauer, and Mickey Mantle and includes an original order blank taped to the front. Leland’s sold it for $477 in December 2013.
To sum up, the ads that Red Heart used to promote their 1954 baseball cards (and dog food) were eye-catching and likely successful, as evidenced by the almost 12000 PSA-graded cards that exist today. The company’s marketing team showed creativity and innovation by using different ad formats in Sunday newspaper comics. If you happen to have a 1954 Red Heart Baseball set, adding a newspaper ad to your collection would be a great way to complete it! And it’s worth noting that Red Heart Dog Food Co. still exists today under Smithfield Foods, Inc.
PS, don’t forget to subscribe to The Post War Cards Newsletter.