1928 Babe Ruth Fro-Joy Stand-Up Store Display - Only Example Known - Four Feet in Height!

Sold For: $26,438

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1456

Item Year: 1928

Category: Advertising and Photographic Displays

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Presented is what in our estimation is the single greatest period Babe Ruth store advertising display ever produced: The four-foot tall 1928 Fro-Joy Ice Cream freestanding die-cut advertising display. This is an astonishing museum-caliber piece that is simply overwhelming in person, and if it weren't actually here for us to see, we might not even believe it exists. This piece was totally unknown to the baseball and advertising collecting worlds until this example was discovered in 2008. This is a "dream piece." If this very example had not by chance happened to be discovered recently, it is unlikely we would ever have known that these extraordinary, huge, and incredibly high-quality die-cut advertising displays were ever produced and stood in the corner of ice-cream stores in 1928. It is easy to understand this large stand-up advertising display is so rare, and why we are lucky that even one example has survived. They were not only expensive to produce, but they were not distributed to the public. Only one display would have been supplied by Fro-Joy Ice Cream to each participating ice-cream store, and after use they were not intended to be saved. Even with its tremendous visual aesthetics, it is a such a large piece that saving it would not have been convenient. This is not an item that could be tucked away in a drawer, or accidentally be misplaced in a pile of papers. It is produced on high-quality thick cardboard stock, allowing it to stand by itself, and it is four feet tall! This is a very substantial and huge piece that few would have had the opportunity to save, and fewer still would find it possible or convenient to do so.

This Babe Ruth Fro-Joy die-cut stand-up advertising sign is the only known example. Measuring an impressive four feet in height, the easel-back cardboard display is actually much taller than many of the children it was aimed to attract, a feature that was quite in keeping with Ruth's larger-than-life persona. This was a point-of-sale advertising piece that nobody could ignore! The size of this piece is extremely significant, not just because it is the best of the very few large store display pieces featuring Ruth and dating from his playing days, but because it distinguishes this piece from a similarly designed smaller die-cut counter sign. In a catalog illustration, at a glance, this larger piece could easily be mistaken for the smaller counter display, which, while a tremendous item in its own right, stands just twelve inches tall. (The countertop display, which was issued in conjunction with this piece, is nearly as rare; only a few are known.)

The offered display features a magnificently rendered multicolor illustration of Ruth, executed in soft tones, as well as promotional text extolling the virtues of Fro-Joy Ice Cream Cones, which are "Chock-Full of 'Youth Units!'." While we may never know what "youth units" are exactly, Ruth certainly did, as evidenced by an excerpt from one of his letters printed on the display: "Babe Ruth says - 'I understand your Fro-Joy Ice Cream is Chock-full of Youth Units and that Fro-Joy Cones are pure and wholesome. I want to give each one of these thousand orphan boys a Fro-Joy Cone filled to the brim with Fro-Joy Ice Cream.'" The printed text below Ruth's quote puts the excerpt in its proper context: "Excerpt from a letter from Babe Ruth ordering Fro-Joy for his orphan boy guests at this Boston baseball party." Fro-Joy Ice Cream is well known to collectors for issuing a six-card set of Babe Ruth cards during "Fro-Joy Cone Week" (August 6th through the 11th) in 1928. The premium card (available only by mail) which was issued as part of that promotion features Ruth in the same follow-through batting pose as that pictured on the offered display piece. The sturdy stock on which the display is printed is of extraordinary high quality and measures approximately .125 inches in thickness. The quality of the production stock is so great that the sign, upon handling, actually gives the impression of being made of wood. The cardboard easel on the reverse, which allows the display to stand freely, is complete and intact. Although its survival today may be attributed to its sturdy nature, when it was originally discovered it was not without many of the common flaws associated with die-cut cardboard display pieces of this vintage, including edge tears, creases, light staining, and a few small holes in the interior. The most notable concern was to Ruth's bat, which was missing a small portion on the end and displayed a few chips near the handle. The original owner remedied all of the problems through expert professional restoration. Specifically, the restorer flattened out the creases, repaired the tears, filled in the holes (replicating the original colors and design as needed), removed the stains, lightly cleaned both the front and back surfaces, and reproduced the missing sections of the bat. Mounting-tape strips were also applied to the easel back. All of these cosmetic improvements were done with the utmost skill; while many of the repairs are evident upon normal examination, the piece now displays as Excellent and looks exactly as it did when originally displayed eighty-two years ago. The easel back is all original and will still support the piece if so desired. The piece is horizontally hinged at the center, as issued, which allowed the piece to be folded for convenient mailing to retailers. This is a remarkable piece, one of the most incredible baseball store advertising displays ever produced, and one of the most extraordinary of all Babe Ruth display pieces. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $26,438

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