Many baseball pinback buttons are of unknown origin. This column is devoted to a most unusual type of dangle that is also of unknown origin. For lack of a better term, I call them “poker chip” dangles, because they have the look and feel of poker chips. They are 1.50” in diameter. The obverse features a 7/8” head shot of a player encased in clear plastic. The reverse presents the words “Souvenir of,” followed by the players name and team name.
They are holed at the top, and most come with a key chain clasp. There is no stated manufacturer nor any other identifying information. I believe they were originally sold as key chains, but some found their way as dangles on baseball pinback buttons. They are very well made. The construction process involved two pieces of plastic, both of which are reeded, like a dime or quarter. However, the two sets of slots or grooves in the plastic are not aligned with each other. They have a fun feel to them, as if they were made to be touched as well as viewed. The top piece of plastic is clear, and the bottom is colored. Among the colors are white, red, blue, light green, dark green, and brown. The two pieces are presumably held together by glue or some interlocking mechanism.
I know of 16 featured players. A fellow collector graciously shared the identity of his poker chips with me, permitting a more comprehensive discussion of them. The vast majority are of players on the Cubs and White Sox. As such, I believe they were probably manufactured in Chicago. Here is a listing by team of the currently known pieces.
Cubs: Grimm, Cavaretta, Lowery, Edwards, Schmitz, Leonard, Lade, Jeffcoat, Reich, Smalley
White Sox: Gettel, Surkont, Hancock
Red Sox: DiMaggio
Based on the players and their teams, the poker chips were made in 1949. This is the same era as a set of diamond-shaped metal key chains, as well as a set made of leather. Both of these are presented in the book by Hake and Steckler (although the listings of players are incomplete). I could find no reference at all to these poker chips in any book. It appears that different colors were used in making chips of the players. For example, the poker chip of Hank Edwards was made in both dark green and light green. The poker chips seem remarkably durable given their age. None of mine are scratched or dinged.
I imagine they were originally sold on a stand-up cardboard display. Unless someone locates the manifest of players featured, the only way the hobby will learn of the complete set is piece by piece as they turn up. The fact that some of mine came as dangles to baseball pinback buttons adds to the intrigue. All of the pinbacks were of the same design, the classic 1.25” crossed bats. Some of them are presented in my book. Vendors who added the poker chips as dangles to the team pinbacks produced a most elegant souvenir. It would not surprise me if the cost of the poker chip was greater than the cost of the pinback to which it was attached.
I would welcome any additional players to the list, as well as any information as to the manufacturer.
Next up: The Pins of Jackie Robinson