Press pins as a collector’s item reached their zenith about a decade ago. An influx of Balfour remakes and the inability to complete the collections due to rarity and cost scared away a lot of collectors with the strongest market being the team collectors, as they only had to collect the pins issued for their teams. For some collectors in Chicago or Boston, you didn’t have to buy many but you had to go way back and shell out some major funds for the scarce and early examples. If you have the heart and the pockets to try and put this collection together, the reward will be well worth the effort as they offer some of the most beautiful of all baseball collectables as well as a challenge worthy of the most ardent collector. In this article, I will give you a brief history of the Press pin, World Series and All Star as well as a few current values and some commentary on the rarer models. Before I start, I would like to thank collector/dealer Dan Knoll, one of the earliest collectors of press pins and one of the most knowledgeable persons in the country with respects to this area. He provided all of the information that I am sharing with collectors in this article.
The first World Series as we know it was held in 1903 with a contest between the best of the new upstart American League and the blue bloods of the National League. The young upstarts, Boston Pilgrims of the American League behind Cy Young and Bill Dinneen trouncing the Pirates and their star player, Honus Wagner with a five games to three in a best of eight series. The next season, 1904, saw no World Series as John McGraw of the New York National League Giants let his hatred of American League president, Ban Johnson stand in the way of good business sense and prohibited his players from playing the post season finale. Heavy public outcry as well as complaints from his own players having lost a sizable World Series pay check led to another series in 1905 between the Giants and the Philadelphia A’s of Connie Mack in which the National League got the best of the upstarts led by one of the most outstanding pitchers of all time, Christy Mathewson. Thus began a fall tradition that lasted 90 years until 1994, when, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of one of the most cherished of all American traditions, the squabbling and petty interests of a few ridiculously wealthy persons circumvented the good of the whole and the World Series, as well as a large portion of the season, were cancelled in what remains one of the darkest and most disappointing events in baseball history.
The history of the baseball Press Pin does not extend as far back as the beginning of the Series but it goes back to the 1911 season, a World Series that pitted the New York Giants once again against the Athletics of Connie Mack. This was the second year in a row for the A’s coming off a championship season in 1910 where they earned the World Championship title by beating the Chicago Cubs four games to one. (Yes, the Cubs did play in a World Series) According to legend, Mack ordered a limited number of ornately designed pins to serve as both a gift/gratuity to the attending press (perhaps hoping to gather some favorable press as well) but more importantly, it would serve to keep the unruly and loud friends of John McGraw from the Shibe Park press box. This elaborate pin more closely resembled a military medal in that it consisted of a bar with a ribbon attached followed by an engraved and very large medal or coin. This beautiful piece of jewelry was housed in a hinged presentation case. For the 1911 season, only the Athletics issued a pin but in 1912, both teams, Boston and New York, following Mack’s lead, issued pins. The 1915 season saw the last of these elaborate relics with the issue by the National League Champions for that year, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox, World Champions of 1915, followed the 1914 Braves lead and offered a far less elaborate pin sans any ribbon and by 1916, it was over. Never again would there be any press pin of such artistry. That is not to say that ribbons weren’t attached or that there are no valuable pins after 1915, to the contrary in both 1917 and 1919, the Chicago White Sox issued a pin that appears identical for both years except the in 1917, there is a blue dated small ribbon and in 1919, the frugal Comiskey had some more pins made identical to the leftover 1917 pins and added a white 1919 dated ribbon enabling him to order less pins and use up the leftovers. Look at the stamping on the back of these pins. The 1917 will have Greenduck stamped in a straight line while the 1919 can be seen with the leftover straight line 1917 pin or the newly made pins made expressly for the 1919 series in which the stamp on the back is arched. These pins today are extremely rare with a nice ribbon still attached and often bring in the $5-7000 range for the 1917 example and $8-12,000 for the ultra rare 1919 Black Sox model. Any of the 1915 and earlier ornate pins sell in the $8-12,000 range as well with the first example from 1911 being both the most valuable and the hardest to find of this genre.
Following is a list of each and every pin offered from 1911 thru 1987. Each is listed as to maker and the top of each year was the World Champion followed by the League Champion. I will use abbreviations for both the teams and makers using this legend.
W&H- Whitehead and Hoag
S.L. B- St. Louis Button Company
D&C- Dieges and Clust
These are the most common makers, for all others, I will spell out the company.
1911—–Phil-A—–Allen A. Kerr (no National League pin issued)
1914—–Bos-N—–Bent & Bush
1915—–Bos-A—–Bent & Bush
1915—–Phil-N—–J.E.Caldwell (last ornate bar, ribbon, pin combo)
1916—–Bos-A—–Bent & Bush
1916—–Brooklyn-N—–D&C ( first Dieges and Clust pin)
1917—–Chi-A—–Greenduck (dated blue ribbon attached , Greenduck stamped in straight line on back)
1918—–Bos-A—–Bent & Bush
1918—–Chi-N—–Unknown (cardboard pin)
1919—–Chi-A—–Greenduck (rare 1919 white ribbon, pin same as 1917 except that the Greenduck stamp will be found stamped either straight or arched)
1920—–Clev.-A—–Unknown ( two versions, one celluloid, one metal)
1929—–Chi.-N—–Hipp & Coburn
1942—–St.L-N—–SLB (rare wartime celluloid)
1943—–St.L-N—–SLB (rare wartime celluloid)
1944—–St.L-N—–SLB (enamel again)
1946—–Bos.-A—–BF ( first Balfour pin)
1960—–Pitt.-N—–JT (first Jostens pin)
ALL STAR PRESS PINS
The first All Star game was held in Comiskey Park on July 6, 1933 in conjunction with the Chicago Worlds Fair. Players in the American League wore their regular uniforms from their respective teams but the National League went all out supplying special National League shirts for the game to their star players. The line up for this first event was a who’s who of baseball of that era. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averill, Lefty Grove, Charlie Gehringer, Al Simmons, Joe Cronin, Rick Ferrell, and Lefty Gomez were the future Hall of Fame players for the American League while Frankie Frisch, Chuck Klein, Paul Waner, Chick Hafey, Bill Terry, Pie Traynor, Carl Hubbell, and Gabby Hartnett represented the National League. A total of 17 future Hall of Famers in one game! The All Star game has gone on to be one of the iconic events of the sport often referred to as the mid summer classic, a place where a fan can go and see all of his/her favorite players in one place. It became so popular that from 1959 thru 1962, they actually staged two All Star games the same season but in two different cities.
As for All Star press pins, the first ever issued was in 1938 for the game held at Crosley Field, again on July 6. This pin is the rarest and most valuable of any All Star pin and was made of celluloid. The first metal and enameled pin was issued for the 1941 All Star game. Due to the war, no game was held in 1945 but has continued since without interruption but there were no press pins issued in 1939, 40, 42, 44 or 1945 but they have been produced without fail since 1946.
Following is a list of the ballpark where each All Star was held and the date along with the maker of that years All Star Pin.
1959—–Forbes—–7-7—–BF (Game 1)
1959—–L.A. —–8-3—–BF (Game 2)
1960—–K.C. —–7-11—–BF (Game 1)
1960—–Yankee—–7-13—– BF (Game 2)
1961—–Candlestick—–7-11 —–BF (Game 1)
1961—–Fenway—–7-31—– BF (Game 2)
1962—–D.C.—–7-10—–BF (Game 1)
1962—–Wrigley—–7-30—–BF (Game 2)
A few additional notes on press pins in general. In addition to the regular season pins, there were occasionally pins issued ahead of time where things didn’t quite work out the way they planned. These are referred to as Phantom pins. Examples include the 1938 Pittsburgh, 1946 Brooklyn or the 1956 and 1959 Braves World Series pins which stand today as a great example of why you shouldn’t count your eggs before they are hatched. I will be doing an article strictly on the Phantom pins in the near future where you will be able to see a list of every phantom pin that we know exists as this is an interesting and challenging subset collection.
Also, watch for pins marked 10K, as they are quite scarce, this being more commonly used for the ladies version of the press pin which are often referred to as a broach or charm. These charms seldom sell in the same range as their pin counterpart and offer a less expensive alternative to the pins but using the same design. Often, pins will be found joined together in jewelry such as a necklace or a bracelet. They are still collectable but not from a press pin standpoint.
I hope this information is of some help to collectors and if you are looking for an item to collect, press pins, for the most part, are quite affordable and if you are up for a real collecting challenge, then trying to find a mint example of every pin ever made should keep you interested, and broke, for quite a few years to come.
Good luck and happy hunting, David Bushing