Many collectors avoid pre-war cards because of the perceived high costs. While tobacco and caramel cards of stars are often pricey, plenty of bargains are there for the taking. In fact, some of these cards can be bought for as little as $10 or less.
Here’s a look at some of the more popular affordable pre-war cards that feature real players as opposed to generic subjects.
1933 Goudey Cards
$10 on these cards is a bit of a stretch. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice on condition a little, you can find some low-grade Goudeys that present well for this price.
The 1933 Goudey set is one of the most popular baseball sets of all time. The likes of Ruth, Gehrig, and even the minor Hall of Famers will cost a bit more. But if you just want some plain, run-of-the-mill commons, they can be bought starting at around this price.
Your best bet for bargains will mostly be auctions. I’ve scored some nice looking commons in the $8-$10 range at times. But some Buy It Now options usually exist on eBay for them at this price or even lower.
1930s Goudey Fine Pens / National Chicle Wide Pens
The same can be said for Goudey’s Fine Pens set or National Chicle’s Wide Pens set. Technically, these are more like small photos than they are traditional baseball cards. But they are abundantly affordable and decent ones are available in the $10 range on eBay.
These two types of cards look similar. The primary difference is that the names on the Goudey photos were written with a thicker style of ink.
You can pay a bit more in either set and splurge on a star. Some of the lower-end Hall of Famers aren’t much more. But many commons are easily found from these sets (particularly the Fine Pens, which can be a little cheaper) for $10 or less.
W512/W513 Strip Cards
The W512 and W513 combined set has a total of 100 cards and includes a lot of non-baseball players. But approximately 1/3 of the set is comprised of baseball players and many of them are quite affordable.
For $10, you won’t take any of the set’s biggest prizes (i.e. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, etc.) home. That amount, however, will often get you some common cards from either issue and even some memorable names.
Strip cards aren’t exactly for everyone. However, if you’re not scared off by them, these are among the cheaper vintage baseball cards you can find.
W560 Strip Cards
If you’re willing to consider strip cards but are not enamored with the W512 or W513 sets, the W560 set could be an option for you.
These cards featured real pictures of players against a playing card style of design. They’re a great alternative for collectors looking for cheaper strip issues but that don’t want cards with artwork and player renditions.
Again, finding the bigger names here for $10 won’t be possible. The set is headlined by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and those cards are generally several hundreds of dollars. But commons in the set are not too difficult to find for $10 on eBay with some patience.
1939-46 Exhibit Salutations
This set is one of my favorites when it comes to bargain-hunting. It includes very affordable cards of big names, such as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, and many others.
These oversized cards are about the size of a postcard with blank backs. They are printed on cardboard, making them different from the aforementioned Fine Pens and Wide Pens mentioned above. They can be distinguished from later Exhibit cards by the greetings that they include on them (hence the ‘salutations’ name).
Finding decent commons in this set is not hard to do for $10 or less. On occasion, you can even find stars in decent shape at that price. The Exhibit Salutations cards are a tremendous bargain.
1939 Play Ball Cards
1939 Play Ball cards are another excellent source for bargain hunters. Like the 1933 Goudey set, this release is one of the most popular ones in history.
The set is largely known for the iconic rookie card of Ted Williams but it also features any number of big name players.
The basic design of the cards leaves a little to be desired, if I’m being honest. While some collectors undoubtedly prefer the limited aesthetics, others certainly wish for a bit more here. And without names on the front of the cards, it can be a little difficult to identify them without flipping the cards over to see the name and player biographies on the backs. But for $10, you can generally find commons and even some minor stars from this legendary set.