Generic 1904 Fan Craze Set a Precursor to the Popular 1906 Sets
While many collectors know of the 1906 Fan Craze sets, fewer can tell you about the 1904 issue
For a long time, there was confusion about the specific dating of these cards. Many collectors believed the WG2 set, for example, was issued in 1904. However, that has proven to be inaccurate and both sets these days are considered to be 1906 issues.
These popular cards (Cy Young’s card is shown here) featured black and white portraits of players with their name and a game action, which allowed participants to play an actual game of baseball. Because they featured actual players, the 1906 Fan Craze cards are extremely popular sets with collectors.
Many collectors only know of these Fan Craze cards but the company actually did issue a 1904 set that is markedly different from these cards.
The Real 1904 Fan Craze Cards
As stated, both of those Fan Craze sets, WG2 and WG3, are almost certainly from 1906. But Fan Craze did really have a set in 1904 and the cards, well, look nothing like these.
The full game included a total of 59 cards and was packaged along with a small wooden board, scorecards, instructions, and small nails that were used as game pieces.
While the board and pieces are of interest to game collectors, card collectors are obviously more interested in the cards. Most cards in the set merely have printed actions on them. For that reason, they are not nearly as popular as the 1906 cards with real players.
For example, here’s one of those. This is a strike card found in the set. The action is printed neatly on adjacent corners of the card and the middle of the card actually gives a further definition of the specific play that occurred. It indicates that a foul tip by the batter was caught by the catcher.
These cards, like others in the set, are relatively rare. But there isn’t overwhelming demand for them because they don’t feature any specific players or even an image. These cards, ungraded, are typically in the $5-$10 range, though it is not uncommon to see sellers asking for more for them because, as stated, they are not seen too often. And, even though the cards are more than 100 years old, like other game cards, they are more often than not in good condition.
Some cards in the set did have images. And these cards are definitely more popular than the ones that merely had words on them.
Most of these cards, included both an action and an image of an old style batter. The player is not named and while some collectors might try infer it is modeled after a specific player, there’s no idea as to his identity — or even if it is supposed to depict a real player. The same picture of the batter is used on all of those cards.
Despite the fact that a player is not named, these cards are certainly more popular and more desirable than the others. A total of 11 of these cards are found in the full game and they have assorted actions printed on them to indicate what play would occur if the card was drawn. For example, this one indicates that the batter successfully got a hit (I think, anyway — the language ‘Hit by Batted Ball’, after all, is somewhat confusing).
The other main card with an actual image on it is shown here as well. This card indicates that the batting team hit a triple, or recorded a 3-Base Hit. The unique thing about this card is that, instead of depicting a hitter, the picture actually shows two players or fans dressed as players as they play a game with the Fan Craze cards.
Unlike the batter card where that image was used on 11 different cards in the set, this is the only one featuring this image.
Prices for these cards are kind of all over the map. It’s safe to say they are more popular (at least the batter cards are) than the printed action cards. But you can see them selling for all sorts of amounts — as little as $5-$10 to much more. Again, all depends on the buyer and the seller.
Full sets are sometimes seen. Those are typically in the $75-$125 range. And since the full game contains a total of 59 cards, that’s a much better deal than paying even $5 per card, obviously.
The 1904 Fan Craze cards were earlier and may be rarer than the later 1906 issues. Their popularity will never catch the 1906 sets, of course, but they are unique pre-war cards that you can snatch up at a decent price, on occasion.