The Ten Best Pre-War Caramel Cards To Invest In Right Now

e90-1-speaker Despite the big move in vintage cards over the past few years, I still think there are great opportunities for collectors looking to invest in vintage baseball cards.

While in the past, I’ve advocated for strip cards as an under the radar investment in the hobby, in this piece, I’m going to take a closer look at pre-war baseball caramel cards.

Many vintage collectors often get consumed with early tobacco cards, such as the T206 White Borders set or the T205 Gold Borders set.  

However, many early caramel cards issued around the same time or a few years later, are rarer and often times less expensive. 

So, come along as I offer up ten vintage pre-war caramel baseball cards that I think could be excellent long term investments for vintage collectors.

1909 E90-1 American Caramel - Tris Speaker

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $1000

The E90-1 set is often referred to as the 'Caramel Monster' for its larger size (118 cards), star power, and fairly easy availability.  I could have chosen numerous cards from this set, by I went with the Tris Speaker card for a few reasons.

e90-1-speaker

First, it's generally harder to find than most other star cards in the set, and well, I tend to view Speaker as generally underrated versus other Hall of Famers of his time.  Here's a snapshot of the PSA Population for Speaker versus other star cards in the E90-1 set.

E90-1 Cards
PSA Population
Tris Speaker
25
Wagner (batting)
40
Wagner (throwing)
17
Cy Young (BOS)
114
Cy Young (CLE)
26
Joe Tinker
84
Christy Mathewson
111
Nap Lajoie
96
Joe Jackson
95
Joss (Pitching)
40
As shown, PSA has only graded 25 cards of Speaker, which is the second lowest next to the Wagner (throwing card) among big name HOFers.  Even the 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson card, which is widely viewed a rare and invaluable card has been graded 95 times by PSA.

Now the issue is that due to the scarcity, the card doesn't come up all that often for sale.  There was an SGC 2 that recently sold on eBay for close to $1000, which in my mind is a good price for this card.  So, keep your eyes peeled and get ready to act if you see one at around that price.

1909 E90-1 American Caramel - Cy Young (Boston)

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $1500+

Now, here I am recommending one of the more available cards from the first American Caramel set;  yet still when we look at the population--114 cards graded by PSA, it's a much harder to find card versus many of the tobacco issues from the same era (yes T206 Cy Young Portrait card I'm looking at you)

e90-1-cy-young

1909 E92 Dockman & Sons - Christy Mathewson

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $1500 +

With this  E92 Dockman & Sons Christy Mathewson card, I opt for both star power and rarity. In addition, from a pure design and aesthetic standpoint, I find this card to be one of the most beautiful cards of the pre-war era. 

mathewson-dockman

PSA has graded 39 copies of Mathewson's E92 card, which is less than other big time HOFers from the set such as Cy Young (52 copies), Lajoie (54) and Wagner (49 batting, 82 throwing).

It is however a very popular card, so expect to pay at the very least $1000 for a low grade copy (if you can find one). 

One important note about early caramel sets is that often the art work was reused across various issues, similar with strip cards, so it often can get quite confusing.  Sometime you will look at a card and think it's from a certain set, when it's an entirely different set all together.  So, if you have your heart set on a specific card (due to some attachment to the design), sometimes you can find the same exact picture reused on a lower priced issue.

Case in point, if you can't find an E92 Mathewson, you could try to hunt down from the E101 set, the E102 set or the E106 set.  All have the same exact image. I always recommend Old Cardboard for great checklists and galleries to help distinguish the differences. 

1910 E93 Standard Caramel - Honus Wagner

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $2000+

I chose this one for the simple fact that it is one of the more affordable Honus Wagner cards on the market, with relatively good scarcity, as PSA has only graded 96 copies.  This image, like with many other caramel cards, is re-used several times, probably most known from the E98 'Anonymous Set of 30" issue.

e93-honus-wagner-card

1910 E94 George Close Caramel - Honus Wagner

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $2500+

I'm adding one more Wagner card to the mix for a few reasons.  First, let's just start with the fact that I don't think you can go wrong in buying any Honus Wagner card for investment purposes.  

e93-wagner

PSA has graded only one more copy of the  E94 Honus Wagner card as compared to the famed T206 'Holy Grail' Honus Wagner card

Second, this one is a unique image, and there are many background color variations for the set.  And lastly, it is fairly scarce, with only 36 copies graded by PSA.  Note, if you didn't realize, there are 35 T206 Honus Wagner cards graded by PSA

1909 E95 Philadelphia Caramel - Ty Cobb

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $2500+

The first set from the Philadelphia Caramel company, this Ty Cobb card is fairly underrated in my opinion.  We named it to our 'All Vintage Value Portfolio' and still think it represents attractive investment value. 

cobb-e95

We can see that the E95 Cobb is quite rare relative to the Red Portrait Cobb from the T206 White Borders set and is valued at around the same price currently.  

PSA has graded 147 copies of the Cobb card, so a few more than some of the rarer cards we mentioned previously, but its Ty Cobb, so there is still huge demand for his cards and this one should likely do well over time. 

e95-vs-t206-cobb

1910 E96 Philadelphia Caramel -  Nap Lajoie

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $500

What you'll also notice across many of the caramel issues is not only a reusing of images across various caramel sets but across some of the tobacco issues (namely the T206 white borders set) as well.

Here's one example where that is true, as the Nap Lajoie card from the E96 Philadelphia Caramels set is the same illustration used from the T206 Lajoie Portrait card, with some additional changes made such as some of the coloring on his face and his jersey. 

lajoie-e96

E96 Nap Lajoie

T206 Nap Lajoie

PSA has graded only 51 copies of the Lajoie E96 card, whereas there are over 850 graded copies of his T206 Portrait card!  And relatively the same cost for each card. Which one would you rather own?

1910 E103 Williams Caramel -  Ty Cobb

Estimated Value (Good Condition): $5000+

Our second Cobb choice, this is the same portrait used from the T206 set and the image also is used for the Sporting News M116 set.  So, why this one.  Well, let's start with scarcity.  

e103-cobb

PSA has graded only 23 copies of the E103 Cobb!  Can you guess how many T206 Red Portrait Cobb cards have been graded?  

2170.  Yep over 2000 cards!  so nearly 100x the population of the E103 card!

So there is some premium with the E103 Cobb.  A poor to good condition card will likely set you back over $5000.  But, let's not forget that a good condition T206 Cobb Red Portrait is now selling for around $3000, and well I think the E103 Cobb still offers good relative value.

1910 E105 Mello Mint - Cy Young

Estimated Value (Poor to Good Condition): $2000

I really love the backs on the Mello-Mint cards. Note these cards were issued in packs of 'Mello-Mint' gum, so technically not a 'caramel' card, but still classified under the 'E' designation by Jefferson Burdick--as 'Early Candy and Gum'

e105-cy-young

The Cy Young is a desired card from the set, which has a lot of demand from the obscure vintage collectors.  (Note the same image is also used for one of the cards in the E90 set) 

It also has only been graded 24 times, making it a much more valuable card then you might expect, although also fairly affordable given the scarcity.  There haven't been many auction sales of late, but would expect a poor to fair copy to fetch around $2000. 

1915 Cracker Jack - Ty Cobb

Estimated Value (Poor to Good Condition): $6500+

Now consider this to be the high roller selection for early caramel cards, as this is the most expensive on the list, and we even included this card on our "All Vintage Value Portfolio' list and it has seen significant appreciation since we wrote that piece

1915-cracker-jack-cobb

Cracker Jack cards will only become more popular over time; as Cracker Jacks and Baseball just go hand in hand.  And what better than owning a piece of american baseball history with this striking Ty Cobb card.

They aren’t rare–PSA has graded about 111 of these, yet if you can find a nice one below $8000 in good condition, I don’t see why it won’t be worth more in the next ten years.

Have something you think should have made the list?  Shoot me an email at chris@allvintagecards.com and let me know. 

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