In 1906, Fan Craze produced what would become arguably the most popular and collectible gaming card issue with the WG-2 and WG-3 sets. Those two releases can really be considered as one set since WG-2 featured American League players and WG-3 focused on the National League. The cards featured portraits of players and each set included numerous Hall of Famers. But while those cards are undoubtedly more popular, Fan Craze actually created a set that predated those and isn’t as known to collectors today. Here’s a bit more on the 1904 Fan Craze set.
1904 Fan Craze Basics
Before the 1906 sets, Fan Craze first created a game in 1904. The dates have caused some confusion over the years as some sources have cited the WG-2 American League set as being produced in 1904. That, however, is incorrect. Both WG-2 and WG-3 were made in 1906 as is reflected by the rosters of players on their current teams even though copyrights may have been held earlier. The 1904 cards are entirely different from those two issues.
The biggest knock on the 1904 set is that it didn’t include specific players as was the case in 1906. The popularity of the 1906 sets is due largely to the actual images and names of players printed on them. There’s no such allure with the 1904 cards.
The cards are standard playing card and trading card size at about 2 1/2″ wide x 3 1/2″ tall. As playing cards, they have rounded corners and, as is the case with other gaming card issues, can often be found in great shape if the game was not played frequently.
The best part about the backs is the descriptive Fan Craze logo print. Printed in red, it really pops off the card and is a bit more alluring than the 1906 issues, which utilized a more basic font inside of a baseball. The fronts included mostly actions that were used to physically play the game. But while there are no specific players in the set, there are several cards that feature an unidentified batter. If you’re not completely married to the idea of only having cards in your collection with named players, it’s actually a pretty great image of a mustachioed player in an old uniform ready to bat at a makeshift plate.
The entire set includes 48 game cards along with several others that included advertisements for Fan Craze as well as instruction on how to score a game.
1904 Fan Craze Game
While the cards are collectable today, don’t forget that the cards were part of an actual game. A common theme among gaming companies in that era (just as it is today, I imagine) was to pitch to collectors the idea that the game was a true simulation of the real thing. Other companies through the years would use players as spokesmen to make that pitch.
The cards were packaged in a box with that aforementioned batter on the front and the Fan Craze logo. It was sold for $.50 and advertised as ‘The Game that sets them all A-Going’ and ‘The Great Pocket Edition of the National Game.’ In addition to the cards, the game included a board (that measured 4 3/8″ wide x 6″ tall) with nails/pegs to keep track of the action on a simulated field. Finally, some score cards were included and additional ones could be bought from the company for five cents.
The game was really designed for four players but it could be played by as many as eight with an extra deck of the cards. In a four-person game, two players would comprise a team. Each player would receive five cards with the remainder of the cards being placed in a pile upside down on the playing surface. The batting team then plays a card and replaces it with a card from the pile. They continue doing this until either the deck runs out or three outs are accumulated. That would be repeated until nine innings have been played or the game is decided in extra innings.
1904 Fan Craze Prices
The 1904 Fan Craze cards are considerably cheaper than the 1906 issues. The problem is that the 1904 cards are either rarer or simply not up for sale as often. My guess is that it’s the former since the company likely produced fewer sets before determining if sales would be successful.
Most 1904 Fan Craze action cards can be found in mid-grade condition for around $10 each. Better conditioned cards that are graded will sell for a little more but prices are rarely too expensive. The biggest demand is for the cards that feature the generic image of the batter, of which there are 11 total. Even those can generally be found for around $20-$25.
Complete games are also found for sale from time to time. Those depend on condition but mid-grade sets complete with the box, board, etc., usually start around $150-$200.
You can see some 1904 Fan Craze cards for sale on eBay by clicking here. As you can see, sellers do sometimes mistakenly list the 1906 set as “1904”.