Pre-War Baseball Cards Page
T206 White Border Honus Wagner 1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth
On this page we are going to showcase Pre-war baseball cards. What we mean by "Pre-war" cards are cards that were produced before the United States entered into World
War II. Baseball cards began appearing in the late 1800's as premiums for tobacco products. The idea later blossomed into candy and gum baseball cards. Most vintage
cards today are usually classified as "Pre" or "Post-War" issues. The War put a significant halt on baseball card production from 1942-1947. Cards began appearing in
major issues beginning in 1948 with the Bowman and Leaf gum cards. Hence, on this page we are only going to feature baseball cards that were issued in the 1800's
through 1941. If you are an older collector maybe these will bring back some fond memories. And if you are a newer collector maybe you will get an appreciation of the older
cards. But no matter your age, or if you are a collector or not. If you love baseball, you gotta love these cards!
This 1869 Peck & Snyder Red Stocking Club of Cincinnati card was recently discovered in a box of antiques that an elderly couple had been storing. The lady put the card on eBay and was
more than surprised when offers and questions started coming fast and furious. So she pulled the card from the auction early to see what the fuss was about. Turns out this is one of the earliest
baseball cards ever produced. The card was submitted to PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators) for authentication and was put up in a major auction house. It sold for well over $100,000.
1869 Peck & Snyder Red Stocking Baseball Club of Cincinnati (PSA Authentic)
1887 Allen & Ginter's Cigarettes Adrian C. Anson (Back view with checklist)
In 1887 Allen & Ginter's Cigarettes issued these beautiful color cards; one card per each box of cigarettes. The set was called "The World's Champions" and featured Baseball Players, Prize
Fighters, Pool Players, even "Rifle Shooters." Big names includes baseball players Cap Anson & Mike "King" Kelly, Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, and famous gun shooter Annie
Oakley. As you can imagine, it is very rare to find these cards; even rarer to find them in high grades. This Adrian "Cap" Anson card is graded EX+ (by SGC), very high for a card that is over
120 years old.
Old Judge was another popular cigarette (remember back then smoking was not "taboo" like it is today) that issued baseball player picture cards. The Old Judge cards featured actual
photography; albeit not in color. It is really remarkable to see what these players from 1887 looked like. While nothing like today's uniforms, they still consisted of stockings, baseball
pants, jersey and ball cap. Like any baseball cards from this era, expect to pay premiums for Hall of Fame players and high grade cards.
1911 T205 Ty Cobb (Piedmont Cigarette back)
Among the most popular baseball cards from the early 1900's are the "T206 White Border" and "T205 Gold Border" cigarette cards. The T206 White Border set was the first major baseball
card set. It included hundreds of unnumbered cards, featuring Hall of Famers, stars, common players, even Southern and Federal League players. "T206" or "T205" refers to the assigned
"Catalog number" that was assigned by an early (& dedicated) collector. "T" refers to "Tobacco cards" and the number was that assigned to each set. The T205 cards feature terrific color cards
of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and many more Hall of Fame players. The borders are colored with a fragile "gold" ink, which chips very easily and shows the slightest
wear Again, high grades are extremely expensive, especially the big names. Most cards from this era (or earlier) are commonly found in VG (Very Good) or less. Back then there were no
plastic holders to store cards; in fact cards were not "worth" money like they are today. Like the T206 White Border cards, the T205 Gold Border cards have a variety of different cigarette
brands on the card backs, some of which are very scarce.
Assorted T206 White Border cigarette cards
Without a doubt, the most popular tobacco cards from the turn of the century are the T206 "White Border" picture cards. Issued from 1909-1911 the set was massive, containing at least 525 cards
(including both Major & Minor League players). This does not include variations which would include the various tobacco backs and printing variations as well. Unless you are an Arab Sheik, Bill
Gates, or the latest "American Idol" winner, you can forget about completing this set. There are many very, very rare cards in the set including Eddie Plank, Sherry Magie error (should be Magee
and the so-called "Holy Grail" of baseball cards, the T206 Honus Wagner, which has sold for as much as 2.8 MILLION DOLLARS (the highest known graded example is a PSA 8 NM-MT once
owned by Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall). Even low graded examples sell for six figures; the 2011 Sports Collector's Digest Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (Krause Publications) I have lists
even a poor condition Wagner at $270,000! You can buy a nice home with some land in some states for that much (though not in California)! There are only about 50 known examples of the T206
Honus Wagner card. There are other baseball cards that are much more rare, but the Wagner is considered THE TOP CARD in the hobby with the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle coming a close
1909-1911 T206 White Border
Allen & Ginter Cigarettes
Old Judge Cigarettes
1911 T205 Gold Border
1910-1911 T3 Turkey Red
1910-11 T3 Turkey Red Christy Mathewson
The 1910-1911 Turkey Red "Cabinet" cards are among the most beautiful cards ever produced. They are large sized
cards (5-3/4" x 8") feature a colorful player portrait and grey "framed" borders. The cards were acquired by sending in a
coupon from Turkey Red and other assorted tobacco products. Many of these over sized cards exhibit wear and many you
find with pinholes or other damage from pinning them on walls or pasting them in albums. Surviving examples are still
highly sought after. The set included baseball players (remember, baseball WAS the "National Pastime") and also some
prize fighters as well.
1912 T202 Hassan Cigarettes #47 Devlin Gets His Man (center) with Chief Meyers (left) and Christy Mathewson (right)
No, Topps Chewing Gum did not start "Team cards." As you can see from the first baseball card at the top of this page, Team cards have been around since, well, the beginning of baseball cards. In
1913 Fatima Turkish Blend Cigarettes issued these team cards. The above example features the Brooklyn Baseball Club, also known as the "Grays (very early)," "Grooms," "Superbas," "Robins,"
"Trolley Dodgers," and later the "Brooklyn Dodgers." Check out the above card as there are a few Hall of Famers in there including a very young Casey Stengel ("Stengle," back row, 2nd from left)
and Zach Wheat (2nd row, 3rd from right). Now how about some Candy cards from the early 19th Century...
1912 T202 Hassan
1913 Fatima Cigarettes
1914-1915 Cracker Jack
|1914 Cracker Jack #37 Grover Alexander 1914 Cracker Jack #22 Joe Wood (Back view)
Probably the most popular of the "candy" issues are the 1914-1915 Cracker Jack Ball Players cards. Yes the same caramel-popcorn-peanuts concoction that is in the 7th inning stretch ballpark
anthem "Take Me Out To The Ball Game ("...Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks... I don't care... if I ever get back..."). Candy makers saw the popularity of baseball cards in tobacco products and
decided to go after the REAL baseball card collectors...the KIDS! It was only logical. Kids wanted cards and kids wanted candy. What better way to get kids to shell out their coins than to include baseball
picture cards with the candy! And shell out the coins the kids did. Now they didn't have to ask their Pop or Granddad for the cards from tobacco packages. Now they could just go to the neighborhood store
and buy their own cards with candy! It must have been like Christmas every day! Cracker Jacks is still going strong, though the toy "surprise" inside every box is pretty cheap. But back in 1914 & 1915,
you could pull out these beautiful cards out of the box and today they are real treasures. Expensive too, even in lower grades (which is the norm). Here are a couple of examples from the 1914 Cracker
Jack set, Grover "Cleveland" Alexander and "Smokey" Joe Wood. All of the Cracker Jack cards from 1914-15 have red backgrounds. Back around the early 1990's or so, Cracker Jacks put "miniature"
Topps baseball cards as the "Toy Surprise," but as everything around this time period was mass-produced, there is little demand for those "newer" Cracker Jack cards today.
American Caramel Company
1922 E120 American Caramel Co. Rogers Hornsby 1922 E121 American Caramel Co. Ty Cobb 1922 Neilson's Chocolate (V61) #47 Walter Johnson
Another very popular candy issue are the American Caramel Company baseball cards produced in the 1920's. The cards were somewhat similar to Tobacco cards but featured sepia-toned or
black & white images of the players. They pale in comparison to the colorful T206 or T205 cigarette cards, but they featured the big stars like Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby (see above left) as
well as early cards of up and coming stars, like a certain George Herman Ruth. These cards, like most vintage cards especially in this time period are commonly found in lower grades. Creasing,
rounded corners, and candy stains are fairly common. Expect to pay a premium for high grade examples. Most have hear the name Ty Cobb, he was the All-Time Hits Leader (4,189 career base
hits) until Pete Rose broke his record decades later, but Cobb is still owner of the highest lifetime batting mark (.366). Rogers Hornsby was the first of the slugging second basemen, he belted 301
career HRs (with a career high of 42 in 1922), but what really set him apart was his high batting marks including three different seasons of batting .400 or higher. Hornsby won 6 consecutive
batting titles from 1920-1925 and here is what those averages were: .370, .397, .401, .384, .424, .403. He won one more batting title in 1928 (.387) for a total of 7 Batting Crowns and finished
his career with a lifetime batting mark of .358 (2nd All-Time behind Cobb). One of the greatest right-handed hitters ever!
Very similar to the American Caramel cards are the Neilson's Chocolate cards. Note the similarities between the 1922 American Caramel Rogers Hornsby (left) and the 1922 Neilson's
Chocolate Walter Johnson card (right).
1932 U.S. Caramel
1932 U.S. Caramel #30 Frank "Frankie" Frisch (Back view)
The 1932 U.S. Caramel Company of East Boston, Massachusetts produced these terrific cards which featured "famous athletes." Most of these were baseball players. And what a line-up! You have
cards of Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth and many other Hall of Fame players. Also included in the set were prize fighters like the Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. These cards are scarce
today and expensive (note the price tag on this mid-grade Frankie Frisch card above). Like the 1914-1915 Cracker Jack cards, the background on these cards is red. Now, how about some GUM
Neilson's Chocolate (V61)
|1933 DeLong Gum #5 Charlie Gehringer 1933 DeLong Gum Co. #6 Mickey Cochrane (Back view)
1933 DeLong Gum Company
In the decade of the 1930's, the focus of baseball cards turned to the gum makers. And while candy and tobacco companies continued to issue cards with their products, the gum cards really took off in the 1930's.
This was primarily due to the huge success of the Goudey Gum Company of, yes, Boston MA. Goudey produced sets in 1933-35, and in 1938 and these are among the most popular Pre-war gum cards without a
doubt. We will get to Goudey in a bit. But there were other Gum manufacturers as well including the DeLong Gum Company of, yep, Boston again. The DeLong cards were very innovative. They used a black
and white photo of the player in action with a colorized stadium in the background. The players seem to be "giants" of the game, which most of these players were. Very cool cards. Each card had a tip on the
reverse of how to play the game. I don't know what "chicle" is, but according to the back of this Mickey Cochrane card, "Play Ball Gum... contains real chicle." I'll have to find out about that. The real bummer is
that DeLong only produced this one set. DeLong did not produce a Babe Ruth card, while Goudey printed FOUR different Ruth cards in it's 1933 set. Maybe Goudey's set put DeLong out of business. It must
have been a tough rackett. Today, the 1933 DeLong Gum cards are ever popular, especially with "advanced" collectors who know a good thing when they see it.
1933-35, 1938 Goudey Gum Company, Boston MA
Without a doubt, the most popular Pre-war (WWll) gum cards are the Goudey Gum cards of the 1930's. Goudey produced major sets of big leaguers beginning in 1933 (fittingly in packages of "Big League Gum"). And what a
monster of a set! 4 different Babe Ruth cards, the biggest name in sports. 2 different Lou Gehrig cards. Plus stars like Jimmy Foxx, Joe Cronin, Carl Hubbell, Rogers Hornsby (1st row, center), Charlie Gehringer (1st row,
right), Mickey Cochrane and so much more! In 1934 Goudey cut down the size of the set but still featured 2 new Lou Gehrig cards (see 2nd row, left & center). The 1935 Goudey set, also known as Goudey "four in one"cards
featured 4 players per card (usually from the same team) and puzzle backs. Many of the pictures used were from earlier Goudey sets. The set is notable in that it contains the last card of Babe Ruth as an active player (see center
row, right). Ruth is pictured as a member of the Boston Braves but clearly the photo is from 1933 Goudey #181 Babe Ruth. In 1938 Goudey produced their famous "Head's Up" set, which featured large photos of the player's head on
a cartoon body. This set is notable as it contained the first major cards of both Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller. The Goudey Gum Company produced some memorable cards in their time. Not only did they produce these classic
baseball cards but they also experimented with cards of Native American Indians in a series called "Indian Gum." In 1933 Goudey also produced "Sport Kings Gum," a colorful set of "noted athletes and sportsmen," including a
few baseball players (Ty Cobb, Carl Hubbell, and Babe Ruth; see below). Goudey pushed the bar on baseball cards. No longer did you have to have simple black & white photography. Each year they came out with a different idea
and it's a shame they didn't make any more cards. In 1941 they produced a small set of cards which pale in comparison to earlier efforts but you also have to understand there was a War looming and the Nation's attention was
starting to shift towards Germany and Japan. In fact, Goudey issued a set of military aircraft gum cards in 1941. Goudey re-issued their "Indian Gum" cards in 1947 but that was it for Goudey Gum. Thankfully we have these
survivors to remind us of "our pastime," as it once was.
1933 Goudey Sport Kings Gum
1933 Goudey Sport Kings Gum #2 Babe Ruth (Back view)
Assorted 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Gum cards incl. Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Eddie Shore, Carl Hubbell and more!
1934-1936 National Chicle "Diamond Stars"
National Chicle produced a beautiful and classic set of baseball picture cards from 1934-36. Called "Diamond Stars," these
brightly colored cards are very sought after today and feature most (but not all) of the big stars of the day. Missing is Gehrig
and Ruth, but the set does include Jimmy Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, the Waner brothers (Lloyd & Paul Waner), and many
more Hall of Famers. National Chicle produced many other non-baseball related gum cards but sadly this was their only
1939-1941 Gum Inc. Play Ball
Gum Incorporated of Philadelphia PA was the next big player in gum cards. Beginning in 1939 Gum Inc. issued a "Play Ball - America" series of baseball cards. These used simple black & white
photographs and extensive biographies on back. While the baseball player picture cards were the most popular, Gum Inc. also produced popular non-sports cards as well including "Superman," "G-Men
& Heroes of the Law," "The Lone Ranger," "Wild West" cards, "Mickey Mouse" and much more. But their most famous set is the classic non-sports card set called "Horrors Of War (1938)." For more on
non-sports cards check out our Non-Sports Card Page. But for now let's concentrate on baseball. The 1939 Play Ball set contains the rookie card of a certain Theodore "Ted" Williams (1st row, left &
center) and also an early Joe DiMaggio card. DiMaggio and Williams were to be the "Ruth & Gehrig of the late 1930's through 1950's and their cards are the cornerstones of any Play Ball set. The 1940
Play Ball cards are very similar to the previous effort but featured a little more art work on the card front. Included in the set were some all-time greats including Carl Hubbell, Walter Johnson (1st
row, right), Christy Mathewson, George Sisler and a very desirable card of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, among others. In 1941 Gum Inc. really put some effort into the set by adding color to their black &
white images. The cards are a vast improvement over the 1939 and 1940 Play Ball cards. Most of the 1941 Play Ball cards used the same photos from 1940, but with the added color the cards really
stand out. Note the difference in the 1940 and 1941 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio cards (3rd row, left and center). 1941 was a big year for the game's two brightest stars. DiMaggio of course, went on to hit
in 56 straight games (still a record) and Williams batted .406, the last player to bat .400 in a season. Now imagine if the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 had not happened and Play ball
went on to produce more baseball card sets. Of course Pearl Harbor did happen, tragically, and America entered World War II. There was not to be another major issue of baseball cards from 1942-1947.
1941 Double Play
One gum issue that tends to get overlooked are the 1941 Double Play cards by Gum Products. The "Double Play"
cards featured two players per card. Images were simple sepia-toned photographs with brief write-ups underneath. The
backs are blank, maybe this is the reason for the cards not being as popular as the Play Ball cards (plus the lack of color!).
However this is an important set as it includes two different Ted Williams cards (portrait and an "action" shot with fellow
Hall of Fame member Joe Cronin; see right). The set also features Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Johnny
Mize and many more Hall of Famers including the rookie card of Harold "Pee Wee" Reese (above). Reese also had a rookie
card in the 1941 Play Ball color set, so take your pick. You can't go wrong with either one! It should be noted that many of
these Double Play cards were cut into "singles" by kids back then. You have to remember that cards were not "worth"
money like they are today and kids, well, kids will be kids. So cut them some slack.
1941 Double Play #23-24 Harold Reese, Kirby Higbe (Brooklyn Dodgers)
1941 Double Play #81-82 Ted Williams, Joe Cronin
The cards pictured above are in general, the most popular of the "Pre-war" baseball cards. Of course during this time there were thousands of other issues including tobacco
"coupon" cards, "W" cards (cards issued in "strips" with somewhat crude printing; most were cut into "single" cards by collectors), and so many more tobacco, candy and gum
issues. There are some key cards however that we are going to list below.
1909 - 1911 E90-1 American Caramel Joe Jackson
This card has an interesting story. This card was pasted into a composition book about 100 years ago along with a collection of misc. trading cards from the turn of the century. The cards and album
have stayed intact all these years. In 2010 the nephew of the original collector who had collected these cards contacted a major auction house and asked if the composition book with cards was "worth"
consigning for auction. Turns out the collection, while mostly non-sports had a few highly collectible baseball cards in there as well. One of them is this rare 1909-11 E90-1 American Caramel
Joe "Shoeless" Jackson card, which is considered his rookie card. Bingo. Even though Joe Jackson was banned from baseball for his involvement in the 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox scandal (they
conspired to "throw" the World Series that year for money) and is not in Baseball's Hall of Fame, he might as well be. He had a short career but his batting average was right up there with Cobb and
Rogers Hornsby. Even in that 1919 World Series Jackson batted close to .400. Regardless, Joe Jackson did not appear on many baseball cards and any Joe Jackson card is extremely desirable among
collectors. Expensive too. I don't know what the above card and collection sold for, and I really don't care. But it makes for a great story! "Say it ain't so Joe!!!"
Early 1900's scrapbook with trading cards pasted inside (including Joe Jackson rookie card!)
1909-11 E90-1 American Caramel Joe Jackson
1914 Baltimore Sun Babe Ruth
1914 Baltimore Sun Babe Ruth (yep, it's his rookie card!)
1910-11 T3 Turkey Red Frank Chance
T206 Eddie Plank T206 Honus Wagner
Here are two examples of the T206 Eddie Plank and Honus Wagner cards. I do NOT own them but I saw them listed on Bay (October 2011) with a price tag of $350,000 or "Best Offer." Both
examples had been authenticated (but not graded) by PSA. PSA determined the cards had been "ALTERED," which normally is the kiss of death to a card but not when you still have two real T206
"rarities." I don't know if they sold for what the seller was asking for them, but I do know you can count me out ("I'm just a poor boy, no-body loves me..." from "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen). Anyway
here are two of the most desired baseball cards in the hobby!
A couple of new books have recently been written about the classic T206 White Border set. This book, "The T206 Collection - The Players & Their Stories" features exactly that. I am going to
order a couple of these books for Christmas (& one for myself as well!). To order books, please go to www.T206players.com.