If you were a baseball-loving youngster 80 years ago and mom and dad’s bank account hadn’t been devastated by the Great Depression, you would have loved getting one for your birthday. “The National Game” was a board game issued by S&S, a Chicago-based company that marketed them at youngsters. Today, the 1936 S&S baseball cards that came with it are among the most affordable pre-War issues in the marketplace.
The cards featured 52 big league stars of the day including 19 Hall of Famers and were the key part of playing the game. Various plays are listed on each end of the 2 ¼” x 3 ½” cards with the player’s picture and biographical stats underneath. The corners are rounded to simulate playing cards. The backs are simply a solid color (green or cream).
The checklist includes the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott, Charlie Gehringer, Bill Dickey, Chuck Klein, the Waner Brothers, Luke Appling and Frank Frisch. Lou Gehrig wasn’t part of the set, which is somewhat disappointing but also keeps the cost of completion a bit lower.
A large find of complete sets by dealer Bruce Yeko in the 1960s has kept the supply of higher grade 1936 S&S Game cards high enough to where even near mint examples of the biggest names are often available for under $50. In fact, according to Robert Edward Auctions, Yeko’s Wholesale Cards business sold complete sets for under $20 until the early 1970s, when the supply ran out.
Labeled WG8 in the American Card Catalog, the images used in the set are the same as those you’ll see on the much rarer Home Run Candy Bar set that was also issued in 1936.
While the S&S cards are plentiful, you don’t often see the rest of the board game, which came in two sizes. A few complete games—including the cards—have sold at auction in recent years. The boards came with several pegs and a board that would track player movements based on the card drawn by those who were playing the game.
Complete games, including the cards, typically sell for $500-$900 depending on condition.
Higher grade complete sets of cards can often be purchased for around $500 with lesser grade sets costing even less.
The game included a slip announcing an essay contest in which kids could tell the company “What I like best about The National Game”. Cash prizes were offered. At a rough time in the nation’s history that was probably a pretty good incentive for kids who grab a piece of paper and a pencil.
There are several 1936 S&S Game cards listed on Amazon. See them here.