Baseball’s first Hall of Fame class from 1936 remains its most legendary. Consisting of five true greats of the game in Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb, it can never be equaled. But the follow-up class that was inducted in 1937 included some special players, too.
The Wagner T206 card, Ruth’s M101-4/5 rookie cards, Ty Cobb’s Cobb-branded tobacco cards — almost all pre-war collectors are familiar with these iconic cards. But what about key cards from the second class of Hall of Famers? Are there any important cards there? You bet.
The second class of Hall of Famers included Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Cy Young, John McGraw, and Connie Mack (as well as pioneers George Wright, Morgan Bulkeley, and Ban Johnson). Here’s a look at some key cards for that group of stars.
Picking a single card for Lajoie is as easy as picking, say, Wagner’s card. Just as Wagner’s T206 card is an iconic one in the hobby, so, too, is Lajoie’s 1933 Goudey card.
The card isn’t as legendary as the Wagner T206, obviously. But it is certainly a special card and one of the more important issues of the pre-war era.
The card was not printed with the rest of the 1933 set. The story goes that Goudey intentionally did not print a card No. 106 to send collectors on a chase looking for it. And while that story hasn’t ever been fully proven, that’s exactly what it did. The demand for a No. 106 was said to be so great that Goudey was forced to print the card in 1934 and send it by mail to those asking for it. Today, even in low-grade condition, it is a five figure card.
Picking a legendary card for Mack isn’t quite as easy.
For one thing, while Mack was known as a player, he is better known for the five World Series titles he won as a manager. And unfortunately, managerial cards just weren’t all that common in the pre-war era.
If I had to pick one, though, I’d be inclined to go with Mack’s E96 Philadelphia Caramel card. The card pictures Mack in a suit and is a great looking card in a classic early candy set. Mack is found elsewhere, including the Anonymous E98 set and the E104 Nadja set. Still, I’m sticking with E96 here just because the Philadelphia Caramel sets are so popular.
In mid-grade condition, it starts in the $350-$450 range, though it can often be had for less in lesser condition.
In terms of finding an iconic card, we’re sort of in the same boat with Hall of Famer John McGraw. I’m just not sure how many great options there are.
Like Mack, McGraw was also a player. And truth be told, as his lifetime .334 batting average will attest, he was a very good one. But McGraw is certainly more known for his managerial services as he was at the helm for three World Series titles with the New York Giants. McGraw was also a player for one of those titles (1905) and he played through the 1907 season. But after 1902, he barely got onto the field, appearing in only 25 combined games in his last five years.
What’s McGraw’s most iconic card? That’s kind of tough to say and nothing immediately comes to mind. But if I’m picking a favorite, it might be his T207 card. The card depicts McGraw as a player, even though he was solely managing by the time the set was released (1912).
More importantly, I think, is the set from which it comes. McGraw’s inclusion in the set is important because T207, by comparison, included so few Hall of Famers compared to the earlier and more popular T205 and T206 sets. Contextually, it’s one of McGraw’s most important cards for that reason as he’s one of the few big names in that release. In decent shape, it’s even a bargain, starting around $100-$150 in decent condition.
Speaker is one of the game’s early greats and is found on plenty of cards. He even made his way into some post-career pre-war sets and his 1933 Goudey card is one of those.
But if I’m picking a key card for Speaker, it’s probably his E90-1 American Caramel issue. For one thing, it’s a classic, landmark type of set. For another, it’s a shortprinted card that is extremely difficult to find. And for yet another, it’s considered to be one of Speaker’s rookie cards by some collectors (Speaker does, it should be noted, have some earlier postcards which sort of overlap with the years of production for the E90-1 set).
Rookie or not, though, it’s certainly one of his key issues. It’s also an expensive one, often starting over $1,000 for even modest examples, although there are other great looking cards in the same set that are much cheaper.
Over a 20+ year career, Cy Young was featured on numerous cards. Still, while he played so many seasons in the majors, he doesn’t have as many cards from his playing days as many collectors might think.
Young’s career started in 1890 with the Cleveland Spiders and few baseball card releases were printed in that decade. Candy cards weren’t really a thing and tobacco cards really came to a halt for much of the decade. When things picked back up in the mid 1900s, Young was of course featured. But his career ended after 1911 and that meant that he didn’t have a terribly large amount of cards.
Young has lots of popular later cards, including his T205 card or the three cards found in T206. He’s in E90-1 and some of the other popular caramel issues. But if there’s one card that stands out for him, it’s his incredibly rare 1893 Just So Tobacco card. Young does have some early cabinet cards but, as more photograph that true card, his Just So card has gained a bit more notoriety as a real rookie card to some.
Either way, it’s a nearly impossible card to find. It isn’t only Young’s most iconic card but it’s one of the most iconic cards of the 19th century. The cabinet card shown here is one that was recently auctioned and features the same image of the actual card.