Meet the World’s Most Inexpensive Playing Days Cards of Honus Wagner

The 1904 Fan Craze set doesn’t contain cards of actual players — mostly

In 1904, Fan Craze created its first set of baseball cards. The company later issued playing cards picturing actual players but the lesser-known set from 1904 was much different. And buried inside of it are a pair of Honus Wagner cards — sort of.

The 1904 Fan Craze set, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a standard pre-war playing card game that was meant to simulate an actual baseball game. Cards had specific game actions on them that allowed a couple of people to play out an actual baseball game. It was one of many such games starting in the late 1800s and running through the rest of the pre-war era.

The set is not wildly popular. Many collectors, I imagine, are not even familiar with the cards. The majority of them have only printed words on them and are without even generic baseball pictures. The few exceptions to that, really, are a handful of cards that picture an unknown batter. So while the set is interesting and well over 100 years old, it is not terribly well-known. Even most of the cards in high-grade raw condition usually start around only $10-$20 each.

But while most of the cards in the set do not mention real players at all, a small amount do. Some mention actual teams and at least two mention players, including the legendary Honus Wagner.

Wagner, of course, is an iconic name in the hobby. His famous T206 baseball card is, pound for pound, the most valuable in all of card collecting. Yes, it has been occasionally outsold by cards, including the 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps card. But that only happens with high-grade Mantle cards vs. low-grade Wagners. The Wagner is worth considerably more in the same grade.

Other Wagner cards, too, are pricey. Even very low-grade caramel cards (Wagner famously has few tobacco issues) sell for more than $1,000. Prices of his cards have escalated in recent years.

Because of those high prices, collectors look high and low for Wagner ‘bargains,’ if you will. And arguably the two most inexpensive Wagner cards are found in this set.

You’ve got to be a bit creative here because Wagner is not pictured on either card in this set. But his name is included and these are certainly Wagner cards of a sort.

One card is labeled as ‘Out on Steal’ and explains to fans how to calculate a batting average. Wagner is listed as the example here as his 1903 statistics are used for the calculation. The other card pictures the leading hitters for 1903 where Wagner, predictably, is listed, among several other players. Wagner led the league in batting average in 1904 and is listed among some other key players, including Hall of Famer Frank Chance and Jake Beckley.

If you’re in the market for a very inexpensive, playing days card of Wagner, these would fit the bill. I have seen dealers asking higher amounts on them, but with some patience, for now, anyway, you can usually find these somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-$40. But I could also see the prices rising a bit as more collectors discover them, much in the way the 1935 Whitman Party Stunts cards of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb have.

Any Wagner card from his career days is worthy of attention — even ones that simply list his name.

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