Cards for Hall of Famers are often the most expensive in pre-war baseball card sets. Finding mid-grade copies of them, particularly in rare sets, can cost more than $1,000. However, while many cards of Hall of Fame players in the pre-war era are on the pricey side, there are lots of inexpensive ones, too. Here are some of the cheapest around.
1913 Nap Lajoie Game Card
The 1913 Nap Lajoie Game cards are among the most affordable pre-war Hall of Fame issues you’ll ever find. Lajoie was featured in this popular gaming issue with one side bearing his image in a batting pose with the other side bearing printed actions. The cards are so affordable because, despite the fact they are over 100 years old, they are relatively easy to find on sites such as eBay. And like many game issues, they are often in tremendous condition.
One reason for their abundance is because Lajoie’s image is on every single card in the set. His image is printed with either a red or a blue tint. The cards are dirt cheap with raw mid-grade copies usually available for little cost.
1939-46 Salutations Exhibits Hank Greenberg
The 1939-46 Salutations Exhibits card issue includes numerous Hall of Famers. The set does have one expensive card in Lou Gehrig but several others enshrined in Cooperstown are present and beyond affordable.
The sepia-style cards feature a boatload of stars and big names. Commons are only a few bucks and the key players generally aren’t much more.
One of the biggest bargains in the set is the card of the legendary Hank Greenberg. You can often find his card, among the cards of several other Hall of Famers, for less than a tank of gas.
1936 National Chicle Paul Waner/Lloyd Waner
Finding cards with one player in Cooperstown for $25 or less is hard enough, but how about two?
The 1936 National Chicle set is often called the ‘Fine Pens’ issue. That is mostly to distinguish it from Goudey’s similar issue with pens written in thicker names (that set is often called the ‘Wide Pens’ set).
These black and white photos were distributed as premiums by National Chicle. These photos measured 3 1/4″ wide x 5 3/8″ tall and featured players in a variety of poses. Among those featured in it are many big time players. With commons selling for only a few dollars, this is a good candidate set for cheap Hall of Famers.
While the set does have some more expensive issues, including Joe DiMaggio and Honus Wagner, many other Hall of Famers are cheaper. One unique photo features brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This unique picture includes both, being held in the arms of much larger teammate Jim Weaver.
You can often find decent copies starting around $20.
1925-27 W512 Dave Bancroft
The W512 strip card set includes a mix of baseball players, boxers, and non-sports subjects. The baseball cards are the most popular in the issue and the set is headlined by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. The release was printed over a three-year period and includes several variations.
The 50-card set is among the easier strip card issues to find. Because of that, it’s also one of the more affordable releases.
Like most strip cards, these aren’t the prettiest pictures out there. But it’s not aesthetics we’re looking for here as much as affordability. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.
Ruth and Cobb are generally more than $100, even in low-grade condition, and you’re not likely to find those or even decent copies of Tris Speaker under $25. But one Hall of Famer in the set, Dave Bancroft, is usually beyond affordable. His cards can sell for more but you can also find raw mid-grade cards of his in the $25 range.
M114 Baseball Magazine Supplements Mel Ott
The M114 Baseball Magazine Supplements are among the most inexpensive pre-war issues available. These premium photographs were issued through the mail by the publication and featured baseball stars.
These are cataloged by Jefferson Burdick in his American Card Catalog but they aren’t traditional cards. Instead, these photo premiums were black and white and measure about 9 1/2″ x 12″.
The supplements were issued from 1918 through the 1950s, so not all are in the pre-war era. However, numerous Hall of Famers are found from the 1930s, including Ott. Ott’s premium is particularly desirable because he was one of the biggest stars in the game at the time. While his 1933 Goudey cards aren’t cheap, his supplements are.
How cheap is this set? In 2018, a total of 86 of them, including big names such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, were auctioned for under $5 each. Ott, as well as other Hall of Famers, can sometimes be picked up on eBay for $25 or even slightly less with a little luck.