New Zeenuts

Another small pre-war card pickup from Anson. Unlike the previous Calcio Storico card this time it’s actually baseball cards. Not just any baseball cards either but Zeenuts. I have a soft spot for these due to finding a pair of 1917 ones at my grandmothers’ but they’re not that easy to find.

Both cards I got were of San Francisco Seals. It’s of course tempting to just grab any card but focus is key to collecting. Collecting the Seals makes sense since I already collect the Giants. There’s no searchlist or anything—the idea of collecting all Seals cards is ludicrous. Instead it’s an informal type collection that I’m content to add a card or two to when I encounter them.

This one is a 1928 card of Seals manager Nick Williams. It’s beat up in what I refer to as “Zeenut condition.”* A bit rough but enough photo details are still visible that you can make out his face and see the uniform details. That Seals logo in particular is one that I’ve loved ever since I first saw photos of baseball before the Giants came to town.

*I’ve proposed changing the grading scale to be less like coins and more like the Mohs scale. In this scale a 1 would be represented by the typical Zeenut condition of multiple creases, a bite out of a least one corner, and some paper loss. No idea why Zeenuts, more than any other card, seem to get beat up so badly.

1928 was a good year for the Seals. They won the PCL with one of the best Minor League teams of all time. I’m not sure how much Williams had to do with how good the teams was—it was clearly stacked with players like Hall of Famer Earl Averill. But the manager is the manager and traditionally gets a decent amount of credit.

Googling around suggests that Williams lost his position in 1931 after getting into a fight with the team trainer. Whether he quit or was fired appears to still be a point of contention. Needless to say things did not end nicely despite the on-field success.

The second Zeenut is in fact a 1931 card of catcher Pop Penebsky. Yes it appears that Zeenut misspelled his name. Penebsky is one of 5 catchers the Seals used that season as they won another PCL title. I can’t find out much more about Penebsky as a player though.

This is actually a very good condition Zeenut. The rip at the bottom is fine since it just means that the coupon got removed sloppily. There’s nothing else really wrong wit the card aside from the mistrim. Photo quality is very nice. You can make out the same cool Seals logo and see that the caps are Super-simple.

Anson also tossed in a bonus card to go with the pair of Zeenuts. This is from the 1922 Will’s Cigarettes Do You Know set and is a kind of gorgeous example of chromolithography. At first the idea of a “Blue Sky” card is kind of silly—plenty of jokes on Twitter about this being especially exotic for England—but flipping it over shows that it’s much cooler than that.

In this case the card is really why the sky is blue. This is a set designed to teach people things. Typical pre-war wonderfulness in embracing the educational potential of trading cards. Wills even ran four series of these so you can get a couple hundred mini lessons if you collect them all.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

7 thoughts on “New Zeenuts”

  1. I’m not a Giants fan… but I’d love to own at least one vintage SF Seals card as a way of honoring my love for the Bay Area. Maybe one day I’ll stumble across a Joe DiMaggio Zeenut card while walking around the flea market ;)

    1. Seems like an Oaks card would be more your style (there are some Billy Martin ones (Signal Oil and Remar Bread) that are kind of spendy but very cool for Oakland fans). I have four Seals cards now (three Zeenuts and a 1952 Mothers Cookies) and they all make me very happy.

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