The 1929 Leader Novelty baseball card set is an interesting one, to be sure.
The cards are distinguished by their assortment of color tint images of baseball players on the fronts. The cards are found printed in either red, purple, green, or brown ink. They measure approximately 1 3/4″ x 2 5/8″, though the actual dimensions are known to vary a good bit. Fronts include the colored ink image of the player along with his name and team. A thick, uncolored border (often larger from top to bottom) is also present.
Collectors of other pre-war baseball cards might find the images of the subjects familiar. That’s because the cards include the same pictures used in the R316 Kashin baseball card set — a similarly unique issue with plenty of questions in its own right. Some believe the true Leader Novelty checklist could actually mimic the one in the R316 release. But if that is to be true, many cards from it appear to be missing in action.
The R316 Kashin set includes a total of 101 cards. But thus far, the 1929 Leader Novelty set has a total of only 34 cards according to most checklisting efforts. With new discoveries being made in recent years, that number could certainly be incorrect. But a leap from 34 known cards to just over 100 would mean that only about 1/3 of the set has been discovered.
The known 1929 Leader Novelty checklist is small but packed full of stars. The biggest one of all, Babe Ruth, is not yet found in the issue, and many others are missing, too. But collectors will find plenty of other big names from the 1920s and 1930s. Among them are the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Pie Traynor, Al Simmons, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Lefty Grove, and many more Hall of Famers.
Finally, collectors wanting to score a Leader Novelty card should be aware they are quite rare. They are not impossible to find and some are usually for sale on eBay at any given time. In addition, they will also pop up at more traditional auction houses. However, they are certainly difficult to find and make for a tough type card to acquire at a reasonable price. To date, PSA and SGC have graded only about 100 of them combined, making them relatively tough.
When it comes to intrigue, the 1929 Leader Novelty set is hard to beat. We certainly know more about the set than we did previously, but questions still remain.
One of those questions is about the distribution of the cards. Generally, they are believed to have been issued in boxes of Leader Novelty candy sometime in or around 1929. Those boxes have been seen and are even occasionally up for sale, like this one from a REA auction.
However, while that could have been one way they were distributed, questions have arisen about their use elsewhere. Some of the cards, for example, appear to have straight, factory cut edges. However, many are known with uneven, rough hand cuts, leading some to believe they could have been a strip issue of sorts as well. If they were only factory cut, they either seem to have fallen into the hands of a lot of collectors who made their own alterations or the quality control at the factory was pretty bad.
And as I alluded to above, another mystery is found in the set’s checklist. Currently only 34 cards are known but there could be many more that have not yet been discovered or, at least brought to the public.
One item of interest with regards to the checklist is found in Lloyd and Paul Waner. The brothers notably played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for many years and were on the team in 1929. Currently, both PSA and SGC have a card for Lloyd Waner in their population reports, claiming to have graded one. But Lloyd does not appear in most checklists and, to date, I have not seen a card produced for him. It is possible his card does indeed exist but he also could have been mistaken for his brother Paul, who is known to be in the set.
1929 Leader Novelty Prices
As discussed, the 1929 Leader Novelty cards are not terribly easy to find. As a result, asking prices for them are generally quite steep. Even commons in modest condition will start around $200 or so. If it’s a bigger name you’re after, prepare to pay much more than that. For example, a Rogers Hornsby graded a PSA 4 sold for nearly $800 last fall in a REA auction.