Cracker Jack and baseball first started going steady over 100 years ago. Collectors have learned that one of the two card sets produced just before World War I is much less taxing to tackle.
They tempt you with history..tantalize you with scarcity and have a ‘coolness factor’ that’s off the charts.
The 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack baseball sets are among the most popular of all time. They’re also among the most expensive. But if you’re going to collect one of the two, the latter version might be the way to go.
The two sets are nearly identical, sharing the same basic style, size (2 1/4" x 3") and many of the same subjects. There are 176 cards in the 1915 set; up from 144 the year before. The 1914 Cracker Jack cards are tougher to locate, especially in high grade. Putting together even half a set can take years unless you’re wealthy enough to find a dealer with a huge stock and buy a large lot at once. Because of the scarcity, many collectors prefer the 1915 Cracker Jacks.
Known as E145, the 1915 set can be distinguished from the ’14 issue by references on the back to the number of cards in the set. Also, the backs of the 1915 issue are printed in the opposite direction of the picture on the front. The card stock on which the cards were printed is heavier in 1915, making the cards less prone to creasing and wear.
There are several variations among the players who appear in both sets. One popular difference are the cards featuring Christy Mathewson. The 1914 version shows him pitching while the 1915 Matty is a portrait shot.
Cards from both sets are pricey, but 1915 Cracker Jack common cards can be found in respectable VG condition for well under $100. Some Hall of Famers in the same grade will run $200-300. Among the most expensive are the Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb which will often cost $2,000-5000 even in lower grade; Grover Cleveland Alexander, which is rarely found for less than $1000, plus the Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie.
The last 31 cards in the 1915 set are a little more expensive than the first 144. Clark Griffith and Edd Roush (spelled Rousch in the set) highlight the high number run.
The 1915 Cracker Jack cards are more plentiful thanks in large part to a company offer that allowed youngsters to send in for a complete set and collector’s album. Such an offer wasn’t available in 1914. There was also a significant find of the ’15 cards several years ago, which has also kept supply at strong enough levels to keep prices from skyrocketing.
Dripping with Hall of Famers and history, the 1915 Cracker Jack set is a worthwhile investment, even if you can only own a small number of the cards that helped America embrace baseball.
List of Cracker Jack cards for sale now on eBay