Why would a set issued by "Texas Gold Ice Cream" feature the Cincinnati Reds? There is, of course, an easy answer. That easy answer is that "Texas Gold Ice Cream" is a registered trademark -- and therefore it is a store brand -- of one of the world's largest grocery retailers, The Kroger Company, and The Kroger Company has its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Kroger was founded in 1883 in Cincinnati by Bernard Kroger. It is a massive enterprise now -- supposedly, it is the second-largest private employer in the United States with approximately 443,000 employees. Its own website states that it has 2,800 stores in 35 states under two dozen different store names, and many of these locations include fuel centers and pharmacies. Kroger trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "KR." The company has dozens of subsidiaries as well, as this SEC filing shows.
Kroger filed for the "Texas Gold" trademark on April 17, 1984. It went through the registration process, which involves publication to seek people who oppose the trademark (by claiming an early use, usually...of course, I'm not a trademark lawyer) and was officially registered as of June 18, 1985. The obvious point here is that this was intended to be a store brand ice cream for Kroger to market itself.
As the link above states, Kroger did not renew its trademark for Texas Gold within the grace period allowed by law. As a result, the trademark is "unrevivable." What that means is not that the trademark is dead forever and cannot become active again, but rather anyone who wishes to use the trademark again would have to start the process over from scratch rather than being able simply to renew the mark.
In the interest of completeness, here's a cringe-worthy (to me at least) television ad for Texas Gold Ice Cream from the mid-1980s featuring a doo-wop song.
The 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards gives some important relevant details, even if Bob Lemke and his team did not have the luxury of spending part of a day Googling trademarks to find the tie between Kroger and Texas Gold. As the SCBC says, these cards were given out to Cincinnati Reds fans who attended the September 19, 1986 game between the Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Reds were the better team at the time -- though neither the Reds (at 74-73 and 11 games behind the Houston Astros) nor the Dodgers (with a 69-78 record, 16 games back) were very good at all. Just 18,696 people attended this Friday Night game, which saw John Franco blow a win for Ted Power by giving up 5 earned runs and 6 hits over the eighth and ninth innings. The Reds finished out the rest of the year fairly strongly, finishing 10 games over .500 at 86-76.
It's almost unfortunate that the Reds and Kroger had to finalize the checklist when they did. Had they been able to wait just a little longer, this set would have featured the first ever big-league card for Barry Larkin (who actually hit his second big league homer off Rick Honeycutt in the fifth inning of the September 19, 1986 game).
The set itself is quite plain, as you can see. A very simple design which makes the photos the important part of the card. The cards suffer from a lack of variation in the photos used -- basically every pitcher is shown on the mound at Riverfront Stadium and every position player is shown hitting. Other than uniform numbers, the cards are not numbered. This leads to a "variation," as you can see below.
HALL OF FAMERS
Thanks to Pete Rose's gambling indiscretions, this card features only one Hall of Famer: the venerable Tony Perez, whose last game in the major leagues came on October 5, 1986 at the age of 44 years and 144 days old.
Because the set uses uniform numbers, each of the three Pete Rose cards is numbered 14. He is pictured hitting, in a closeup labeled as Manager, and on a third card commemorating his 4192nd hit. That card is the only card to feature a photo credit on the back.
For obvious geographical/location reasons, I did not have this set in my collection in the 1980s. To be clear, I did not even know that this set existed until I was looking for a set to write-up this afternoon.
It is one of those sets, though, that intrigues me. It's a regional set I have never seen in person. It makes me wonder, though, how many of these sets are out in the hobby and how many were given away. Did all 18,696 people get the set? Were there leftovers? How many? What happened to those? Were there any in-store tie-ins to this set?
What leads me to believe that these were both somewhat limited and that any extras were destroyed is the fact that these are hardly available at all on eBay. There is a complete set available for $49.99 and a couple of singles available through the COMC/eBay tie in. Otherwise, there is bupkis. Nada. Zero.
It seems like this set is a must-have for Reds fans, but it is also a difficult one to find.