Young baseball card collectors had some choices during the mid-1930s. Goudey Gum Company was producing them, although their 1934 and ’35 sets weren’t nearly as comprehensive as their landmark 1933 issue. Massachusetts-based National Chicle was also trying to sell gum and during the years 1934-36, they came out with a couple of sets: the Diamond Stars issue which leaned heavily on color art deco designs and a unique set of die-cut cards kids could actually play with. For vintage baseball card collectors today, the company’s Batter Up (R318) set of 192 cards is one part attraction, one part frustration.
1934-36 Batter Up Cards Were “Interactive”
The wax pack wrapper tried to impart what youngsters would get for their decision to part with a penny. Kids could create a lineup that would come to life by folding down the out of focus background, essentially making the photo of the player pop out. Some even tore the top half off completely. Of course, the result is a lot of low-grade cards on the market today.
Stars and Missing Persons
It’s a set that offers a strong look at the players of the era, but one glaring omission is Lou Gehrig, who doesn’t appear in the company’s Diamond Stars product either because of his signed contract with Goudey. Red Ruffing and KiKi Cuyler are also MIA. You will find Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, Carl Hubbell, Dizzy Dean, Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, the spy-ballplayer Moe Berg.
Considering the relatively low number of higher grade cards available, some of these may be underpriced.
The black and white photos used in Batter Up cards were distributed in two groups, the more common low numbers (#1-80) in 1934 and the high numbers that were available in 1935 and ’36. The cards are numbered on the front. You’ll find players from all 16 teams represented in the set, with a bit of an emphasis on the American League. You won’t find any Chicago Cubs among cards 1-80.
Some players appear in both series, including several who changed teams during the era that the cards were issued.
The low numbers measure about 2 3/8” x 3 ¼” while the high numbers in the set are about a quarter-inch smaller in height. Another difference is that the low numbers only feature the player’s last name.
Yes, There Were Parallel Cards in the 1930s
To mix things up, National Chicle produced the cards in a variety of color tints. The lower numbers come in six different tint variations (green, brown, purple, blue, black and red) while there are four different high number tints (green, brown, blue and black). Modern era card collectors can understand the irritation that sometimes comes with such variety, but most collectors simply decide that having one of each player,regardless of color background, is enough.
There are three multi-player cards in the set, something Topps would later adopt as a standard of its sets.
Be Happy Without High Grade
How hard is it to find high-grade Batter Up cards? Plenty. Grading company population reports show less than 10% of submissions have been graded 8 or better. Several players on the checklist have no examples rated as high as near mint 7.
Near mint and better Hall of Famers often sell for $500 and more on the rare occasion when they’re offered.
Still, a large portion of 1934-36 Batter Up cards are readily available in the 4-6 grade range with many Hall of Famers still available for under $100, making this a nice, but not impossible challenge for a collector who truly appreciates a fairly comprehensive vintage set.
You can get a look at 1934-36 Batter-Up cards on eBay here.