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1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards

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After a successful debut in 1939, Gum, Inc. brought back its Play Ball baseball card set in 1940. Featuring a noticeably improved design and larger checklist that included legendary players from the past, the 1940 Play Ball Baseball card set was once overlooked but has enjoyed a boost in popularity with collectors in recent years.

Measuring in at 2-1/2" by 3-1/8", 1940 Play Ball Baseball was printed and distributed in two series. The first series includes cards #1-144, and the second series features the remaining cards, #145-240. The 240-card set matched 1933 Goudey as the largest, single-year, gum card set issued to that point. The release is designated as R335 in the American Card Catalog.

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Although the cards still feature black-and-white photographs like in 1939, several elements were added top help elevate the 1940 Play Ball Baseball design.  A banner featuring the player's name, and nickname, if applicable, was added to the bottom. The section is adorned with a glove, bat and catcher's mask, and a frame is placed around the picture.

The 1940 Play Ball Baseball card backs are very similar to the ones found in the 1939 set, featuring a detailed biographical write-up. The main difference is a 1940 copyright date and a new ad copy at the bottom. Some cards in the high number series provide a preview of Superman Gum, a future release by the company. Dubbed "Superman Backs," cards #121-180 can be found with one of six similar ads that tout the upcoming Superman release. The card group can also be found with the basic Gum, Inc. ad found on the rest of the set.

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 3 1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 4

Key active players anchoring the 1940 Play Ball Baseball set include Joe DiMaggio (#1) and Ted Williams (#27). Loaded with Hall of Fame talent throughout the checklist, other popular cards include Jimmie Foxx (#133), Hank Greenberg (#40) and Mel Ott (#88). Various coaches and managers are also included in the set.

In addition to being much more difficult to locate, one other feature of the high-number series is the inclusion of cards celebrating retired stars. At the time, the Hall of Fame was still relatively new and the legends helped fill out the number of cards needed for the final series. Today, retired stars are regularly inserted into sets but this was a new development in 1940. Combined with the active players of the set, the Hall of Fame count in 1940 Play Ball Baseball exceeds 50 subjects.

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Older hobby guides indicate that collectors generally frowned upon cards featuring retired players, but that has changed over time. Since the retired legends are part of the limited high-number series in 1940 Play Ball Baseball, they already receive a premium in terms of value. Most notably, Shoeless Joe Jackson has become one of the key cards in the set, commanding top-dollar at auction. Other noteworthy, retired greats appearing in the high-number series include Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker and Napoleon Lajoie.

The 1940 Play Ball Baseball set is notorious for a specific condition issue that is inconsistent with those of the 1939 or 1941 sets. For whatever the reason, the set suffers from noticeable problems related to border toning. Colors can range from a sepia tone to yellowish-brown. It can be very challenging to find cards without this discoloration. Over the years, the hobby has begrudgingly accepted this unfortunate characteristic and has settled on finding cards with even toning across all borders. Centering can also be an issue.

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Key Cards

Key 1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards

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#1 Joe DiMaggio

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 27

#225 Shoeless Joe Jackson

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 28

#27 Ted Williams

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 29

#133 Jimmie Foxx

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 30

#168 Honus Wagner

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 31

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Set Checklist

1940 Play Ball Baseball Set Checklist

PARALLEL CARDS: Superman Backs (#121-180)

1940 Play Ball Baseball Cards 1

1 Joe DiMaggio
2 Art Jorgens
3 Babe Dahlgren
4 Tommy Henrich
5 Monte Pearson
6 Lefty Gomez
7 Bill Dickey
8 George Selkirk
9 Charlie Keller
10 Red Ruffing
11 Jake Powell
12 Johnny Schulte
13 Jack Knott
14 Eric McNair
15 George Case
16 Cecil Travis
17 Buddy Myer
18 Charlie Gelbert
19 Ken Chase
20 Buddy Lewis
21 Rick Ferrell
22 Sam West
23 Dutch Leonard
24 Frankie Hayes
25 Bob Johnson
26 Wally Moses
27 Ted Williams
28 Gene Desautels
29 Doc Cramer
30 Moe Berg
31 Jack Wilson
32 Jim Bagby
33 Fritz Ostermueller
34 John Peacock
35 Joe Heving
36 Jim Tabor
37 Emerson Dickman
38 Bobby Doerr
39 Tom Carey
40 Hank Greenberg
41 Charlie Gehringer
42 Bud Thomas
43 Pete Fox
44 Dizzy Trout
45 Red Kress
46 Earl Averill
47 Ossie Vitt RC
48 Luke Sewell
49 Roy Weatherly
50 Hal Trosky
51 Don Heffner
52 Myril Hoag
53 George McQuinn
54 Bill Trotter
55 Slick Coffman
56 Eddie Miller RC
57 Max West
58 Bill Posedel
59 Rabbit Warstler
60 Johnny Cooney
61 Tony Cuccinello
62 Buddy Hassett
63 Pete Cascarart
64 Van Mungo
65 Freddie Fitzsimmons
66 Babe Phelps
67 Whit Wyatt
68 Dolph Camilli
69 Cookie Lavagetto
70 Luke Hamlin
71 Mel Almada
72 Chuck Dressen RC
73 Bucky Walters
74 Duke Derringer
75 Buck McCormick
76 Lonny Frey
77 Bill Hershberger
78 Lew Riggs
79 Harry Craft
80 Bill Myers
81 Wally Berger
82 Hank Gowdy
83 Cliff Melton
84 Jo-Jo Moore
85 Hal Schumacher
86 Harry Gumbert
87 Carl Hubbell
88 Mel Ott
89 Billy Jurges
90 Frank Demaree
91 Bob Seeds
92 Burgess Whitehead
93 Harry Danning
94 Gus Suhr
95 Hugh Mulcahy
96 Heinie Mueller
97 Morrie Arnovich
98 Pinky May
99 Syl Johnson
100 Hersh Martin
101 Del Young
102 Chuck Klein
103 Elbie Fletcher
104 Paul Waner
105 Lloyd Waner
106 Pep Young
107 Arky Vaughan
108 Johnny Rizzo
109 Don Padgett
110 Tom Sunkel
111 Mickey Owen
112 Jimmy Brown
113 Mort Cooper
114 Lon Warneke
115 Mike Gonzales
116 Al Schacht
117 Dolly Stark
118 Waite Hoyt
119 Ol Pete Alexander
120 Walter Johnson
121 Atley Donald RC
122 Sandy Sundra RC
123 Oral Hildebrand
124 Earle Combs
125 Art Fletcher RC
126 Moose Solters
127 Muddy Ruel
128 Pete Appleton
129 Bucky Harris RC
130 Clyde Milan RC
131 Zeke Bonura
132 Connie Mack RC
133 Jimmie Foxx
134 Joe Cronin
135 Lynn Nelson
136 Cotton Pippen
137 Bing Miller
138 Beau Bell
139 Elden Auker
140 Dick Coffman
141 Casey Stengel RC
142 George Kelly RC
143 Gene Moore
144 Joe Vosmik
145 Vito Tamulis
146 Tot Pressnell
147 Johnny Hudson
148 Hugh Casey
149 Milburn Shoffner
150 Whitey Moore
151 Eddie Joost
152 Jimmie Wilson
153 Bill McKechnie RC
154 Jumbo Brown
155 Ray Hayworth
156 Daffy Dean
157 Lou Chiozza
158 Stonewall Jackson
159 Pancho Snyder RC
160 Hans Lobert
161 Debs Garms
162 Joe Bowman
163 Spud Davis
164 Ray Berres
165 Bob Klinger
166 Bill Brubaker
167 Frankie Frisch
168 Honus Wagner
169 Gabby Street
170 Tris Speaker
171 Harry Heilmann
172 Chief Bender
173 Nap Lajoie
174 Johnny Evers
175 Christy Mathewson
176 Heinie Manush
177 Frank Baker
178 Max Carey
179 George Sisler
180 Mickey Cochrane
181 Spud Chandler RC
182 Bill Knickerbocker RC
183 Marvin Breuer RC
184 Mule Haas
185 Joe Kuhel
186 Taft Wright RC
187 Jimmie Dykes
188 Joe Krakauskas RC
189 Jimmy Bloodworth RC
190 Charlie Berry
191 Johnny Babich RC
192 Dick Seibert RC
193 Chubby Dean RC
194 Sam Chapman RC
195 Dee Miles RC
196 Nonny Nonnenkamp RC
197 Lou Finney RC
198 Denny Galehouse RC
199 Pinky Higgins
200 Soupy Campbell RC
201 Barney McCosky RC
202 Al Milnar RC
203 Odell Hale RC
204 Harry Eisenstat RC
205 Rollie Hemsley RC
206 Chet Laabs RC
207 Gus Mancuso
208 Lee Gamble RC
209 Hy Vandenberg RC
210 Bill Lohrman RC
211 Pop Joiner RC
212 Babe Young RC
213 John Rucker RC
214 Ken O'Dea RC
215 Johnny McCarthy RC
216 Joe Marty RC
217 Walter Beck
218 Wally Millies RC
219 Russ Bauers RC
220 Mace Brown RC
221 Lee Handley RC
222 Max Butcher RC
223 Hughie Jennings
224 Pie Traynor
225 Shoeless Joe Jackson
226 Harry Hooper
227 Jesse Haines
228 Charlie Grimm
229 Buck Herzog
230 Red Faber
231 Dolf Luque
232 Goose Goslin
233 George Earnshaw
234 Frank Chance
235 John J. McGraw
236 Jim Bottomley
237 Willie Keeler
238 Tony Lazzeri
239 George Uhle
240 Bill Atwood RC

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Chris is an avid vintage sports card collector who is The Cardboard Connection's resident expert of all things vintage.

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