Zee-Nut Baseball Cards: Collecting The HOF Players

Zee-Nut (also commonly referred to as Zeenut) baseball cards were issued over the course of twenty-eight years from 1911 to 1938.  The cards were issued by Collins-McCarthy, a candy company based in San Francisco.  Zee-Nut cards were issued in packages of ‘Zee-Nuts’, which were kind of a different type of cracker jack candy

The cards were issued on the West coast and only included players from the Pacific Coast League.  Thus, many of the players in the sets did not even reach the big leagues.  Given the number of sets (25) and the number of cards (nearly 3600)  issued over 28 years, it is rare to find many collectors dedicated to completing all of the sets.  

Most collectors don’t have a lot of familiarity with Zee-Nut cards but some are familiar with the Zee-Nut Joe DiMaggio pre-rookie cards. Zee-Nut cards with a coupon attached are much rarer and deserve a significant premium.

Thus, I thought it might be helpful for collectors unfamiliar with Zee-Nuts to examine the Hall of Fame players (including DiMaggio) from the sets.  Some of the early Zee-Nut cards are super hard to find, so it would probably take you years and a huge budget to try and collect every one.  

At the very least this provides some novice collectors with some more manageable targets, and avoids some of the players many of have never even heard of.

Background On Zee-Nut Cards

As noted previously, Zee-Nut cards were issued in packages of Zee-Nut candy over the course of twenty-eight years.  Based on my research, most resources note that Zee-Nut candy was a formulation of some sort of cracker jack, but it appears that Zee-Nuts were a candy bar made up of popcorn, peanuts and coconut.   This girl appears to be eating one in this sheet music piece that was 

zeenut-music

Zeenut Sheet Music image courtesy New York Public Library

The first Zee-Nut set was launched in 1911 and featured 123 cards.  Note that the designs changed over the years, but Jefferson Burdick cataloged the sets issued from 1911 to 1914 as E136 and those issued from 1915-1938 as E137.   Note that Collins-McCarthy also issued a 'Home Run Kisses' set in 1912 which also carries the E136 designation (see below)

hrk-bancroft

A 1912 'Home Run Kisses' Dave Bancroft card issued by Collins-McCarthy.

This advertisement shows the packaging for the Zee-Nut candy.

zeenut-ad

A Zeenut advertising piece from 1912, which shows the packaging of the candy.

This gets confusing, as you might see a card for sale advertised with an E137 designation that is from 1924 or one from 1932 with the same E137 designation. Old Cardboard provides a great breakdown of the different sets, and the differences between each issue

1911 ZEENUT John Halla SGC 2.5 GOOD+ Los Angeles Angels PCL => horizontal card

$1,249.99  
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1933 Zeenut PCL JOE DIMAGGIO ROOKIE RC SGC 1.5 FR

$50,000.00  
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1911 Zeenut Buck Weaver Rookie SGC 2 Good NICE

$3,500.00  
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1911 Zeenut PCL Buck Weaver Black Sox ~~ SGC Authentic ~~ cool tattoo transfer

$999.99  
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FRANK CHANCE 1917 E137 Zeenut PSA 1.5 PCL Pacific Coast League LA CUBS HOF RARE

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1916 Zeenut JAMES CLAXTON PCL Minor League Baseball

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It should also be noted that some cards were issued with coupons attached to the bottom of the card, which were eligible for prizes, mostly aimed at the kids that were collecting the cards.  Cards that have the coupons trade at a premium, as many were ripped off by kids so they could collect the prize.

Rhett Yeakley, a big time Zeenut collector wrote this over at the Net54 forums:

Rhett Yeakley

Zeenut Collector

As many that collect these cards know only perhaps 0.1 to 1% of Zeenut cards found today retain the coupon as the company offered many pretty great items that could be exchanged for the coupons and the you children would normally rip them off as soon as they had them in hand as they were sometimes able to trade the coupons themselves for a card they didn’t have from the non-baseball card collectors, or as they were known in the Bay area as “KEWP COLLECTORS.”  

Now let's dig into the HOF players from all of the sets.  I'm going to go year by year for each of the twenty-five sets.

1911 Zee-Nut (E136)

There are no Hall of Famers in the 1911 Zee-Nut set but I'd be remiss to not mention the card of Buck Weaver.  Weaver was a member of the 1919 Chicago White Sox that were notorious for their cheating scandal.  Weaver was an excellent player but never was eligible for the HOF due to the Black Sox Scandal.  This is a great piece discussing Weaver's career.   His 1911 Zee-Nut card is scarce and highly sought after.  

1911-buck-weaver

1912 Zee-Nut (E136)

Note that there are no Hall of Famers in the inaugural 1911 Zee-Nut set.  The 1912 Zee-Nut set features Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft--note that he is also a part of the 1912 Home Run Kisses set issued by Collins-McCarthy.

1912 Zee-Nut Dave Bancroft (HOF, RC) 

Bancroft is one of the lesser known Hall of Fame baseball players, although he was recognized as one of the best defensive players in the history of baseball.  Bancroft led all NL shortstops in putouts four times, assists three times and fielding percentage twice, while ranking third on the all-time list for putouts for a shortstop. 

Bancroft's 1912 Zee-Nut card has been graded only 5 times by PSA, showing how hard the card is to find today.  Even still, when they come up for sale, the prices realized aren't all that earth shattering.  The last sale of a PSA 2 (MK) was in 2019 for $570, but would suspect any sales today to eclipse that number significantly. 

1912-bancroft-zeenut

A 1912 Zee-Nut rookie card of HOFer Dave Bancroft

1913 Zee-Nut (E136)

1913 Zee-Nut Harry Heilmann (HOF, RC)

This 1913 Zee-Nut rookie card of Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann is the only graded copy from PSA in existence, thus the set and the Heilmann card are quite rare.  Heilmann was one of the best hitters to play the game of baseball, and probably doesn't get the recognition he deserves.  Heilmann won four batting titles and hit .403 in 1923 to lead all of baseball.

His 1913 Zee-Nut card is probably in the top five of desirability among all Zee-Nut issues.  And because of the rarity, any collectors would really struggle to get their hands on one.  The last sale of this card in particular happened in 2019 for $1171 at Lelands

heilmann-zeenut-1913


1914 Zee-Nut (E136)

Note that this is the first year that Zee-Nut's were issued with a coupon on the bottom of the card, however it is quite rare to find one still intact.  Here's one from the set that sold at auction in recent years--an extremely rare find:

zeenut-coupon

1914 Zee-Nut Dave Bancroft (HOF) 

The second Zee-Nut card from Bancroft is just as rare as his 1912 rookie issue and nearly as desirable by vintage collectors.   PSA has graded just one copy and thus the pricing on this one is really anyone's guess. 

bancroft-1914-zn

1915 Zee-Nut (E137)

Another extremely rare set, PSA has graded only 25 card across the entire 147 card set.  Note this set market the change in designation from E136 to E137 by Burdick. 

1915 Zee-Nut Stan Coveleski (RC, HOF)

Coveleski was a star right handed pitcher who played most of his career with the Cleveland Indians, notching 214 wins, with a 2.88 ERA.   His 1915 Zee-Nut card is highly sought after, yet its extreme scarcity makes finding one a near impossibility for anyone looking to complete a HOF Zee-Nut run. 

covaleski-zn

1915 Zee-Nut Harry Helimann (HOF) 

This is the second Heilmann Zee-Nut card and again, one of the more desirable cards because of its scarcity; PSA has graded only one.   Given the dearth of recent sales on the card, it's hard to pinpoint an actual value, but my guess would me multiple four figures.  

1916 Zee-Nut (E137)

Another rare set, PSA has graded only 57 cards from the entire 142 card set.  These are dated on the front but as Old Cardboard points out, some of the dates are incorrect.  Note that while not a Hall of Famer, the card of Jimmy Claxton from the set is one of the most sought after.  The card shown below, has a lot of historical significance, as it is the very first American-issued baseball card featuring a black ballplayer.

1916 Zee-Nut card of Jimmy Claxton, which is the first baseball card featuring a black american baseball player.

1916 Zee-Nut Frank Chance (RC, HOF)

Frank Chance was part of the legendary 'Tinkers to Evers to Chance' trio with the Chicago Cubs and built his legacy as a great player, leader and later on as a very successful coach. 

Like many of the other HOF players before it, PSA has only graded just one copy, although SGC has graded three--here is one that was up for auction in 2020 at Heritage that sold for under $600, which in my opinion is a total steal.  Between SGC and PSA there are only four graded copies. 

1916 Zee-Nut Billy Southworth (RC, HOF)

One of the most successful managers in the history of baseball, Billy Southworth guided his teams to 90 or more wins in six out of thirteen seasons, winning titles in 1942 and 1944 with the St Louis Cardinals.  

Southworth's 1916 Zee-Nut card is not surprisingly rare, as PSA has only graded one copy.  Expect to pay over $1000 for any existing copies, graded or ungraded. 

southworth-zeenut

1917 Zee-Nut (E137)

This set marks a narrower issue for Zee-Nut cards; previous year issues were a minimum of 2" wide, and the 1917 set was only 1 3/4" wide. 

1917 Zee-Nut Frank Chance (HOF)

Chance's second Zee-Nut card is slightly easier to find than his 1916 card, but still relatively scarce.  PSA has graded only four copies and SGC has graded three.  There haven't been any recent sales that I'm aware of but would expect multiple thousands for the card at auction. 

1917-zeenut-chance

FRANK CHANCE 1917 E137 Zeenut PSA 1.5 PCL Pacific Coast League LA CUBS HOF RARE

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FRANK CHANCE 1916 E137 Zeenut SGC 1.5 PCL Pacific Coast League LA, CUBS HOF RARE

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1918 Zee-Nut (E137)

The 1918 Zee-Nut set marked an entirely new design with a red border.  These are cards are quite rare, with only 14 cards from the entire 104 card set graded by PSA

1918 Zee-Nut Sam Crawford (RC, HOF)

This is the first official card for one Sam Crawford, one of the best hitters of his time and long time teammate of Ty Cobb.  Crawford still holds the baseball record for most career triples with 312.  

His 1918 Zee-Nut card is extremely hard to find--PSA has graded one copy and SGC has graded none.  A 2019 Lelands' auction of the card below earned over $4000, so in today's dollars who knows what the card might fetch. 

1919 Zee-Nut (E137)

While there is only one hall of famer in the 1919 set (Dazzy Vance) the set is notorious for a card of Fatty Arbuckle, who was a silent film comedian and at the time,  owner of the Vernon ball club, a minor league team in the Pacific Coast League.  The card below of Arbuckle sold for over $5000 at auction back in 2011.

fatty-arbuckle

1919 Zee-Nut card of silent film star Fatty Abuckle, image courtesy of REA

1919 Zee-Nut Dazzy Vance (RC, HOF)

Dazzy Vance was one of baseball's most notorious fastball pitchers.  Vance complied a lifetime 197-140 record, winning three ERA titles, while leading the league in strikeouts from 1922 through 1928.  "Dazzy Vance could throw a cream puff through a battleship," said former teammate Johhny Frederick.

Vance's 1919 Zee-Nut card is certainly one of the more desirable issues across all Zee-Nut cards.  PSA has graded only one copy of Vance's 1919 card, whereas SGC to my knowledge has only graded several copies.  Thus, at auction today the card would likely fetch a significant sum. 

Here's an amazing copy with a coupon attached that was discovered in an old Yahtzee box!

dazzy-vance-coupon

1920 Zee-Nut (E137)

1920 Zee-Nut Sam Crawford (HOF)

Some of the Zee-Nut cards are really beautiful cards, and this Crawford with its sepia tones and baseball background is no exception.  Only two have been graded by PSA and several by SGC making this one a very sought after and expensive card.

1920-zeenut-crawford

1921 Zee-Nut (E137)

1921 Zee-Nut Sam Crawford (HOF)

Yet another Crawford card, this one might actually be rarer than the 1920 Crawford card, note that PSA has not graded any copies and SGC has graded three, so expect this one to set you back a few thousand at the very least.  

1921-crawford

1922 Zee-Nut (E137)

1922 Zee-Nut Tony Lazzeri (RC, HOF)

Tony Lazzeri was a cornerstone of the 'Murderer's Row' Yankees teams during the 1920's and 1930's.   While he didn't have the power of a Mantle or Gehrig, Lazzeri was a clutch hitter and an excellent defensive player.  

His rookie card from the 1922 Zee-Nut set is one of the most desirable among vintage collectors.  And it is rare; PSA has graded two copies and SGC has graded around the same.  

** Quick note on SGC Population Reports--They Stink.  If there is one thing that PSA has going for it, is that it's population database is heads and tails above that of SGC.  Here's an example, in that SGC has no graded Lazzeri cards in their database, yet a quick search shows that several have sold at auction in recent years.  Super frustrating **

lazzeri-zeenut

1922 Zee-Nut Jim Thorpe (HOF)

Jim Thorpe's major league baseball career lasted from 1913 to 1922, and this 1922 Zee-Nut card features Thorpe in his last year as a member of the Portland Beavers. Thorpe is actually not in the Baseball HOF but is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame; many refer to Thorpe as the greatest athlete of his time.  

His 1922 Zee-Nut card is extremely desirable.  A PSA 6 Thorpe sold at auction in 2019 for nearly $20K.  Whatever the case, any version of this Thorpe card is hotly demanded by any pre-war collectors, so expect to pay a pretty penny if you find one. 

1923 Zee-Nut (E137)

1923 Zee-Nut Paul Waner (RC, HOF)

Paul Waner (aka "Big Poison") finished his 20-year career with a .333 lifetime average, winning three batting titles and with his brother Lloyd Waner became the first and only duo of brothers elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His 1923 Zee-Nut rookie card is rare, PSA has graded four, with the last known sale of a PSA 1.5 Waner for $1500 back in 2018.  Today, it would likely sell for double that amount or more. 

paul-waner-zeenut-rc

1923 Zeenut With Coupon - Poole - Portland - SGC 40

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1923 Zeenut With Coupon - Lewis - Salt Lake - SGC 50

$275.00  
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1923 Zeenut With Coupon - Wells - Oakland Oaks - SGC 40

$255.00  
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1923 Zeenut Addison Read PSA 2 Oakland Oaks PCL

$125.00  
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1923 Zeenut PCL Baseball Card - Lewis, Salt Lake Bees

$175.00  
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1924 Zee-Nut (E137)

The 1924 Zee-Nut set marked the first Zee-Nut issue with a full photographic background with a similar look to the Exhibit cards that were produced around the same timeframe.  There are two hall of famers in the set - Mickey Cochrane and Paul Waner.

1924 Zee-Nut Mickey Cochrane (RC, HOF)

Considered one of the best catchers to play during the 1920's and 1930's Cochrane was a two time MVP although his career was cut short due at the age of 34 when he got in the head with a baseball during a game.  

His 1924 Zee-Nut card is considered his pre-rookie card and one that is very sought after by vintage collectors.  Similar story--PSA has only graded one, so for those that want one, especially in today's hot vintage market, expect to pay up. 

cochrane-zeenut

1924 Zee-Nut Paul Waner

Waner's second Zee-Nut card is just as tough to find as his rookie card.  Consider this one another tough find.   The card features a shot of Waner with the San Francisco Seals-- I like that there's what appears to be a Model T in the background!

1925 Zee-Nut (E137)

1925 Zee-Nut Tony Lazzeri (HOF)

Lazzeri's second Zee-Nut card; Lazzeri shown in a batting pose as a member of the Salt Lake City Bees.  Here's a nice little fact-- in 1925 Lazzeri batted .355 with 60 home runs and 222 RBI's--the most RBIs in professional baseball history!

His 1925 Zee-Nut card is quite rare, as PSA has only graded three copies and SGC twelve.  It's hard to even pinpoint an exact value as the auction market for this card has been rather sparse in recent years.  

1925 Zee-Nut Paul Waner (HOF)

Waner's third Zee-Nut Card.  You'll notice it's the same exact image from his 1924 card, which was a common theme with many of these issues.  PSA has graded three copies and SGC seven, so the existing supply is no where near enough to meet existing demand.  Thus the card does carry a premium in the end market.


1925 Zee-Nut Lloyd Waner (RC, HOF)

The younger brother of HOFer Paul Waner, Lloyd was known as 'Little Poison' (brother Paul known as 'Big Poison') and both were fellow teammates for the Pittsburgh Pirates, sharing the outfield from 1927-1940.  

Lloyd Waner's 1925 Zee-Nut card is considered his rookie card, and is quite scarce--PSA has graded two copies and SGC another seven.  Expect to pay up for Lloyd Waner's rookie card.

1926 Zee-Nut (E137)

1926 Zee-Nut Earl Averill (RC, HOF)

Averill was a bit of a late bloomer, as he didn't hit the big leagues until the age of 27, but he made up for his late start, as one of the best hitters during his era. Averill was selected to baseball’s first six All-Star Games and batted .318 over a 13-year career.

PSA has graded five copies of Averill's Zee-Nut card and SGC another thirteen copies.  Good copies tend to sell for over a few thousand dollars

1926 Zee-Nut Lloyd Waner (HOF)

Waner's second Zee-Nut card is about as scarce as his 1925 rookie card, with PSA having graded two copies and SGC another nine.  Waner's first major league issue would be issued in 1927, included in the W560 Strip Card set.

1927 Zee-Nut (E137)

There is one noticeable change with the 1927 Zee-Nut set: the year of the issue '27'  is used, instead of the full four digits for the year used for previous issues.

1927 Zee-Nut Earl Averill (HOF)

Averill's second Zee-Nut card has been graded only twice by PSA and another eleven times by SGC, making it another rare issue. 

averill-zeenut

1927 Zeenut Lefty O'Doul SGC 20 - harsh grade

$750.00  
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1927 ZEENUT Harry Hooper SGC 10 / 1 Mission Bells PCL Boston Red Sox MLB HOFer

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1927 Zeenut Harry Hooper Mission Bells PCL Boston Red Sox HOF SGC 50

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1927 Zeenut EARL AVERILL RC HOF Pre-Rookie San Francisco Seals SGC 1

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1927 Zeenut Lefty O'Doul Pre- ROOKIE SGC Graded P.C.L. HOF

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1927 Zee-Nut Harry Hooper (RC, HOF)

Hooper was overshadowed by teammate Tris Speaker with the Boston Red Sox, but was regarded as one of the best leadoff hitters of his time and as an excellent defensive outfielder.  Hooper finished his career with 2,466 hits and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971.  

Bill Carrigan, Former Red Sox Manager

"The best outfield trio I ever saw? That's easy. (Tris) Speaker, (Duffy) Lewis and Hooper - and the greatest of those was Hooper." 

His Zee-Nut rookie card features Hooper as a member of the San Francisco Missions of the PCL.  PSA has graded three copies and SGC another twelve.  Very rare, and in demand, meaning likely going to pay a premium in the end market. 

1928 Zee-Nut (E137)

1928 Zee-Nut Earl Averill (HOF)

The final Zee-Nut card for Earl Averill.  PSA has graded five copies and SGC another ten, so still a fairly scarce card. 

1928 averill

1928 Zee-Nut Ernie Lombardi (RC, HOF)

Rookie card for Ernie Lombardi, considered to be one of the greatest catchers to play during the 1930's and 1940's.  Lombardi was a great hitter and a great defensive catcher with one of the best arms ever seen behind the plate.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986

lombardi-rc-zeenut

1929 Zee-Nut (E137)

1929 Zee-Nut Lefty Gomez (RC, HOF)

Lefty Gomez was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era.  Gomez was a key part of the success for both the Yankees and the Giants, winning five championships.  He had a .649 win/loss percentage and was a seven time all star, earning his enshrinement to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

His 1929 Zee-Nut rookie card is one of the more desirable Zee-Nut cards and like many early Zee-Nut issues is not easily available.  PSA has graded three copies and SGC another eight copies.  Expect to spend over $1000 for the Gomez rookie card.

gomez

1929 Zee-Nut Ernie Lombardi (HOF)

Second year Zee-Nut card of Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi. 

lombardi-zn

1930 Zee-Nut (E137)

1930 Zee-Nut Ernie Lombardi (HOF)

Third and final Zee-Nut card of catcher Ernie Lombardi.  Lombardi wouldn't see an official major league baseball card issue until the 1934 Goudey and Diamond Stars sets. 

1933-36 Zee-Nut (E137) 

Issued over the course of four years, the 1933-36 Zee-Nut issue is one of the more widely available Zee-Nut sets, especially as compared to some of the earlier sets.  

1933-36 Zee-Nut Joe DiMaggio (2 poses)

Joe DiMaggio is easily the most desirable across all of the Zee-Nut sets.  He has two versions in the '33-'36 Zee-Nut set--a Throwing pose and a Batting pose.  The first (Throwing) card shown below has been graded twenty times by PSA and eleven times by SGC.  DiMaggio's Batting card has been graded fourteen times by PSA and ten times by SGC.   

Both DiMaggio cards are extremely sought after by vintage collectors.  Of course, like any Zee-Nut card, having the coupon intact can significantly improve the realized value of the card.  On average, even Authentic copies of either without a coupon have sold for over $5,000 in recent years, whereas those with the coupon attached have sold for over $10,000.

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