Many pre-war baseball (and all sports, for that matter) postcards featured generic subjects instead of specific players. Because of that, many of them can be found inexpensively. Even postcards from the early 1900s can be found for as little as $5-$10. That makes them a great target for collectors looking for cheap pre-war stuff.
The postcards that do show real players, of course, are worth considerably more. And one of the more popular sets of postcards were the Dietsche postcards, issued from 1907 through 1909. Let’s take a closer look at these sets.
About the 1907-09 Dietsche Postcards
The 1907-09 Dietsche Postcards were simple, black and white postcards. The fronts included an assortment of player photographs. They are listed as PC765 in the American Card Catalog, though, author Jefferson Burdick only classified them as a 1907 issue.
A distinguishing characteristic of the cards is that they featured only two teams — the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers. In 1907, postcards existed for both teams. In 1908 and 1909, however, only postcards for the Tigers were made with no additional teams included in the checklist.
The 1907 postcards could have been made to promote the 1907 World Series, which featured both the Cubs and Tigers. The series was sort of a crazy one. An error-filled (there were eight errors between the two teams) Game 1 ended in the first ever World Series tie with the game called due to darkness, 3-3, after 12 innings of play. From there, though, the Cubs dominated, sweeping the series, four games to none. The Tigers had no answer for the Cubs’ pitching, scoring a total of only three runs in the remaining four games. And because of the Game 1 tie, the World Series has an interesting line of five games needed in a Best of 7 series where one team did not win a single game.
Postcard sets from Dietsche continued in 1908 and 1909 but, as mentioned, without the Cubs. So, why the Tigers? The Tigers would have been an appropriate pick if only one team was printed because these cards were issued out of the team’s hometown of Detroit.
The set was copyrighted and published by A.C. Dietsche, a Detroit-based printer. Backs of the postcards included the information for Dietsche as well as the player’s name and a short biography. These were simple divided postcards, with a divider line on the back to separate the sender’s message and the recipient’s mailing address.
All three years of the postcards have a similar look. However, names were added to the fronts in 1908 and 1909.
Interestingly enough, these weren’t the only postcards issued by Dietsche that were related to sports. The company also issued a 1907 set of college football postcards featuring the Michigan Wolverines. That set had a similar look with black and white images of players. While most of the players are not familiar to collectors, that set is also a popular one since there are so few pre-war issues that depicted actual collegiate football players.
All three years of postcards include copyright dates on the back, which seemingly makes them easy to date. However, distinguishing these sets isn’t quite as easy.
For one thing, as Old Cardboard notes, four of the postcards in the 1909 series actually have a 1908 copyright. Those cards are 1909 issues because the players checklisted, Heinie Beckendorf, George Moriarty, Oscar Stanage, and Ralph Works, did not join the Tigers until that year. In 1908, for example, Beckendorf, Stanage, and Works were all playing in the minor leagues.
Additionally, while names were printed on the postcards in 1908 and 1909, this thread indicates that some of the postcards without names also have 1908 copyrights. Thus, dating the postcards is not quite as simple as merely looking at the copyright date.
The 1909 release from Dietsche, consisting of only six player cards and, to some collectors, a team postcard for the Tigers, was easily the smallest of the four sets. That set also has the fewest amount of stars and is the only one without a Hall of Famer.
Ty Cobb and The ‘Lineups’
Several big names are found sprinkled in the four sets of Dietsche postcards. But there’s little question about the biggest name in them — Ty Cobb.
Cobb has a total of four different postcards in the series — though different is a bit of a loose definition. Cobb has two in the 1907 set and two in the 1908 set, but a total of only two unique poses. His 1907 cards include both a batting and field variation. Cobb’s 1908 postcards use the same batting pose picture found on his 1907 postcards. But there are two versions of those as his last name is found printed both inside and outside of his shadow on the cards. Cobb is not in the 1909 set.
Cobb’s 1908 postcards are much rarer than his 1907 postcards. However, the 1907 cards are typically more desirable as they are considered by some collectors to be his rookie cards.
While Cobb is there, he is not the only big name in the sets. Also present are Hall of Famers Sam Crawford, and Hughie Jennings. In addition, a 1909 Detroit Tigers team postcard was printed as well. From the Chicago Cubs’ 1907 set, collectors will find additional Cooperstown inductees, including Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Joe Tinker.
Prices and Rarity
All four sets of the Dietsche baseball postcards are somewhat rare. But the 1908 and 1909 postcards seem to be much tougher to find than the 1907 issues.
Why was that? Tough to say, definitively. It is possible that demand was high from Dietsche’s first set with the excitement around the 1907 World Series appearance. The Tigers would find themselves in the World Series in 1908 and 1909, too (losing both of those as well), but as the first set, it’s possible that demand was initially high as the postcards were ‘new’ before tapering off in later years. Perhaps, demand did not even waver and Dietsche overestimated what would be needed in 1907. Regardless of the reason, the 1907 cards seem to have been printed the most.
Commons from any of the sets in decent shape are difficult to find under $25 with stars predictably more with Hall of Famers routinely topping $100. The Cobb rookie cards from the 1907 release are the biggest prize across the four sets but the two are not equal. The more common batting version, even in low-grade condition, typically starts in between $3,000 and $4,000. However, the rarer fielding pose variation sells for much more. A PSA 2 from Love of the Game Auctions sold in 2019 for $18,000. Both are certainly tough cards but it’s the fielding card that is the true rarity.
You can see 1907 Dietsche postcards on eBay here.