Collecting pre-war cards isn’t always cheap. And when you add Hall of Famers to the mix and want them in halfway decent condition, things get progressively more expensive. However, if collecting Hall of Famers is your thing, there are still plenty of early pre-war cards to be had at affordable prices. Here are seven of them in no particular order.
1. Hank Greenberg 1939 Play Ball
A two-time Most Valuable Player, Greenberg is one of the most famous Detroit Tigers of all time. His cards are often not terribly expensive but his 1939 Play Ball is entirely too affordable. Mid-grade copies are available for a pretty reasonable price and, like much of the set, is a tremendous value given that it is nearly 80 years old.
2. Herb Pennock 1933 Goudey
Pennock’s numbers (241 wins, 3.60 career ERA) don’t scream Hall of Famer, but the pitcher also won three World Series titles with the Ruth-era New York Yankees. He was denied induction for many years before finally getting in on his eighth try on the ballot. Pennock’s 1933 Goudey card is not only from a highly-desirable set but with raw mid-grade cards starting at under $50, it’s a pretty good bargain.
3. Joe Kelley 1909-11 T206
Kelley is another guy that doesn’t look like a Hall of Famer just by the numbers. But he was one of the best base stealers of his era and often finished among the league’s top ten in many important offensive categories, including home runs, hits, batting average, and on base percentage. His speed also made him one of the best triples hitters of all time. Here’s a card from another iconic set and mid-grade examples at the lower end of the spectrum can be found for under $100.
4. Babe Ruth 1932 Sanella
Babe Ruth? On a list of affordable Hall of Famers from the pre-war era? Yep. Most of the cards from Ruth’s playing days can’t be found for less than several hundred dollars – and that’s at the low end. But Ruth does have a few affordable cards in the pre-war era, including his 1932 Sanella issue. The Sanella ‘cards’ are very thin and more like photographs. But with mid-grade copies starting around $125, it’s hard to complain.
Forgeries have hit the market so while buying a graded one doesn’t absolutely guarantee authenticity, it can help give you a little peace of mind.
5. Roger Bresnahan 1911 T205
There are 30 Hall of Famers in the iconic T205 set and Bresnahan is among the most affordable. Collectors should note there are two Bresnahan versions in the set – one with his mouth closed and one with his mouth partially open. The open mouth variety is far more difficult to find so those prices are on the higher end. But his closed mouth card starts around $100 in raw mid-grade condition.
6. George Sisler 1925 Turf / Boguslavsky Sports Records
A while back, I featured some popular international pre-war cards. One of those is this Sisler card, which is a tremendous bargain. Since it’s not a domestic issue, it’s not always the easiest to find. And because of that, sellers often are asking inflated amounts for the card. But when it is up for sale in a straight auction, you can get a mid-grade copy starting around $25, which is a tremendous price for this nearly 100-year old issue.
7. Luke Appling 1935 Goudey
Yes, there are bigger names in the 1935 Goudey set. But if it’s affordability you want, look no further than Luke Appling. A .310 hitter, Appling was one of the top shortstops of his era. In a 20-year career, he never reached the postseason. His 1935 Goudey card is one of the best bargains in the set and part of the reason for that is that it’s a 4-in-one card with three others pictured as well. Even in mid-grade condition, it starts around only $30 or so.