A 373 lifetime wins, 2.13 career ERA, sterling personal reputation and membership in the Hall of Fame’s first class all cement his place in history. His magical years on the field as well as his painful demise and untimely death off it years after he inhaled mustard gas fighting in World War I adds to his mystique.
Christy Mathewson baseball cards, especially the earliest, most rare and highest graded examples, can be pricey. However, you can still collect one of baseball’s most popular and beloved players of all-time without spending thousands of dollars.
Here are six cards of ‘Big Six’ for budget-minded collectors to target.
One of Mathewson’s most affordable issues is this pin, issued during his playing career via Sweet Caporal tobacco. Mathewson’s pin includes a familiar head shot image used on many of his collectibles, including his T205 gold border card, while the back has a brief advertisement for cigarettes. The pins have a sepia tone and are just under an inch in diameter.
The best chance to keep costs down comes in securing the ‘Small Letter’ variation – both small and large letter fonts are available with the smaller version generally a little more affordable. Depending on condition, a quick check of eBay shows you can own one for around $100.
This might be your best bet for an affordable Mathewson. The cards that originated with a tabletop game of the period feature many affordable legends – including Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb – as well as a Mathewson that is often less than $500 even in higher grade.
Game cards like these typically aren’t as popular with collectors but with many available these do provide a relatively affordable way to acquire some truly legendary players. Tom Barker and Polo Grounds are similar sets with prices that are also reasonable.
As is the case with most stars from the pre-war era, strip cards present some of the most affordable opportunities for collectors. Mathewson has several strip cards, including issues in the W514, W516, and W519 editions.
Unfortunately, the images aren’t great on these blank-backed issues, but if you’re looking for inexpensive options, strip cards like these are hard to beat.
The Sweet Caporal Domino Discs were issued in approximately the same time period as the company’s pins. These discs included a variety of players with three different backgrounds – blue, red, and green.
Mathewson is included in this set with the same image used on the front as his Sweet Caporal pin. The back includes a picture of a domino and the discs were made of cardboard with metal around the edges. A mid-grade Mathewson disc recently sold for about $130 at auction.
5. Christy Mathewson T202 Hassan Triple Folders
Generally, Mathewson’s T-cards and ‘affordable’ don’t go along in the same sentence. However, one reasonable option for collectors is the T202. For some reason, the beautiful Triple Folders remain fairly attainable. They feature two players on the ends with an action shot in the middle. On one panel, Mathewson appears with his old batterymate Chief Meyers.
While these cards can be quite expensive if fully intact, similar to the 1980-81 Topps basketball cards, they are less valuable when separated.You can often buy a full panel in the G-VG range for under $300. Or, you can go even cheaper and purchase only the Mathewson portion of a full panel that’s been torn apart for about a third of that.
These are Mathewson’s most available and recognizable issues from his playing days. There are actually three to choose from – a portrait and two action shots, one of him in a white cap and one of him in a black cap.
While high-grade set builders and investors will spend thousands for the best of the best, finding a good looking, lower grade example at a reasonable price is not difficult. There are a wide range of prices and conditions from which to choose.