Collectors who have been put off by the daunting checklist of the 1909-11 T206 set, which features 524 examples including pricey Hall of Famers, variations, and short prints, have often looked for alternative sets that include the key players of the era and striking visuals. Many collectors gravitated towards the 1911 T205 set, but with a basic checklist of 206 cards, many still find that number too daunting. For years both the 1914 and ’15 Cracker Jack set, with its striking red backgrounds and relationship to the game’s signature snack, were also a popular option, but the pricing spike that surrounded the issue’s 100th anniversary have priced many collectors out.
One candidate for an underrated pre-war set that collectors who seek a manageable checklist, non-inflated prices, star power, and attractive images should consider is the 1909 E95 Philadelphia Caramel set. In the era before World War I the formula for a chocolate that would not melt at room temperature had not yet been introduced, and caramels were the most popular packaged candies in the nation. Companies like Philadelphia Caramel turned to visually appealing trade cards to mark their confections and baseball were the most popular, and remain so more than a century later.
The E95 Set
Featuring a checklist that includes only 25 cards, E95 still manages to pack a punch in terms of star power by including the likes of Chief Bender, Frank Chance, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Sam Crawford, Johnny Evers, Christy Mathewson, Eddie Plank, Honus Wagner, and Vic Willis.
With 40% of the set comprised of players who are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, E95 makes as an ideal candidate for set collectors who prefer a set made up of players who are more commonly recognized. Other players of note include in the E95 set include future ‘Black Sox’ pitcher Ed Cicotte and he of ‘boner’ fame, Fred Merkle.
Interestingly, the back of each card carries a numbered checklist – one of the first such sets to have this handy feature.
Population and Prices
A quick glance of PSA’s population report reveals at least 36 of each player encapsulated in their slabs, but this can be deceiving as collectors are more likely to submit star players who total higher in the population reports – such as 106 examples of Christy Mathewson and 112 of Ty Cobb, whereas the ‘common players’ are more seldomly submitted – such as 39 Tommy Leach cards and 39 of Ed Reulbach. When adding SGC submissions, and those that have not been submitted at all, it’s safe to say at least a couple hundred such exist of each player with nearly every card in the set offered for sale publicly or privately at any given time including more than 230 on eBay now.
In low condition even the top tier Hall of Famers can be had for a reasonable sum. Only four players in the set are valued at over $1,000 in EX condtion. Some Hall of Famers in low grade can be had for under $250. At the moment, an entire SGC registry set is listed for $14,000.
Interestingly, a long-forgotten stash of these cards was recently found inside an old cookie tin in an old New Jersey home and is on display.
The E95 Philadelphia Caramel set is an inexpensive, under-appreciated issue that allows budgeted collectors to complete a modest checklist with no short prints, but plenty of star power.