1906 Fan Craze Baseball (Better Investment Than T206 Cards?)

June 17, 2022

fan-craze

Before the days of TV's and iPads and iPhones, US consumers were forced to keep themselves occupied without screens (can you imagine!?).

In the late 1800's and early 1900's board games were quite popular in the states. 

Between 1904 and 1906 a company named Fan Craze out of Cincinnati, Ohio offered its own spin on the table game movement.

The less popular 1904 Fan Craze game featured a set of cards without player images. Each card included a baseball play (such as 'Bunt' or 'Homerun') and players would take turns selecting a card to advance their batter on a playing board (shown below).

(side note, PSA has erroneously labeled the 1906 Fan Craze AL set as 1904 Fan Craze and still does to this day even though both the AL and the NL sets were released in 1906).

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1904 Fan Craze Table Game (courtesy Goldin Auctions)

In 1906, Fan Craze released a similar game set, yet instead the cards now had baseball player names and images. According to PSA, the sets were sold for 48 cents at Sears

The Fan Craze table games were issued with two different sets, one for the American League (51 cards, catalogued as WG2 by Jefferson Burdick) and one of the National League (54 cards, WG3). 

Similar to the 1904 Fan Craze set, the 1906 Fan Craze player cards feature a 'Play' on top of the player image. As shown on this 'Hans' Wagner card, the play is listed as a '3-base hit', in other words a 'triple'. 

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1906 Fan Craze Honus Wagner

The cards have stock similar to modern day playing cards and the round corners have helped preserve the overall condition over the years. 

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1906 Fan Craze Board and Instructions, courtesy Mile High Auctions.

In addition, new discoveries of unused Fan Craze sets have led to some highly graded Fan Craze cards with the third party graders (PSA, SGC).

Note that American League players have blue backs whereas the National Leaguers have red backs.

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1909 Fan Craze AL Blue Back

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1906 Fan Craze NL Red Back

Player images from the set leverage the work of Carl Horner, a Boston photographer who's work is legendary in many pre-war baseball card sets. 

Horner's early photographs were also used for the infamous T206 White Borders set, including the 'holy grail' 1909 T206 Honus Wagner card. You'll notice that most of the Fan Craze portrait subjects are the same images used in the T206 set. 

The WG2 American League set features 15 Hall Of Famers, while the WG3 National League set includes 10 Hall Of Fame players. 

The Fan Craze cards typically haven't been all that popular with vintage collectors. Mostly due to the fact that they are considered game cards and not part of a major release. 

However, in recent years, astute collectors have begun to appreciate the cards. And notably the cards were released in 1906, well before the White Borders set in 1909 and prior to many of the other popular carmel issues of the era.

So, in reality, what's not to love?

How Rare Are The 1906 Fan Craze Cards?

PSA has graded near 1300 copies of 1906 AL Fan Craze Cards and over 1500 copies of the Fan Craze NL set.  SGC has graded about 900 copies between the two sets. 

So on average, between PSA and SGC, an average of 35 cards per player have been graded in the 105 card set.

Thus, the cards are not necessarily scarce, but certainly tougher finds than the popular tobacco issues of the early 1900's (T206 set for example).

Note as mentioned before it is also quite common to find higher grade copies of many players due to many discoveries of unusued game sets. 

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High grade Fan Craze are quite common like this PSA 9 Mcaleer card

Five Most Valuable Cards In The 1906 Fan Craze Set

1906 Fan Craze Honus Wagner

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Can't afford the millions for a T206 Holy Grail Wagner? Well, the Fan Craze Wagner is a great option. It's the same image used on Wagner's T206 card.  It was produced three years earlier than the White Borders set.  And it has roughly the same graded population as the T206 Wagner.

The last sale of a PSA 8 Fan Craze Wagner topped $7K at auction, but in lower grades the number might get closer to $5K.  Well worth it in my opinion for those looking to buy a Wagner for an investment. 

1906 Fan Craze Cy Young

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Similar to the Wagner, here we have a Cy Young card that uses the indentical Horner image used for Young's T206 Portrait card. The pop is super low (PSA has graded only 34) and although there isn't much auction data to work with (last PSA sold in 2020), I still like the Fan Craze Young for investment purposes. 

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A Cy Young T206 Portrait card

1906 Fan Craze Eddie Plank

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T206 Plank's can run in the multiple hundred's of thousands of dollars, whereas a 1906 Fan Craze Plank (with the same exact image as the T206 Plank) can often be found for a few thousand. A great deal. 

1906 Fan Craze Nap Lajoie

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PSA has graded only 30 of the Lajoie Fan Craze cards, making it, at least a bit more accessible than some of his earlier issues. And it's a fraction of the population Lajoie's T206 portrait card. Notice a pattern here?

1906 Fan Craze Addie Joss

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Only around Fan Craze Joss cards 30 have been graded by PSA, whereas over 800 of his T206 Portrait cards have been graded by PSA.  There haven't been many auction sales of late, but even at a slight premium versus his T206 portrait card, I say pull the trigger!

Investment Potential For Fan Craze Cards?

I think this is one of the underrated gems in the vintage pre-war baseball card market. Fan Craze cards are technically game cards and often get ignored because of this.

But let's start with the fact that they use the portraits from the T206 set.

Can't afford a T206 Wagner or Plank?

Well, here's a little secret - the 1906 Fan Craze cards of both Wagner and Plank have lower graded populations than both of their T206 cards. 

This doesn't mean a Wagner Fan Craze card will come cheap, but if you'd rather spend thousands as opposed to millions then you might just find yourself the deal of a lifetime. 

So, chalk the Fan Craze set up as one of the hidden gems I'm probably most excited about in terms of investment potential over the long term.

1906 Fan Craze Checklist

AL WG-2 Set

1Nick Altrock
2Jim Barrett
3Harry Bay
4

Chief Bender (HOF)

5Bill Bernhardt
6W. Bradley
7

Jack Chesbro (HOF)

8

Jimmy Collins (HOF)

9

Sam Crawford (HOF)

10Lou Criger
11Lave Cross
12Monte Cross
13Harry Davis
14Bill Dinneen
15Pat Donovan
16Pat Dougherty
17

Norman Elberfield (Elberfeld)

18

Hoke Ferris (Hobe)

19

Elmer Flick (HOF)

20Buck Freeman
21Fed Glade
22

Clark Griffith (HOF)

23

Charley Hickman

24William Holmes
25Harry Hoswell
26

Frank Isbel (Isbell)

27Albert Jacobson
28Ban Johnson
29Fielder Jones
30

Addie Joss (HOF)

31

Billy Keeler (HOF)

32

Napoleon Lajoie (HOF)

33

Connie Mack (HOF)

34Jimmy McAleer
35Jim McGuire
36Earl Moore
37

George Mullen (Mullin)

38Billy Owen
39Fred Parent
40Case Patten
41

Eddie Plank (HOF)

42

Ossie Schreckengost

43Jake Stahl
44Fred Stone
45William Sudhoff
46Roy Turner
47

Rube Waddell (HOF)

48

Bobby Wallace (HOF)

49G. Harris White
50George Winters
51Cy Young (HOF)

NL WG-3 Set

1Leone Ames
2Clarence Beaumont
3Jake Beckley (HOF)
4Billy Bergen
5Roger Bresnahan (HOF)
6George Brown (Browne)
7Mordecai Brown (HOF)
8Header Card
9Jas. Casey
10Frank Chance (HOF)
11Fred Clarke (HOF)
12Thos. Corcoran
13Bill Dahlen
14Mike Donlin
15Charley Dooin
16Mickey Doolin (Doolan)
17Hugh Duffy (HOF)
18John E. Dunleavy
19Bob Ewing
20Chick Fraser
21Ed Hanlon
22G.E. Howard
23Miller Huggins (HOF)
24Joseph Kelley (HOF)
25John Kling
26Tommy Leach
27Harry Lumley
28Carl Lundgren
29Bill Maloney
30Dan McGann
31Joe McGinnity (HOF)
32John McGraw (HOF)
33Harry McIntire (McIntyre)
34Charley Nichols
35Mike O'Neil (O'Neill)
36Orville Pverall (Orval)
37Frank Pfeffer
38Deacon Phillippe
39Charley Pittinger
40Harry C. Pulliam
41Claude Ritchey
42Ed Ruelbach (Reulbach)
43J. Bentley Seymour
44Jim Sheckard
45Jack Taylor
46Luther Taylor
47Fred Tenny (Tenney)
48Harry Theilman
49Roy Thomas
50Honus Wagner (HOF)
51Jake Weimer
52Bob Wicker
53Vic Willis (HOF)
54Kew Wiltsie
55Irving Young


1906 Fan Craze Cards On eBay


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