When looking for inexpensive pre-war cards, Exhibits are often a great place to start. Exhibit cards were cards that were generally offered inside of arcade machines. You put in some money, you get a card back. Most Exhibits are blank but some have text on the back, including postcard print. Exhibits are mostly known as cards issued by the Exhibit Supply Company, though there are other types of arcade cards or similar blank-backed cards that are sometimes called Exhibits, too.
Exhibit cards are often inexpensive and good ways to pick up Hall of Famers and stars at low prices. Here are five Exhibits from the pre-war era that can be considered bargains.
1939-46 Salutations Exhibit Ted Williams
This Exhibit set was produced over a period of several years. It is referred to as the Salutations set because, in addition to each player’s name, a short greeting (i.e. Truly Yours) is added. The cards include black and white or slightly tinted images of players against blank backgrounds.
The set is popular with collectors as it’s a great pre-war era issue with lots of big names at a mostly affordable price. Commons in decent shape can often be found for under $10 and even some stars can be found at that price, too. Ted Williams has two image variations in the set and one is very affordable. The rarer version with his No. 9 showing on his jersey is several hundred dollars. However, the more common card with his other pose can be easily found in the $25 – $50 range.
1921 Exhibit Frankie Frisch
Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch has a 1920 strip card in the W519 set, so this isn’t a true rookie card by the purest definition of the term. But, issued only a year later, Frisch’s 1921 Exhibit is one of his earliest cards.
Frisch was a three-time All-Star and the 1931 Most Valuable Player. As a player/manager, he also led the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title. As a manager, he would go on to win more than 1,100 games. This card features a great fielding pose of Frisch with the New York Giants and, in mid-grade condition, starts for only around $50.
1929 Star Picture Stamps Exhibit with Babe Ruth/Jack Dempsey
Babe Ruth cards from his playing days are always popular but difficult to find at low prices. The 1929 Star Picture Stamps Exhibit card is certainly an exception to that.
This is a postcard Exhibit set that featured movie stars. Babe Ruth is found in the set as he did a bit of acting during his career. The good news is that, unlike some of Ruth’s other appearances in movie star sets, he is actually pictured in a baseball uniform. The bad is that eight ‘stamps’ (or, miniature cards) were printed to make each postcard. Thus, Ruth is seen here with other non-sports personalities. One of those, however, is boxing great Tom Dempsey. Overall, it’s a great Ruth collectible that is inexpensive found to his other more traditional baseball cards. In half decent shape, the postcard starts around $300 and is tough to beat at that price.
1939-46 Salutations Exhibit Joe DiMaggio
Another big card from the Salutations Exhibit set is found in Joe DiMaggio. Early DiMaggio cards are usually expensive, no matter the condition. But DiMaggio’s card in this issue is one of his cheaper ones.
Unlike Williams, DiMaggio only has one pose in the issue so there’s no need to worry about which version you’re looking for. Even in mid-grade condition, it isn’t too hard to find at under $75 on eBay. There are other worthwhile bargains in the set at even lower prices but the ability to get an early DiMaggio card at this kind of price is too difficult to ignore.
1936 4 in 1 Exhibit – Detroit Tigers
Similar to the 1935 Goudey cards, these Exhibits featured pictures of four players on one card. They were team-related so each card pictured a collection of teammates. There are a lot of cards in this set that could be considered bargains for the number of stars on them, but one that provides a lot of bang for the buck is the Exhibit featuring Detroit Tigers players.
Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane headlines the card but he’s hardly alone in terms of star power. Also on the card are Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer and Goose Goslin. Even the lone player that didn’t make it to Cooperstown, Schoolboy Rowe, is no slouch. Rowe was a three-time All-Star and helped the Tigers win the 1935 World Series.