Don Newcombe’s passing last week caused me to take a deeper look into some of his earlier-issued cards. In doing so, I rediscovered one of my favorite sets, a woefully underrated vintage oddball issue from 1949 called Eureka Sportstamps.
Before reading further, I should caution you: the Sportstamp issue is NOT for the faint of heart. If you think that cards have to be made of cardboard and a fairly standard size, it’s not for you. Likewise, if you have an issue with the fact that the set only contains National League players, don’t look into collecting this set. But if you love affordable vintage issues loaded with rookie and early-career Hall of Famers, you’ll hit the nail on the head with this set.
To start with, one of the things I love about this set is the photography. Color photography was not common at this time. In fact, the first traditional baseball card to feature color photography came 4 years later, on 1953 Bowman Color. Even though these photos appear on a 1.5” by 2” stamp, it is still refreshing to see color photography at a time when black and white photographs and artist renditions reigned supreme.
As mentioned earlier, this issue only contains the National League, which was 8 teams strong at the time. However, the set contains 200 stamps. This means that lesser players with very few issues to their names are included in the set. In addition to MLB Commissioner Happy Chandler and National League president Ford Frick, you have players like Rube Novotney, who played just 22 games for the Cubs in 1949 and has no other Major League issues.
The large set also means that players at the starts of their career were included, as well. Whether you want to call them rookie cards is up to you (I do!), but there’s no denying that these are some of the earliest releases of some of the biggest stars of the era. If you decide that, like, me, you want to classify these as rookie cards, then you are looking at extremely affordable rookie cards of Hall of Famers such as Roy Campanella (rookie card in 1949 Bowman), Jackie Robinson (1949 Leaf and Bowman), Duke Snider (1949 Bowman), Richie Ashburn (1949 Bowman), and Robin Roberts (1949 Bowman). There are also rookies of major stars like Gil Hodges, the aforementioned Don Newcombe, and Ted Kluszewski (all 1949 Bowman) as well as Joe Garagiola (1951 Bowman).
All of this is in addition to very early cards of Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Ralph Kiner, Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, and stars Bobby Thomson and Marty Marion, all of whom appeared in 1948 Bowman for the first time on a major national set. (Note also that Beckett designates Enos Slaughter’s rookie card as 1948 Bowman, but Slaughter first appeared on a 1941 Double Play card.)
Single stamps don’t come up often, but when they do, they are incredibly affordable. For example, a PSA 9 Duke Snider recently sold on eBay for $66, roughly one-fifth what I paid for my PSA 1 1949 Bowman. Similarly, a Campanella PSA 8 sold for just $33; a PSA 8 1949 Bowman Campanella sold two months ago for $1,300.
Put it all together, and 1949 Eureka Sportstamps make up a beautiful oddball set. Collecting this cards is a great way to enhance your vintage collection at a fraction of the price.