The 1930s Diamond Matchbooks are an excellent way to find pre-war collectibles at a low price. If you’re unfamiliar with them, these unique items feature players printed onto matchbook covers. Matchbooks complete with the original matches still inside will be more expensive. However, the majority are found without the matches and those are the real bargains. Classified as U1-U4 in the American Card Catalog, there are five different Diamond Matchbooks sets from the 1930s in that categorization.
Here’s a look at five of them at are really great buys.
Dean was a star pitcher in the 1930s but does not have a ton of cards from his playing days. That’s because his 12-year career was shortened due to injuries. Dean really had only about six full seasons of stellar play and, as a result, is not found in many sets. But for a short while, he was arguably the best hurler in baseball. Dean won the 1934 Most Valuable Player Award with the Cardinals and led the league in wins that year as well as 1935.
But while his cards might be difficult to find, he is here in the Diamond Matchbooks issues and appears in several sets. His is one of the biggest names in the sets and the most affordable Dean matchbooks usually start around $50.
Waner is another Hall of Famer found in the Diamond Matchbooks sets. The 1927 Most Valuable Player with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Waner twice led the league in hits and three times in batting average. Nicknamed Big Poison, he played a total of 20 years in the majors, mostly in Pittsburgh, appearing in four All-Star games.
He is seen in a few of the matchbooks sets and Waner’s ‘cards’ are a bargain considering he was such a strong player. His matchbook covers start in the $10-$20 range.
Like Dean, Ott is one of the headliners found in the Diamond Matchbooks series. He is a popular target for collectors here because his matchbook is significantly cheaper than his more popular gum issues, such as Goudey. Ott was one of the most dominant offensive stars in the 1930s and 1940s.
With 511 home runs and 12 All-Star appearances, he’s generally considered one of the top players of all time. Needless to say, finding bargains on his cards isn’t always easy.
This Hall of Famer was one of the top catchers of his generation. Lombardi entered the majors in 1931 and didn’t look back, starring mostly with the Cincinnati Reds. He won the 1938 Most Valuable Player Award with that team when he led the league with a .342 batting average.
Lombardi is seen in a few Diamond Matchbook issues, but his 1934 version is noteworthy in that it nearly classifies as a rookie issue. While Lombardi did appear in a few Zee-Nut minor league sets, 1933 is when his first mainstream professional cards were issued, making this one of his first major league collectibles.
Yet another affordable big name in the series is Casey Stengel. The Hall of Fame manager is not found in a ton of pre-war sets in that capacity as most of his managing career came after the start of World War II. But Stengel is found in the Diamond Matchbook issues.
His 1934 matchbook, in particular, is important as that was his first career as a manager. Since Stengel was a player, it can’t really be seen as a rookie card because he was featured in earlier previous sets as an outfielder. But his 1934 matchbook with the silver border is from his first year as a skipper and noteworthy for that reason.