Baseball cards had been issued since the 1860s but starting in 1909, things sort of went haywire. While there were a number of sets issued in the early 1900s, 1909 is the year when the card collecting craze of the 20th century really took off. Numerous sets were printed that year and those issues still remain popular today. 1909 really sort of kicked off a new era in collecting and helped to jumpstart the hobby into what it is today. Let’s take a look back at some of the sets that were offered in this critical time in collecting history.
The first part of this series examined tobacco cards. Part II will cover caramel/early candy cards and Part III will review other types of cards.
1909-11 E90-1 American Caramel
The E90-1 American Caramel set was also first released in 1909 and lasted through 1911. All of the cards in the set weren’t printed during the entire time and that has led to some very tough cards in the set that may have been printed for only a short time. Today, it remains one of the most popular early candy card sets.
Most players in the set have only one card. However, a few, such as Cy Young shown here, have more than one.
Like the T206 set, prices for these cards have risen steadily over the years. Commons in decent shape typically start around $40-$50. The set is not as difficult or massive as T206 but is an incredibly difficult build due to the number of big names in it along with a large number of shortprinted cards. It is anchored by the major league rookie card of Shoeless Joe Jackson with respectable copies costing five figures.
1909 E91B American Caramel
The E90-1 set wasn’t the only baseball release issued by American Caramel in 1909. The company continued a string of sets now known as E91 that year.
The E91 cards actually began in 1908, a year sooner than the baseball card collecting craze. Those cards are now classified as E91A while the set issued in 1909 is known as E91B. The company ended the series in 1910 with a set known as, you guessed it, E91C. These cards don’t get quite as much love as the E90-1 American Caramel cards do because the same poses were used in all three of these sets. Different players share the same poses and that leads to collectors considering them be a generic series of sorts. Even the American Card Catalog author Jefferson Burdick did that, calling the set a ‘faked design.’
Interestingly enough, population reports for this set sort of point to the craze of 1909, too. All of the cards in the three sets are somewhat rare but there were far fewer of the cards printed in 1908. It is possible that American Caramel saw the popularity of card collecting and upped production based on that. Still, the set boasts plenty of popular players, including Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and others. Decent commons in this set typically start around $50.
1909 E101 and E102
These two sets are distinctly different. However, they share some similarities, including the fact that both were issued in 1909.
In addition, both are relatively small sets. E101 included only 50 cards and E102 has only 25 cards. The key to both series, though, is that they are anonymous. They are classified as early caramel card sets (likely because images in them were used in other caramel sets) but how they were distributed, or even who distributed them, remains a mystery to this day.
Still, despite that anonymity, both sets are chased quite a bit by collectors of early cards. Together, the two boast many big names, including Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson, among others. Commons of reasonable quality in either set are hard to find at under $50-$60.
Both sets have the same general look with white borders and color lithographic pictures. Because of that, they can be difficult to tell apart from other sets just by looking at the front.
1909-10 E97 C.A. Briggs
The C.A. Briggs set is another early candy card issue. These cards are believed to have been issued in both 1909 and 1910.
C.A. Briggs was actually a company that produced lozenges. These are among the rarer early caramel/candy issues out there.
There are actually two types of E97 cards. Some of the cards are printed in black and white while the majority are printed in color. The black and white cards have sometimes been considered proof cards, though, that may not really be true. And because some candy issues were shared by numerous companies, some collectors do not even believe that the black and white cards were even distributed by C.A. Briggs.
The set includes a handful of errors. The most notable one is that the card that is supposed to depict Hall of Famer Cy Young actually pictures Irv Young instead (that error, by the way, appears elsewhere, too). Cards from this rare set do not come cheap. These typically start in the $100-$150 range.
1909 E92 Croft/Dockman/Nadja
A total of four different sets make up the E92 classification. But while the actual cards and checklist vary a bit, they share the same images when found in different sets.
E92s are among the more popular early candy cards. They were distributed by Croft (for both candy and cocoa sets), Dockman, and Nadja caramels. Further muddying the water is that the Croft Candy cards can be found with different colored backs — some rarer than others. The Dockman cards are the easiest to find and even those cards are generally not abundant.
Prices and rarity vary between the four sets but the most inexpensive Dockman commons typically start around $50.
1909 E95 Philadelphia Caramel
The E95 Philadelphia Caramel cards are up there with the E90-1 American Caramels in terms of popularity. In short, they are among the most collected of the early candy releases.
Like most of the other early candy/caramel sets, these cards have the standard color lithographic images with white borers. Backs include a checklist of the set. Philadelphia Caramel followed this set up with a second one in 1910 known today as E96. But because the players were different from the E95 set, it doesn’t have nearly as many big names.
The set is short with only 25 cards but is packed full of stars, including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Eddie Plank. Those stars, as you can imagine, aren’t cheap. Even in low-grade condition, Cobb and Wagner almost always start in the $1,000-$1,500 price range. Commons, of course, are more affordable but decent ones are hard to find for less than $75-$100.