Many collectors have a fear of diving into older cards and that is sometimes driven by price. But while some sets are quite expensive, some of the best bargains are found in a pair of similar sets termed the fine pens and wide pens premiums.
What are Fine Pens/Wide Pens Premiums?
In short, these are small photographs of baseball players from the 1930s. National Chicle produced the fine pens set and the popular Goudey distributed the wide pens.
Both sets have a relatively similar look with black and white images of players and white borders. You won’t find the National Chicle or Goudey names on them but they are easily distinguished by the handwritten font on them. The National Chicle premiums have smaller, thinner font while the Goudey premiums have a much larger, thicker front. As a result, they are nicknamed the fine pens and wide pens sets, respectively.
Pictured here are a fine pen (left) and a wide pen (right) as a point of reference. They are both thin in appearance and easily damaged. Backs, in both cases, are blank.
The cataloging of these premiums has certainly helped their collectability. Collectors often seem more willing to give certain issues a chance if they are cataloged in the American Card Catalog. These aren’t traditional trading cards, per se, but they are often treated as such.
About the Fine Pens
The Fine Pens are listed in the American Card Catalog as R313. Printed in 1936, there are a total of 120 in the set.
Both sets are inexpensive but the fine pens are usually a little less expensive than their Goudey counterparts. That is likely in part because there are many pre-war Goudey collectors around and those are targeted a bit more.
Many of the fine pens have a simple name on them but others have a caption describing a play. Additionally, more than one player is featured on some, such as the case here with a photo of Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, and Al Simmons. These premiums present a solid opportunity to pick up items with more than one Hall of Famer on them.
About the Wide Pens
The Goudey Wide Pens aren’t much different from the National Chicle offering other than the aforementioned font type. But the set is a much more daunting challenge to complete.
These premiums are cataloged as R314 and spread out over two years as they were printed in 1936 and 1937. And unlike the National Chicle set, this massive issue is broken out into five different subset types. In all, there are nearly 250 of these premiums.
It is also important to note that some (likely Type 4 and Type 5) are Canadian issues but are still given the same R314 designation by today’s collectors. However, as I documented here, R314 Type 4 and Type 5 premiums were likely issues that Jefferson Burdick cataloged as V352. Collectors have simply mislabeled them in recent years. While other wide pens have white borders, Types 4 and 5 have what is described as a ‘creamy’ colored border that is more off white.
Pricing for both sets is very affordable. Commons in decent shape can be found for around $5 and even many of the stars/Hall of Famers can be found for $20 or even less.
The most desirable premiums in either set are arguably the Joe DiMaggio rookies. The Fine Pen Dimaggio is a batting image while he appears twice in the Wide Pens set (once by himself and another with Joe McCarthy). DiMaggio’s Fine Pens and Wide Pens issues can be found starting around $300 in decent shape. Low-grade examples can sell for as little as $125-$150.
Fine and Wide Pen issues are readily available on eBay. Click here to see them for sale and auction.