The Red Man tobacco series, produced in the 1950s, has always been popular with collectors. These large beauties measure 3-1/2" by 4" and the great artwork and color really make this a collectible issue. The sets, which range between 50-52 cards, included a nice array of baseball stars including Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Stan Musial. None of these three stars were included in every set, but stars like Yogi Berra and Duke Snider made it in each year.
Two players, one from each league, share numbers in the set. For instance, there would be a 1A card (American League) and a 1B card (National League). The Red Man tobacco series was produced from 1952-1955 and was the first nationally distributed tobacco-related issue since the early 1900s. It had been approximately 40 years since the last tobacco series was offered nationwide. Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson were among those missing from the series, but the set still remains fairly popular.
While the set is not incredibly scarce, the sets are very challenging in high-grade. The very large design made it difficult for collectors to keep them in pristine condition. The smaller, regular issue cards were much easier to store in comparison to the Red Man tobacco cards. We know how scarce vintage cards are in high-grade, so the larger size of this particular set just adds to the dilemma. In addition, the Red Man cards had a colored border surrounding most of the card with the exception of the very bottom of the issue. When you add the large design to the colored borders, it makes preservation a real problem. The slightest touch will reveal wear on the colored edges, which makes high-grade examples genuinely tough.
This series also offers a few variations that collectors might want to take note of. In 1954, the set produced variations involving five different players. George Kell was featured on cards as a member of Boston at first and, after he was traded, Chicago. The same thing happened to two other players. Sam Mele, first with Baltimore then with Chicago, and Dave Philley, first with Cleveland then with Philadelphia. The cards that featured these players on their new team are slightly more difficult than the originally issued cards. Another variation that can be found is the #19 card in the same set. There were two different National League representatives used for this card, Enos Slaughter and Gus Bell. They were both equally distributed, making the Slaughter card no scarcer than the Bell example.
Another condition problem that plagues this card is caused by the existence of a coupon or tab at the very base of the card. This thin strip of white can only be removed by actually cutting it off the card. It doesn't simply peel off like other coupons do in other sets. This is a major problem because many people removed the coupons so they could mail it in before the redemption date expired. You received a free baseball cap if you sent it in time. PSA will not grade any Red Man cards that have been, in essence, trimmed in order to remove these coupons. The examples that have the coupons attached have always sold for a premium so, if you have any Redman cards in this condition, you should seriously consider having them encapsulated so the cards will be preserved.
The last obstacle you may have with these cards is determining what year they were produced if the tabs are non-existent. If the tabs were removed, it makes it very hard to tell what year the cards were made because the designs were basically the same for all four years of production. You have to search the back of the cards for the year if this is the case. There are actually redemption date variations that appear within each set, but those variations are not viewed as important to the determination of the card values.