Stop at a penny arcade, carnival or other places where you might find a vending machine from the early 1920s to the 1960s and you’d probably see them. Cards produced by the Exhibit Supply Company had a long run. Their look varied quite a bit over the years and while they were never all that colorful, most of baseball’s all-time greats and not-so-greats appeared on them.
Some Exhibit cards are quite valuable. It’s where you’ll find Lou Gehrig’s rookie card and some of the earliest, most attractive cards of Babe Ruth.
Exhibits were typically printed on thicker card stock, making them quite durable. They are sought out by many collectors today for their affordability as they were usually cheaper than more expensive gum and candy cards. In the case of the 1948 Hall of Fame Exhibits set, there are plenty of bargains to be found.
Let’s take a closer look at this issue, which coincided with the return of trading cards following World War II.
1948 Hall of Fame Exhibits Set Basics
Predictably, the 1948 Hall of Fame Exhibits picture only members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is, one of the few sets that is comprised entirely of Cooperstown inductees. While the players were obviously retired, this post-career set is still quite desired by collectors today seeking early post-war vintage.
Each card includes a picture of a Hall of Famer along with a replica signature or, perhaps more precisely, the player’s name written in a cursive style font. Many of the names do not look like true signatures for the players.
Pillars are used for the left and right borders to give the cards a coliseum look while the top includes the title “Baseball’s Great Hall of Fame.” Biographical information is included at the bottom of the cards, providing a bit of detail about the subject’s career. In small font, fronts also include the text, ‘An Exhibit Card’ and ‘Made in U.S.A.’ That text is also found on other exhibit issues in different sets.
Measuring nearly 3 1/2″ wide by 5 1/2″ tall, these exhibit cards are about the size of a postcard. But while several Exhibit cards in other sets included postcard backings, these cards are entirely blank on the back.
One interesting note is that while the names of players are technically found on the cards through the cursive writing, their names are not found in standard print. Even the bottom portion with the print simply skips the players’ names and jumps right into their information. Fortunately, though, the names are generally easy enough to decipher that no formal printed name is necessary.
Finally, it is important to note that these cards were later reprinted. The later reproductions are of course worth considerably less than the first printing of these in 1948.
While the set includes many players, some collectors would be surprised to know that it does not include every Hall of Famer to that point. Through the end of 1948, a total of 55 players had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This set includes a total of 33 cards.
Even though there are 33 cards in the set, the released included only 32 Cooperstown inductees. The legendary Babe Ruth is featured twice in the set. On one card, he is pictured in full uniform swinging a bat (see above). On a second (shown below), he is only partially in uniform (pinstriped uniform pants but only with a plain long-sleeved shirt) posing with a collection of bats. Ruth is the only player with more than one pose variation.
The set includes only Hall of Famers so any of the omissions are important ones. However, the set has a more modern feel as many of the omissions are for the game’s earlier stars. Among those not included in the set are the likes of Cap Anson, King Kelly, Buck Ewing, and others that starred in the 19th century.
Here is the complete checklist of the set:
Babe Ruth (in action shot – swinging)
Babe Ruth (pictured with bats)
Ruth’s cards are the most valuable in the set but others, including Cobb, Wagner, Young, and more, are also sought after. But while there are some more expensive cards in the set, it is generally an inexpensive one, all things considered.
‘Commons’ (if such a term is applicable in a set consisting of only Hall of Famers) typically start in the $5-$10 range. Even some bigger name Hall of Famers can be acquire for under $20.
Few in decent shape will cost more than $100 but Ruth’s cards are the exception to that. In mid-grade condition, his cards generally start around $150-250. The set is a relatively easy build with only 33 cards in it and no terribly expensive cards. Decent complete sets in raw condition can be found at times under $1,000.
You can check out the selection of 1948 Hall of Fame Exhibit cards on eBay here.