Over the years, baseball was adjoined to any number of things. Tobacco, candy, gasoline, food, and publications were just a few of the things combined with the popular sport in the pre-war era. Politics was seemingly another with the production of the 1923 Lections set.
The 1923 Lections cards remain a bit of an unknown nearly 100 years later. They weren’t even really known to exist until the 1900s before a small group was discovered in New York.
Measuring 2 1/2″ x 4″ the cards were in the shape of a credit card or an identification card of sorts, printed horizontally and with rounded corners. The cards are somewhat boring in their design. The player’s portrait is featured in an oval with his name and team printed at the bottom. To the side is a baseball diagram printed in either green or orange ink with the name “Lections” printed in bold lettering at the top and a mention that it is trademarked. The baseball diagram is the same on each card and does not vary.
The cards are believed to have been handed out to youngsters during election time, perhaps at a rally or fair where there was some campaigning. It’s easy to make the connection between what may have been a child’s pronunciation of “elections” at the “lections” name at the top.
Similar cards featuring actual political candidates were also printed and given to adults. The cards were apparently distributed for local politicians running for office in upstate New York. That’s never been fully confirmed but seems to make some degree of since given the find of them in that state. Judging by the small number of cards that exist, it’s believed they were only available for a short time.
The backs of the cards are completely blank, adding to the mystery surrounding them.
1923 Lections Checklist
A total of ten cards are found in the set. Babe Ruth is easily the key and Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Frank Chance, and Frankie Frisch are here, too. In addition, the set includes Howard Ehmke, Charlie Jamieson, Bob Meusel, Emil Meusel, Charles Schmidt, and Bob Shawkey.
Of note is that the pictures of the Meusel’s are actually mixed up. Bob’s card features a photo of Emil and vice versa.
Holes, Holes, Holes
Many are downright awful with a series of punch holes in them. So many of the cards are known with the punch holes that they do not appear to be the work of a rogue collector. Instead, they were likely punched at the event where they originated. The true answer as to why, however, may never be known.
Novice collectors unfamiliar with them may be inclined to dismiss them as worthless. That isn’t true, though. Even in low-grade shape, these cards still command interest because of their rarity.
A large quantity of Lections cards began to surface on eBay in 2017 so it is possible that another large find of them was recently made. The cards are still exceedingly rare and sell for fairly strong prices even when in miserable condition.
Commons with numerous hole punches still generally sell for $30 – $50 with Hall of Famers selling for more. A Frank Chance, recently sold for more than $80 even in this condition while Babe Ruth is known to top $500. A low-grade set offered on eBay by the North Carolina antique store that acquired them fetched more than $750 in October 2017.
Better copies of the 1923 Lections baseball cards are exponentially more valuable. An unpunched Emil Meusel in PSA 5 condition sold via REA for $420. A Babe Ruth PSA 3 (MK) without hole punches, meanwhile, brought than $5,000.