By Ken Marks
In 1960 Post Cereal issued a set of sports cards on the back of cereal boxes that were a precursor to their ambitious efforts in 1961-63 with baseball and football card sets. The 1960 cards were very large in size and included players from three sports. Baseball players included Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Mathews. Football players included Johnny Unitas and Frank Gifford, while basketball players included Bob Pettit and Bob Cousy.
While the cards are attractive, just a small segment of the hobby industry collects these cards. Generally, little is known about the cards with the exception of what price guides indicate, which is, there are nine cards in the set and they came on packages of Grape Nuts Flakes (GNF). Early versions of price guides had incorrectly identified the cereal as Grape Nuts.
The 1960 Post Cereal sports card cereal boxes were on grocery shelves in the early months of 1960. This timing is very similar to the 1961 through 1963 Post Cereal baseball card promotions. There had been some question about exactly when these cards were issued since the set had players from three different sports. But a recent discovery and decoding of a cereal processing/boxing code that is stamped on the bottom of Post cereal boxes clearly and consistently shows cereal packaged for these card boxes was primarily in January and February of 1960.
Here is a story related to this card issue and the discovery of information to better understand it.
Last year I was down in Lodi, California with Kirk Robinson, an early pioneer in the research into understanding the 1962 Post Cereal Football Card Set. He had made an acquisition of primarily Post Cereal material and I was visiting him, just kind of perusing his stuff, with a little trading going on.
One of the things he had picked up were two 1960 Post Cereal cards that were cut with the entire back panel showing. While just sitting there towards the end of the day, we noticed that the layout of these two panels were just a bit different. While the card size was the same on both panels, the narrative outside the card was not exactly the same, both in display and size. Clearly these two panels seemingly had come off two different size packages of GNFs. We confirmed this that day by placing his panels over 12 oz. and 16 oz. GNF’s front panels with the sizes being a perfect match. That was a bit eye opening.
One of the things that immediately came to mind was that this was possibly the reason why some of the 1960 Post Cereal cards are much harder to find than others. For example, it had always seemed to me that the Bob Pettit and Harmon Killebrew cards were the toughest to find and I just figured they were the less popular – thus fewer survived over the last almost 60 years. But perhaps that isn’t the case.
That night when I got home, I called Dave Worley who also heavily researches the Post Cereal sports card promotions just to make sure that it was not common knowledge that 1960 Post Cereal cards came on two sizes of GNF cereal. He too indicated he had never seen anything about that.
Given what we had learned that day, we wanted to figure out which cards came off which size boxes. Since no one has a ton of this material, especially complete boxes or even full back panels with the narrative on the back panel still showing beyond the card itself, this seemed like a project for a group of serious Post Cereal collectors to collaboratively delve into.
A group formed to research the matter to see how much could be learned about the 1960 promotion. The group included Kirk Robinson, Dave Worley, Fred McKie, Dan Mabey, Kelvin Soladat, Mike Skiles, Mike Tiry and myself. Together we shared pictures and thoughts with each other, as well as on the internet. After piecing everything together, we all believe we have a much better understanding of the promotion and wanted to share with anyone interested.
One key item of the analysis was the discovery that the packaging adhesive on the back of the panels was different depending upon which size cereal box a card came from. Cards cut from the small 12 oz. boxes will generally have adhesive markings running vertically on the left and right side of the card. Cards from the larger 16 oz. size boxes will have no adhesive markings on the card at all (adhesive markings on these back panels run horizontally at the top of the panel and above the actual card itself. This is consistent with adhesive markings for all GNF back panels for all the 1961-1963 Post Baseball and Football panels.
Our conclusion is that the 1960 Post Cereal set had six cards coming from panels of the 12 oz. GNF boxes. These included: Cousy, Drysdale, Kaline, Mathews, Unitas and Gifford. This pattern of six different card panels from the smaller GNF boxes and four different card panels from the larger sized GNF boxes continued into future plans for all the various 1960s Post Cereal American card promotions.
There was only one player who was on both sized boxes – Frank Gifford – and as such is the only player who has a resulting variation in his card. If one looks carefully, you can see the two variations consisting of minor picture cropping differences and the facsimile signature in a different position on the card (and of course the different packaging adhesive on the back side of this card). The easiest difference one can use to identify a Gifford card variations is as follows.
The 12 oz. Gifford cards will normally have two vertical packaging adhesive markings on the sides of the back of the cards. The Gifford portion of the signature on the front of the card will have the “G” and “I” portions completely on the white portion of Gifford’s uniform with the bottom tail of the first “f” in the Gifford portion of the signature also being written in the same white portion of Gifford’s uniform.
The 16 oz. Gifford cards will have no packaging adhesive markings on the back sides of the cards. Also, most of the “G” and all of the “i” and first “f” in the Gifford portion of the signature on the front of the card will be on top of the red number ‘1’ on Gifford’s uniform.
We thought we would share this information and I guess if you are a Master Set collector, you now need 10 cards in this set to complete a 1960 Post Cereal Master Set.