It was the tail end of Ruth, the final heroics of Gehrig and the beginning of Feller, DiMaggio and Williams. It was Connie Mack’s A’s and the Gas House Gang. You can blow a big wad of cash commemorating the 1930s but there are a lot of great ones throughout the decade, many picturing Hall of Famers, that won’t put a hole in your wallet.
We’ve come up with a list of 10 1930s baseball cards, selected to represent most of the major issues from the decade, with an eye on player selection and card quality. Our list is geared toward the collector for whom a VG-EX type card is just fine. Our budget is around $1300, give or take a little. We have no doubt that serious collectors could make their own lists and they’d include ten completely different issues but we also think you can’t go wrong with this group.
Click the title of each card to see what’s available on eBay.
1932 U.S. Caramel George Earnshaw. You only need one hand to count the players in this set that aren’t Hall of Famers. It’s loaded like no other set in history and even includes a few non-baseball subjects. Earnshaw is one of only a few ‘commons’ in this set but he was feared by hitters during the era. Lefty Grove is a Hall of Famer, but Earnshaw’s numbers during the A’s run under Connie Mack were comparable and they formed a dynamic one-two punch. Earnshaw was a star, even if a lot of casual fans have no idea who he was. His 1932 U.S. Caramel card is not easy to find but with patience, a decent one can be had for $150 or less.
1932 Sanella Babe Ruth. His Goudey cards run north of $1,000 even in very low-grade but the Sanella Margarine Ruth cards are well within most budgets. They’re plentiful–it seems a find was made quite a long time ago–and we don’t really see the much of Babe’s face on this artist’s work but it is The Babe and if you want a card from his playing days for under $200, this is the one.
1933 Tattoo Orbit Dizzy Dean. Most of the cards on this list can be found in VG-EX grade for under $175 but this one might stretch that a bit and it’s not offered very often. It’s a rookie card of Ol’ Diz, dating from the time when he was young Diz, ace hurler for the Cardinals and Hall of Famer in the making. Tattoo Orbit cards were in penny packages of gum that was produced by Wrigley’s. It’s a unique looking set with great backgrounds.
1933 Goudey Leo Durocher. Cards from this set are not hard to find and that’s why they’re not that expensive. Durocher’s very long, very colorful career in baseball included a stint with those famed Cardinals teams and this is an easy one to pick up.
1934-36 Batter-Up Carl Hubbell. You can’t have a list of 1930s cards without including King Carl and while many of them are pricey, the Batter-Up set isn’t bad. Issued over a three-year period, these were blank backed and meant to be folded so they could ‘stand up’.
Using actual photos rather than art created from photos as was very common during the early 30s, National Chicle created a very nice set that’s exhaustive to collect. They’ve got Hubbell showing off his high leg kick and we can’t think of many better looking cards from the 1930s than this one. Spectacular…and you can usually own one for under $100 if you are patient and don’t need a minty one. Yes, please.
1934-36 Diamond Stars Mel Ott. Another Chicle issue, the Diamond Stars show off the art deco craze that was very hip at the time. Ruth and Gehrig aren’t in this set, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your viewpoint. Ott is, however, and he’s in his prime here. Interestingly, he isn’t wearing a cap. Hard to believe, but you can find a pretty solid example of one of baseball’s greatest players for around a hundred bucks.
1935 Goudey Mickey Cochrane/Charlie Gehringer. Trying to find a way to grab kids’ attention, Goudey put four players on one card in ’35. Apparently it wasn’t that big of a hit, but the set isn’t very popular with vintage collectors today so prices remain reasonable. This one features two Hall of Famers who plied their trade for the Tigers and you can buy one for around $75 pretty easily.
1936 Goudey Wally Berger. In ’36, Goudey went black-and-white and shrunk their set yet again. Why Wally Berger? Well, he’s the #1 card in the set, sitting there with a great smile on his face and secondly, when Mark McGwire broke the MLB rookie home run record, this is the guy who had owned it for more than 50 years. Named to the first four All-Star Games, Babe Ruth loved him as a player. If you prefer, the same photo was used for his 1936 Goudey Premium, which is larger. This is the cheapest card on our list but a great one to own.
1937 Goudey Wide-Pen Bobby Doerr. Premiums were a huge thing in the 1930s. Kids collected wrappers and sent them in for cards that were supposedly bigger and better. Many times, the premium sets are cheaper and the ’37 Wide-Pen Doerr is not only inexpensive, it’s a great looking image and it’s his rookie card…the only living Hall of Famer whose rookie card was issued prior to World War II.
1939 Play Ball Charlie Gehringer. Somehow we have to have the Mechanical Man in this list and the ’39 Play Ball will enable you to own a very nice example for under $75. Not difficult to find and not the most exciting card in the world in terms of design, but at 75 years old, bargain priced vintage cards don’t get much better than that.