A Look at Zee-Nut Baseball Cards Through the Years
Here’s a look at every type of Zee-Nut card ever produced
Zee-Nut baseball cards were candy cards produced from 1911 through 1938. They are unique because they featured players on Pacific Coast League minor league teams.
While they are classified as candy cards, two things specifically need to be mentioned about them. First, they are all technically E-Cards, for early caramel issues. E-Cards are typically card from about 1930 and earlier (later candy cards are classified as R-Cards), but even the later Zee-Nuts are still classified as E-Cards (E137).
Second, Zee-Nut was not so much a candy as it was a snack. The cards are really better off being classified as F-Cards for food issues. Here’s a bit more about what the actual product Zee-Nut was.
The sets are special because they literally contain more than 3,000 cards. Many of the players in the sets are not found on other cards as they did not reach the major leagues or did not have long careers. The set also included a good number of big names, including Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.
So, Zee-Nuts were produced over a period of 28 years. However, there are a total of 25 different designs as one design was used for a few years. Few collectors, however, can identify all of the designs and determine which year a specific card is from. This will hopefully help with that.
Here’s a look at all of the different types of Zee-Nut cards, year by year.
One note here is that the pictures of cards shown are cards without coupons. Some Zee-Nuts included coupons on the bottoms but, over the years, most of those have been removed. Cards with coupons are rare and significantly more valuable. One from the 1920s is shown here as an example.
A final note here is that I did not include the 1912 Home Run Kisses here. That set was produced by Collins-McCarthy, the maker of the Zee-Nut cards. But while they share the same classification (E136) as some Zee-Nut sets, I did not lump them with these issues.
1911-12 (The Earliest Cards)
These are the earliest Zee-Nut cards in the series. At roughly 4″ high, they are the tallest cards of the Zee-Nuts. That, along with the brown backgrounds is what distinguishes them. The difference between the two is that the 1911 cards have a border while the 1912 cards do not.
If you’ve got a Zee-Nut that has a sepia kind of look to it with a brown background, you’ve got one of the earlier ones.
1913-23 (No Backgrounds)
After those early cards, you’ve got 11 years of additional cards with no backgrounds.
These cards have a variety of designs but the one constant is that they have plain backgrounds. The lone exception to that are the 1920 cards, which have a stadium background. All others have a plain background as the first cards do.
The other notable ‘type’ of card in this group is found in the 1918 set. Those cards have red borders — the only such ones in the Zee-Nut series.
In general, if you’ve got a card with a plain background, it is likely from one of the earlier sets produced from 1911 through 1923. Even if you can’t remember that tip, though, you should mostly okay. All of the 1913 through 1923 cards have a year printed on them with the exception of the 1914 cards.
1924-30 (Backgrounds with Years)
In 1924, Zee-Nut began taking pictures of players and including the actual backgrounds with the cards.
These real black and white cards also were helpful in that they all identified the year of the set. 1924 through 1926 cards had the four-digit year of the set. From 1927 through 1930, Zee-Nut made a slight change to only include the last two digits (i.e. 1928 has a ’28’ printed on them).
1931-38 (Backgrounds Without Years)
The last group of Zee-Nuts gives us a design with real black and white images with backgrounds, but no years identified. This is easily the biggest pain to deal with.
These cards mostly all look like with the exception of the 1932 set, which has no backgrounds. And because no year is identified on those, it can be easy to assume this is one of the earlier sets. Instead, it was just a one-off design by Zee-Nut.
This group of sets is hard to identify because of the missing years, of course. But another issue is that some years used the same design. 1931 cards used large text with print not inside of any sort of box. Then there was the 1932 no background set. From 1933 through 1936, the cards had the player’s name/team inside of a rounded box or a box with a stop sign shape design. Finally in 1937 and 1938, the cards had that information inside of a square box.
Distinguishing which year a particular card belongs in in those last five years can be difficult and it may take referring to team rosters to help pinpoint years.