Tattoo Chewing Gum

Tattoo Chewing Gum Tattoo Chewing Gum was produced by the Orbit Gum Co. in about 1932-33. Not quite technically a card set per se, it featured not only cards featuring 'undeveloped' photos of movie stars and baseball players, but also tattoos (hence the name), stickers, and play money, not to mention the piece of gum, and all for one cent.

Known to the baseball card-collecting community as 'Tattoo Orbit,' and given the American Card Catalog number of R308, this series isn't fully documented and - given its age and variety of items - complete sets are unknown.

The photo cards ('Surprise Photos') are similar to Topps's Magic Photos in that they are printed with a special process so that kids could 'develop' the photos themselves by moistening the cards and then rubbing them with blotting paper. The baseball photos, which are much more accurately catalogued, number between 151 and 210 (although there are still a handful that are unknown). The celebrity cards (which feature movie stars but also other famous persons such as boxer Max Baer) are known to be numbered up to at least 100, so it is likely that the first 150 cards probably contain celebrities.

Play Money was also inserted into some packs. Denominated in terms of 'Smackers' (slang for a kiss) instead of dollars, the play dollars were more common in smaller amounts, such as 1-Smacker bills, although 100-Smacker examples have also been found. The money is green on the obverse (featuring the portrait of a pirate on either side of the central bill amount), and orange on the reverse. The Smackers have their own ACC designation, R308-2.

The wrappers were themselves also collectable, in that they came with three different items printed on the reverse: a line drawing of a pirate-related scene, a fortune, or a piece of a treasure map. The wrappers also featured different illustrations, and came in one of three colors, yellow, blue, and green, although yellow seems to be the most common. The wrappers carry the ACC number R308-3.

A glance at the illustration at right shows that none of the above are mentioned, although the illustrated wrapper corresponds to what we know about packs containing the above items. This - along with other details - would seem to indicate that Tattoo Chewing Gum came in at least three different series, possibly spread out between 1932 and (say) 1936, with different items being offered with each series.

Value: It's best to take a release like this and give values for the individual components, since they are mostly found individually, and different collectors focus on different pieces. The Smacker bills can generally bring between $10.00 and $50.00 each in Excellent condition. The wrappers generally can be found at about $25.00 to $30.00 each. The celebrity photos can bring between $10.00 and $25.00 each, if developed well enough that the image and name can be recognized easily. The developing instruction cards themselves can bring $10.00 each.

This leaves the baseball photos, which while not known to that many modern baseball card collectors, are nevertheless in some demand for collectors of pre-war cards. These can bring anywhere between $50.00 and $500.00 depending on the condition of the card, the clarity of the developed photo, the popularity of the player shown, etc. Note: There is a more mainstream set of baseball cards from Orbit Gum for 1933; these are regular-photo baseball cards (not the 'undeveloped' sort) which are colored on front and back, and carry the American Card Catalog number of R305.