Pre-War Rookie Cards of Hall of Famers are not Always Expensive
Here are some of the more affordable rookie cards of pre-war Hall of Famers
Many times, a rookie card is one of a player’s most expensive cards. Rookie cards of Hall of Fame players can be quite expensive and that’s even more the case when you consider rookie cards of early Hall of Famers. But some pre-war players actually have pretty affordable first-year cards and some of those are noted below.
One important thing to note here is that collectors have different definitions for rookie cards. Thus, some of these players mentioned have earlier types of collectibles that may be considered rookies. Where applicable, I’ll try to note those below.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the source for these rookies is courtesy of Old Cardboard, who has put together an extraordinary list of Hall of Fame rookie cards, which can be viewed here.
Grover Alexander 1913 Barker / National Game Cards
Grover Cleveland Alexander was one of the most dominant pitchers of all time, winning 373 games. In 1915, he posted an incredible 31-10 record with a 1.22 ERA and he won the pitchers’ version of the Triple Crown three different times.
Alexander was featured in the 1911 M101-2 Sporting News set but those were photograph supplements. He was also in the 1912 Leathers and S81 Silks sets. But those, like the photograph, are hardly ‘cards.’
Most recognize Alexander’s rookie cards to be from the 1913 Tom Barker Game and 1913 National Game sets. But while high-grade cards from that set will usually start in the $400-$500 range, lower-grade ones can be had for much less, sometimes around $100. The problem is finding low-grade game cards can be a bit of a challenge as so many were well preserved.
Both the Barker and National Game cards used the same exact image and both have the same layout.
Dave Bancroft 1916 M101-4/5 Sporting News
Bancroft is always a lower-end Hall of Famer and when it comes to cheap cards of Cooperstown inductees, he’s always a popular choice.
Bancroft has earlier minor league issues but his first major league card wouldn’t come until 1916. A career .279 hitter, his numbers don’t scream Hall of Famer. But Bancroft was a strong defensive player, three times leading the league in Defensive WAR, assists, and double plays turned as a shortstop.
His first major league cards are found in the M101-4 and M101-5 Mendelsohn sets, commonly referred to as the Sporting News issues. While some of those cards be found with rarer backs, blank-backed or Sporting News-backed cards of Bancroft are pretty affordable, starting around $125 or so in decent shape.
Dizzy Dean 1933 Goudey
Dean was one of the top pitchers of the 1930s. Injuries shortened his career but for a stretch of time in that decade, he was the most dominant pitcher in the game.
In 1934, he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award with a 30-7 record, leading the league in wins, winning percentage (.811), shutouts (seven), and strikeouts (195). From 1932 through 1935, he lead the league in whiffs.
Dean was in the 1931 Metropolitan Studios set of photographs, the 1932 Orbit Gum Pin set, and the 1932 M101-8 Sporting News photos set, but his first real card isn’t until 1933 when he appeared in the Goudey set.
The card is a little more expensive but you can get low-grade ones starting at around $125-$150 with some patience.
Bobby Doerr 1938 Goudey
Doerr is another borderline Hall of Famer. He owns a healthy .288 career batting average and was a nine-time All-Star. But he had to wait until 1986 for induction by the Veteran’s Committee.
He is found in the 1937 Goudey Wide Pens set and many collectors do consider these to be legitimate cards. But in reality, they are small glossy premium photographs printed on a paper stock.
If you want the card that more like a traditional baseball card, you have to go to the 1938 Goudey Heads up set. Doerr, like the other players in the set, is actually featured twice with a low-number and high-number version. His cards in those sets can be found for as little as $75-$100 in decent lower-grade condition — sometimes even a little less.
Frank Frisch 1920 W519 Strip Cards
Frankie Frisch enjoyed a solid career as both a player and manager in the major leagues.
As a player, he won a Most Valuable Player award and was a three-time All-Star, winning four World Series titles. And as a manager, he racked up 1,138 wins, also leading his team to the 1934 World Series championship while he was also an active player.
Frisch’s rookie season came in 1919 but he didn’t appear in any card sets until 1920. That year, he appeared in the W519 strip card sets. Frisch actually has three different rookie cards as the W519 series had three distinct subsets. He is one of ten players featured in all of them.
The best part about Frisch’s rookies is their affordability. Decent Frisch W519s can be bought for around $50-$100 and low-grade ones are even cheaper.
Lloyd Waner 1927 W560
Along with brother Paul, Lloyd Waner is one of the most revered players in the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. He wasn’t the start that Paul was but with a career .316 batting average, he was plenty dangerous, leading the league in hits, runs, and triples at different points during his career.
Despite being a Hall of Famer, Waner’s cards are generally pretty cheap.
Like Frisch, Lloyd’s rookie card is also found in a strip card set, which means it’s going to be an affordable one. In this case, you’ll find Waner’s first card in the 1927 W560 issue, which has a playing card design.
Decent versions of the card start around $40-$50 and even high-grade ones can sometimes be had for under $100.
Hal Newhouser 1939-46 Salutations Exhibit
When it comes to cheap Hall of Fame rookie cards, Newhouser’s card probably cannot be beaten.
For three years, Newhouser was flat out dominant and his Hall of Fame argument is certainly based largely on that. From 1944-46, he was an incredible 80-27 with an ERA somewhere around 2.00 during that time. Newhouser was so good that he was the back-to-back Most Valuable Player in 1944 and 1945 before finishing second in 1946. In 1945, leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, he won the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown.
Beyond that, he was more pedestrian. In the five years before that run, he never had a winning record. And while his 21 wins in 1948 led the league, his 17 losses in 1947 were also a league ‘best’. He was never really the same after injury time in 1950 took its toll on him and his career ended pretty early at the age of 34, pitching in diminished roles.
The 1939-46 Salutations Exhibit card set is already a cheap one with the exception of some tough shortprints, so that helps. But Newhouser’s card is exceptionally affordable and is usually in the $10-$20 range — sometimes even less.