Looking for a relatively cheap pre-War baseball set? Try this rare little gem.
The Butterfinger candy bar was invented in 1923 by the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago. 11 years later, buying one for a nickel got you a nifty 7 3/4″ x 9 1/2″ photo of a baseball star.
The 1934 Butterfinger baseball card set doesn’t get the same respect as its more popular cousins in the realm of pre-War baseball issues, but it’s also not going to force you into bankruptcy if you decide to collect it.
A complete Butterfinger set consists of just 65 cards, with only one variation, no real scarcities and a nice collection of Hall of Famers. The full run won’t likely be available at your local mall show, but the guide prices have the common cards in the set available at $20-40, slightly higher for better copies. Even the stars–with the exception of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig–can be had for $75-200 each; a better bargain than the Goudey sets of the same era and much more scarce.
The problem with the 1934 Butterfinger cards, of course, is that they aren’t really “cards”. They were advertised as photos by the Curtiss folks and that’s exactly what they are. Printed on paper stock, they’re very brittle and prone to corner and edge wear. After years of less than ideal storage, the outer edges have even been known to peel away much like the pages of an old magazine or document.
The Butterfinger issue includes facsimile autographs of the players and are blank-backed. Besides Ruth and Gehrig, the set includes Walter Johnson, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, Lefty Grove, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Al Simmons, the Waner brothers, Jim Bottomley (spelled Bottomly but never corrected), Mickey Cochrane, Dizzy Dean and Jimmie Foxx. The latter card has a variation–one with his name spelled incorrectly and another with the proper spelling.
Baseball fans could also get these vintage baseball pictures with the purchase of other candy bars too. At the point of purchase, there were sturdier, cardboard versions of some of the photos. Much more scarce, they sell for roughly four times the price of a regular issue ’34 Butterfinger and carry the Butterfinger logo. There was a slightly smaller sized Butterfinger set originating in Canada. The set includes 58 players including several who don’t appear in the American version. A group of 50 different sold last year at auction for $3525.
Known by its catalog designation of R310, the 1934 Butterfinger issue will take a small amount of patience, but is one of the more attainable sets that’s big enough to feature most of the era’s well-known players. It’s worth a look if you’re in need of a new challenge.
Single premiums and several cardboard counter displays showing various players are often available on eBay. Click here to see what’s up for sale now.