Decks by the Decade - 1910's
For the hobby, the 1910's saw more of the famous players from the previous decade like Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Joe Jackson, but one famous utility player made his debut.
1911 T205 Gold Border: The American Tobacco Company continued producing cards with this stunning, 209 card, gold and white bordered set labeled the T205. This set saw a bigger focus on the players faces with a zoomed in photo and vibrant colors. It's difficult to find these cards in great condition because the gold frame is susceptible to chipping. The two popular cards in the set are Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson. Mathewson's card in this set is regarded as the go to for those who collect him, with a PSA 9 estimated value at $100,000.
1914-1915 Cracker Jack: Starting in 1914, the candy company Cracker Jack inserted 2 1/4" by 3" cards of famous baseball players inside of their packaging. These cards were bigger and brighter than most of the cards at the time with a vibrant red background. On the back, a short player biography is accompanied by an advertisement stating that there are 144 cards in the set which was expanded to 176 cards in 1915. Because these cards were thrown in the packaging being allowed to rummage around the candy, it is near impossible to find one without caramel stains on them. Shoeless Joe and Christy Mathewson are in this set amongst other Hall of Famers, but Ty Cobb is the tops in this set with an estimated PSA 9 value on his 1915 card at $300,000.
Babe Ruth: Every baseball fan knows the mystique of who Babe Ruth was. The Bambino was solely responsible for the movement out of the Dead Ball era by cracking home runs at a time when bunting was cool. He ended his 22 year career as the home run leader smacking 714 round-trippers. He still is the leader in career slugging, OPS, and OPS+ with a line of .690/1.164/206. This immaculate career is the reason why his cards are near Honus Wagner level worth of value.
Ruth started his career in the minors with the Orioles in the 1914 as a pitcher and a good one at that. He blew opposing hitters away with his fastball and buckled them with his curve. The local newspaper, The Baltimore News, created these cards with schedules featuring the teams players. There are two types of these cards, one with a blue border and one with a red border. Due to the fragility of the paper on the card, there are only known to be 10 of these in existence. At this time, only 3 have been graded by PSA, where a PSA 4 fetched $925,000.
After being traded to the Red Sox, Ruth began to cement his status as one of the best pitchers in the league. As a full time pitcher from 1914-1917, Ruth amassed a 67-34 record with a 2.07 ERA and a ERA+ of 131. In the middle of this dominance, Felix Mendelsohn started printing out sheets of cards to sell to companies as an opportunity to advertise their company on the backs of these cards. He advertised these in the Sporting News in 1916, and that company decided to use them to advertise as well. There were two sets of these cards, the M101-4 and the M101-5. These sets were produced only two months apart, and both are very similar in design. The only way to tell the difference from either set is that most of the players had different card numbers. The cards were in between the normal sized cards we have today, and the tobacco cards that were still famous at the time. There were other great althetes in this set such as Jim Thorpe, John McGraw, and Nap Lajoie, but none more valuable than Babe Ruth. Back in 2012, a blank back PSA4 sold for $59,500. A PSA 8 is estimated at $1.35 million.
In Ruth's last full year of pitching in 1917, Collins-McCarthy created a 200 card set featuring the games best players at the time. This set was a simple black and white design with the players name and team on the bottom of the card. What makes this entire set stand out is the magnitude of Cooperstown residents; Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Walter Johnson just to name a few. There were also variations such as players wearing different socks, holding the bat on a different shoulder, or just having a blank back. Much like most of the cards from the time, the composition of the card was a thin paper, making it difficult to find cards in great condition. A PSA 5 version of the Babe on this card estimates at $200,000.
Ruth was traded going into the 1920 season for cash so the new owner of the Red Sox could fund his new Broadway play, and the rest is history. Ruth transformed the game from the dead ball era into the home run mashing that we see today, way back in 1920. I have a feeling we'll see more of the Bambino in the upcoming decades.
We'll hit the roaring 20's next!