Sports cards are generally classified based on whether they’re pre-war or post-war.
Pre-war cards are those cards that were printed before the start of World War I or World War II. That means any card printed before 1939 classifies as a pre-war card. These cards are highly sought after and are of interest to collectors from across the nation. This makes them the perfect bet if you’re looking to flip some cards.
What differentiates them from post-war cards is they were usually sold packaged with various items. They were not the main attraction. For example, many cards were packaged with cigarettes, candy, publications, food-related items, etc. This was used as a fun marketing strategy for tobacco and food companies and was wildly successful. This also means that they were generally smaller in size than today’s cards.
Now, there’s a common misconception that because of their rarity and value, pre-war cards are expensive and aren’t meant for beginner traders.
That’s not quite true. In fact, you can start off your pre-war sports card collection for as little as $200.
Here’s a list of 5 cards that you can start with:
This remains the most iconic pre-war sports card set so it is a must for any collector. These cards were issued from 1909 to 1911. They were part of a marketing gimmick by American Tobacco Company and were sold in cigarettes and loose tobacco packs.
This set remains the most popular set of sports cards because of its rarity and value. It also features 524 different cards and gives you an exciting set of choices to pick from. It is also extremely appealing because it features many Baseball Hall of Fame members including Ty Cobb (who is pictured on 4 different cards), Walter Johnson, Cy Young, and Christy Mathewson.
The most expensive card ever sold, for a whopping $3.12 million dollars – the 1909 T206 Honus Wagner also belongs to this iconic set.
But you don’t have to pay nearly as much to start your collection. These cards are still quite easy to find, and you can collect a decent copy of a graded card for around $30 online.
Another landmark set of pre-war sports cards is the T205 set. This was also issued by 11 different brands under the American Tobacco Company. It has 220 different cards across three different leagues: the American, National, and Minor Leaguers. These cards are known for their gold leaf borders and feature different designs for each league. There are also cards by 27 hall of fame players including Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson.
These cards represent the 2nd most popular set and are also available at around $30 apiece.
1933 Goudey Card
The Goudey Gum Company was a chewing gum company that printed multiple sets of baseball cards. These cards were sold along with bubblegum in each pack. The 1933 Goudey set is considered one of the “Big Three” classic baseball card sets, along with the T206 and 1952 Topps sets, so it’s a must-have for your pre-war collection.
The 240 card set printed in 1933 is also called the “Big League Chewing Gum” and features legends like Napoleon Lajoie and Babe Ruth.
The gum card era lasted through the 1930s but the original 1933 set remains the flagship set. While the more popular cards from this set are now quite expensive, you can still add a common card to your collection for around $15.
1932 Sanella Set
The 1932 Sanella set was issued by a margarine company in Germany. These cards are much smaller in size and are often compared to small photographs instead. The big attraction to this set is a card of the legendary Babe Ruth because it’s on the affordable side of Babe Ruth cards.
The downside to these cards is that they are extremely thin and can tear or bend easily. That means extra work on your part to make sure it’s stored safely. Because of this, prices for these cards remain on the lower side. You can get your hands on a Babe Ruth card in mid-grade condition for about $100 which is extremely attractive for a Babe Ruth card.
W560 Strip Cards
The W560 Strip Cards is an attractive set for collectors who are looking to save cash while getting the most attractive cards. This set was issued in 1927. The front includes athletes from various sports along with card numbers and suits that resemble a deck of playing cards. They are unique because they were issued on sheets in only red and black ink.
49 out of 64 cards in the set are of baseball players and gives you a good variety to choose from. These cards are also easy to find for sale and you can add a piece to your collection for about $20.
Where Can You Buy Pre War Cards?
It’s true that pre-war cards are much rarer to find. You might only be able to check these out at bigger trade shows and card shops. However, they’re much easier to find online and you can often find a number of sellers selling the same card at different prices.
If you’re interested in buying one of these cards, head on over to eBay and start your pre-war collection today.
You can also find the reports we’ve written about individual cards in our archive. We regularly cover interesting cards in detail.
If you have any questions, or just want to chat with a fellow sportscard enthusiast, feel free to drop a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always looking forward to having a chat with our readers.