It’s one of those sets that looks enticing. Jackie Robinson’s rookie card. Stachel Paige’s rookie card. Babe Ruth. Joe DiMaggio as card #1. And fewer than 100 cards in the entire set. Those chasing the 1948 Leaf baseball set soon find out that completing it is challenging and very expensive in anything less than poor condition.
The single print cards,including the ultra-rare Paige are tough to locate and competition is stiff. The Robinson rookie is climbing out of sight. None of it means you can’t add some great 1948 Leaf cards to your vintage collection. Here are five value-oriented plays any baseball fan can appreciate:
1. Johnny Vander Meer
His record will almost certainly never be broken. Johnny doesn’t have Hall of Fame credentials but pitching back-to-back no-hitters for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938 have ensured he won’t be forgotten. You may not know a lot about his long career, but you definitely know what he did over the course of a few days as a 23-year-old rookie. He didn’t appear on a lot of cards, primarily because few sets were issued during his career. You can own a pretty nice copy of Vandy’s Leaf card for less than $100.
2. Lou Boudreau
While the backs of Leaf cards have a ‘1948’ copyright date on the back, it’s strongly believed the cards weren’t issued until 1949 and every kid who opened a pack then would have known Lou Boudreau. He had just won the American League MVP award, while managing Cleveland to the World Series title. How many shortstops have that on the back of their baseball card? A Hall of Famer since 1970, Boudreau’s card can be had for under $100, even in very respectable condition.
3. Ralph Kiner
When Leaf’s packs were sitting on candy store shelves in 1949, Ralph Kiner was having a monster power year. He walloped 54 homers that season, earning one of his seven league titles. From 1947-51, Kiner hit at least 40 homers and drove in at least 100 runs every season.
After flying planes in World War II, Kiner had made his big league debut in 1946 and was a natural pick to appear in the first two major card sets in the post-War era. Mets fans will remember his long career as a broadcaster. This Hall of Famer’s rookie cards are reasonably priced and it’s not a stretch to say the 1948 Leaf is one of vintage card collecting’s better bargains.
4. Larry Doby
Larry Doby was to the American League what Jackie Robinson was to the NL. Both are Hall of Famers. Jackie’s rookie cards usually sell for three or four times what Doby’s go for, despite the fact that Doby’s 1948 Leaf card is a single print and far more difficult to find. Neither appears in the 1948 Bowman set so these represent the dawn of their historic big league careers. While they aren’t cheap, Doby rookie cards still seem to be undervalued.
5. Honus Wagner
Not only is it one of the most ironic cards ever seen considering he’s dipping into a big chaw of tobacco, it’s Honus Freaking Wagner. He was still coaching for the Pirates in the late 1940s and so it’s technically a card issued during his baseball career…one you can find any day of the week on eBay for under $200. Why they used his Americanized real first name on the front we’ll never know.
We’re not saying a 1948 Leaf Wagner be worth five times what you’ll pay for one a few years from now but it’s an actual, original baseball card of a tobacco chewing Honus Wagner that you can own by the end of the week.
Don’t you love the hobby?