Coins of the Realm
Collecting the 1963 Salada-Junket Coin Set
by Pete Putman
Salada-Junket's brief venture into sports collectibles resulted in a set of attractive but very scarce set of all-star baseball player coins.
There are numerous food brands synonymous with the baby boomer generation: Jell-O, Kellogg's, Drake's, Royal Brands, Wilson's Franks, Wheaties, Hires, Post, etc. Some of them are still around today, while others have long since faded into history. But these brands all have one thing in common - they issued at least one set of sports trading cards or collectibles, some better known than others. And many of those sets have become highly desirable over the years.
I'll add two more names to the list - Salada Tea and Junket. Both brands are still around today, and although Salada is still well known, Junket doesn't quite enjoy the widespread recognition it once had. Both brands have long, rich histories, and both brands briefly dipped their toes into the sports collectibles market over 50 years ago with sets of attractive and hard-to-find player coins.
Salada, founded in 1892 by Montreal businessman Peter Larkin, was the first tea company to sell its product (black tea) in sealed foil packets to preserve freshness. According to the company website, Salada was named after a tea garden in today's Sri Lanka, a British colony known as Ceylon back then.
Response to the product was strong, prompting Larkin to establish a U.S. operation in Boston in 1917. Increasing demand for the product and a shift to selling tea leaves in bags in the 1930s boosted sales even further, leading the company to expand into factories across the country. Several corporate acquisitions followed, with the company being taken over by cereal giant Kellogg's in 1969 and by Redco in 1988.
Junket has an even longer history, having come into existence in 1886 as a brand of rennet - a substance that causes milk to coagulate as part of the process of making cheese. (The name "junket" in Danish means "milk with rennet.") Its inventor, Christian Hansen of Denmark, expanded his sales around the world and opened an office in the U.S. in 1878. He followed that with the purchase of a 1-1/2-acre island in the Mohawk River near Little Falls, New York, in 1890 so he could build a factory to manufacture his products.
The present-day line of Junket pudding mixes evolved from a sweetened powder mix for pudding that was introduced in 1911. In 1934, Junket Ice Cream Mix was launched so that ice cream could be easily made at home. (Yes, people did make their own ice cream and yogurt back then!) Junket frosting mixes, fudge mixes, and a line of pudding-based desserts soon followed.
In 1958, Salada-Shirrif Horsey (a Canadian company created in 1957) bought the Junket brand and the Little Falls factory, changing the name of the new company to Salada Foods, Inc. Tea packaging operations moved to Little Falls in 1973 under Kellogg's management, and amazingly - in an age of consolidation and off-shoring - Salada Tea and Junket pudding mixes are still made in this 125-year-old facility!
Marketing the Brand
Salada enjoyed much wider brand recognition than Junket for many years, thanks to a clever marketing gimmick - printing memorable quotations on the tags attached to their tea bags. Examples include: "When logic and intuition agree, you are always right," "Most people don't recognize opportunity because it comes disguised as hard work," and "You can take time off, but you can never put it back."(The company also enjoyed a good pun now and then, hence the gem "Artists that jog usually become good panters.")
Salada was also receptive to marketing promotions. At one time, the company had a "Salada Stamp Club" in Canada, where you could exchange your Salada Tea labels for postage stamps of the British colonies. In 1960, a Salada promotion revolved around 10 picture cards of historic places in Canada. Contestants were encouraged to fill in the names of each location and send the 10 cards back to Salada by May 1961 for a chance to win a first prize of $10,000 - quite a sizeable small sum back then!
This promotion was followed by a Canadian Game Fish set of cards in 1961 that is even more obscure. But the company's next issue in 1962 - a set of 220 baseball coins - finally crossed the border and found its way into the homes of many Americans. That 1962 set consisted of printed paper images of popular players pressed into a plastic holder. More importantly, the coins, which were sealed in cellophane, were available in both Salada Tea and Junket Pudding Mix boxes. (After all, how many young boys drank tea?)
Apparently this set was moderately successful, prompting the company to come out with a 154-coin set of National Football League players later in 1962. Unlike the baseball set, these coins were manufactured using metal blanks. However, they were still limited to one coin per box, and the pairing of tea drinkers with football fans seems rather odd even today.
Presumably more of these coins found their way to collectors via Junket pudding boxes, and the company might have been following the lead of General Foods' Jell-O, which began putting collectible cards of baseball players on their gelatin and pudding boxes in 1961, continuing for two more years.
Collecting baseball coins was a pretty esoteric hobby at the time. Historically, coins have not been particularly popular as a sports collectible, with only six sets of record issued with baseball themes in previous years - and there was a 45-year gap between the eight-coin Hermes Ice Cream set in 1910 and Armour's first coin offering in 1955.
For boys, being able to "flip" baseball cards in various games was an important part of collecting. Sure, you could flip coins, too. But it just wasn't the same - you couldn't get "leaners" against the side of your school building or drop one easily on your opponent's coin and cover it. And the coins were somewhat bulkier to carry around, didn't store all that easily, had no intrinsic value compared to real coins, and made a lot of noise when you were sorting or playing with them.
Nevertheless, Salada Foods gave it one more try in 1963 - the company's last, as it turned out - with a 63-player set of "Baseball All-Star Coins," cut down greatly in size from the previous year's issue by concentrating on better-known players. Perhaps this was done to help sales, although it's hard to see how it would have convinced boys to drink tea!
The 1963 Salada-Junket set, however, may have been more successful in persuading kids to pester Mom to buy Junket pudding instead of other brands. It's the same marketing philosophy that got me to consume cases of Post Alpha-Bits in my early years, so I could then grab a pair of scissors and cut baseball player cards off the box. (I was so easily manipulated back then ... )
Each coin in the 1963 All-Star set measures 1-1/2" in diameter. Circling the upper edge are the words "SAVE AND TRADE 63 ALL STAR BASEBALL COINS," and below this inscription, the text reads "PACKED IN SALADA TEA and junket Brand DESSERTS" [sic]. Enamel-coated metal was used for the backs, and needless to say, it scratches very easily, as do the edges of the coins.
The first 31 slots in the set were reserved for National League (NL) players, and each NL coin has a bright red border around the color photograph. Slots #32 - #63 were occupied by the junior circuit, with each American League (AL) player encircled by a blue border. The back of each coin listed the player's name, position, team, and a handful of 1962 statistics. Some of the coins used illustrations instead of photos, picking up artwork from the 1962 set. All six Los Angeles Dodgers coins present this way.
From the looks of things, Salada Foods tried to be equitable and include at least one player from all 20 teams. At the time, the Houston Colt 45s, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, and Washington Senators were made up mostly of players taken in the expansion draft, while the Twins (a relocation team, not expansion) actually had a few bona fide stars such as Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew - who, oddly enough, does not appear in this set.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the New York Yankees led all teams with seven featured players; followed by the Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves with six; San Francisco Giants with five; and the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and (surprisingly) the Angels with four players each.
At the other end of the set, the Mets, Senators, Colt 45s, and Kansas City A's were each represented by one player, and while each were competent ballplayers, most of them wouldn't be considered all-star material. Dick Farrell of the Colt 45s, pictured on coin #2, had a 10-20 W-L record in 1962 with a respectable 2.98 ERA. (That average would be considered great today!)
Richie Ashburn of the Mets - found on coin #27 - was nearing the end of his career but still managed to bang out 119 hits, 7 home runs, and 28 RBIs in 1962, while Dave Stenhouse (#37) twirled a 11-12 record with 117 strikeouts and a 3.65 ERA. Norm Siebern (#51) of the A's was a notable exception, as he collected 185 hits and 25 home runs, driving in 117 RBIs and batting .308 for an otherwise undistinguished Kansas City team.
You'll find plenty of them between #1 Don Drysdale and #63 Al Kaline. In addition to those two All-Stars/Hall of Famers, you'll find Bob Gibson on coin #3, Sandy Koufax on #4, Juan Marichal on #5, Warren Spahn on #8, Orlando Cepeda on #13, Bill Mazeroski on #14, "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks on #17, Willie Mays on #22, Roberto Clemente on #23, and "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron on #24 (how's that for "middle of the lineup?"). Ashburn, Ed Mathews (#28), Frank Robinson (#29), and Billy Williams (#30) round out the National League representatives in Cooperstown.
Although the American League didn't have nearly as many All-Star/HOFers, the players featured in this set are equally impressive, starting with Jim Bunning (#33) and continuing with Hoyt Wilhelm (#39), Luis Aparicio (#50), Brooks Robinson (#53), Mickey Mantle (#56), Yogi Berra (#62), and Kaline. Talk about star power! Twenty-three out of the 63 featured players - over one-third of the set - have plaques at the Hall of Fame.
Of the rest, most could be called semi-stars - players you remember from way back when that didn't quite make the grade for baseball's greatest honor, including John Podres (#9), the winner of Game 7 in the 1955 World Series; Ken Boyer (#15), a perennial All-Star with St. Louis; Maury Wills (#20), a five-time All-Star and a base-stealing machine in 1962 with 104 thefts; Ralph Terry (#38), the only pitcher to lose a Game 7 in the World Series by one run (1960) and then win a Game 7 by one run (1962); Roger Maris (#57), the man who broke Babe Ruth's record in 1961 by hitting 61 home runs in one season; and Rocky Colavito (#58), the first player in AL history to finish the season with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage and the fifth to have 11 consecutive seasons of at least 20 home runs.
As of this writing, PSA has graded over 6,400, 1963 Salada-Junket coins. For perspective, compare that to 196,000+ 1963 Topps cards and 32,900+ 1963 Fleer cards that have been encapsulated to date and you'll begin to understand the scarcity of these coins. But condition isn't as much of a challenge: Amazingly, over 2,600 Salada-Junket coins have earned PSA NM-MT 8 grades, representing about 40% of all grades awarded.
More than 1,700 coins have earned berths in PSA MINT 9 holders, and 320+ examples now call PSA GEM-MT 10 holders their home. Overall, 73% of all Salada-Junket coins submitted to date have been judged by PSA to be in high-grade condition. And what that number tells us is that when we do come across these coins, there's a pretty good chance they'll be in great shape. Perhaps people left them in the cellophane bags, or they were tucked away in a drawer or box and quickly forgotten after a box of tea or pudding was opened and consumed. (Need further proof? Only 279 coins sent to PSA have graded PSA EX 5 or lower.)
You don't have to be a genius to guess that the most submitted 1963 Salada-Junket coin belongs to Mickey Mantle. Two hundred and forty-two copies of "The Commerce Comet" have been reviewed as of this writing, with 38 PSA NM 7s, 78 PSA 8s, 50 PSA 9s, and 9 PSA 10s awarded. Willie Mays takes the #2 spot with 205 submissions, resulting in 33 PSA 7s, 90 PSA 8s, 48 PSA 9s, and 5 PSA 10s. Roberto Clemente is hard on his heels with 188 submissions for 40 PSA 7s, 68 PSA 8s, 51 PSA 8s, and 8 PSA 10s. Batting clean-up is Hank Aaron with 169 submissions that have resulted in 25 PSA 7s, 62 PSA 8s, 50 PSA 9s, and 5 PSA 10s.
How about the toughest coins? Juan Marichal's #5 coin can be found with and without buttons on his jersey, and the "with" variation has only been inspected 43 times for 12 PSA 8s, 14 PSA 9s, and 4 PSA 10s. Bob Shaw (#7) has been submitted 73 times for 35 PSA 8s, 25 PSA 9s, and 4 PSA 10s, while Frank Bolling (#18) has traveled to PSA on 66 occasions to come back with 27 PSA 8s, 21 PSA 9s, and 5 PSA 10s.
Tommy Davis' #21 coin has yet to score a PSA 10 out of nearly 80 tries and has only come back with 15 PSA 9s. Dick Groat's #16 coin also shows zero in the PSA 10 column and 24 under PSA 9. And a pair of Yankees - #52 Bobby Richardson and #54 Tom Tresh - have but two PSA 10s from 180 combined submissions, not to mention 31 PSA 9s.
Like most food-related issues, these coins aren't particularly expensive due to their esoteric nature in the collectibles hobby.
They're scarce to be sure, but often found in very nice condition when they are unearthed. That combination is basically a true collector's dream, and the fact that the set is stuffed with HOFers is just icing on the cake. Plus, with just 63 coins, they don't take up a lot of room, either.
And even though Salada Foods decided to retire permanently from the sports collectibles marketplace after 1963, the tradition of full-color collectible baseball coins was carried forth by Topps in 1964 and 1971, Old London in 1965, Citgo in 1969, and a host of companies in the 1980s. So, if you're interested in collecting more sports coins, there are certainly some options out there.
For more information on the 1963 Salada-Junket All-Star coin set, please visit https://www.psacard.com/cardfacts/baseball-cards/1963-salada-junket-all-star-baseball/3269.
Please feel free to contact the SMR staff at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. A special thank you goes out to Levi Bleam of 707 Sportscards for lending his complete set for this article. Please note that any Population Report figures reported are those as of December 2017.