Card of the Day: 1936 Diamond Matchbook Paul Waner

Today’s Card of the Day comes from a set produced over multiple years called the Diamond Matchbook set. The reason they called it “Matchbook” is because it was literally a matchbook. When I think of older cards now, I think that older people collect those cards. Most pre-war card collectors are at least 40 years old. I’ve seen polls on message boards that say that’s true. Just because I had a growing vintage card collection years before I could drive, doesn’t mean it is common.

Adults collecting baseball players on matchbooks doesn’t seem odd, but imagine back when these were new. Who collects most of the newer cards? Newer humans. So back in the late 30s when this set was being produced, I’m sure plenty of kids wanted matchbooks with pictures and stories about their favorite baseball players. You’re not going to just hand a kid a bunch of matches and hope for the best, but I’m sure that happened back then. The fact that kids love cards probably explains why it’s almost impossible to find full matchbooks from this set. You get a lot of them that look like this card of Paul Waner, who appears here on what would have been his 120th birthday if modern medicine didn’t fail us.

Here’s the front of the card. Before you try to read the upside down printing, just know that there is a second scan when I flip that section around:


This matchbook is in rough shape. It has lived a life. The striker section is missing at the bottom, though in this scan it would be at the top. The matches are obviously missing. It’s got a crease in the photo. The hole at the top is from the staple that was removed. What I really like about this set is that it offers you cheap ways to get cards of players from their playing days. Not only that, there are also variations with colors and bios, with the latter changing based on the year. More on the pricing and the bio below.

Over the years, you can also find this card with borders that are red, green, orange and a different shade of blue.

Here’s the bio/back:

I noted that this set was produced over multiple years. Even if you couldn’t tell the years apart, the back usually helps you out. The earlier Waner cards in this set don’t have the line about him winning the batting title for a third time in 1936. If they did, that would be quite amazing, because the set came out in 1934. People who list these cards for sale will usually put 1934-36 to be safe, but you can find this particular version labeled as being from 1934 and 1935.

This is the second time recently where we see percentage used for batting average, but even this wording threw me for a second until I continued to read on. Not only did they used percentage, they wrote “Per.”, capitalizing it for no reason, then abbreviating it.

Some of the other backs we have looked at here have a baseball diamond in the background of the bio writing. Here they have a batter who just shot a liner over the head of a leaping shortstop. Will he go for two? We may never know.

The pricing here for a Paul Waner card might surprising you. Now this isn’t a complete one, but complete ones are so rare that most people accept better condition copies. This card is from an auction that will be completed before you see it, but it’s at $19 delivered and it has no bids yet. There’s another one that looks very similar for the same price. There’s a really nice one from the earlier sets, which has the striker still there. That price is $60. You won’t find too many of these graded, but there is a PSA 3 for $148, with a best offer option. Someone has one wrapped in the cello still, with the matches and another card of Chicago Cubs pitcher Lynn Nelson. That seller is asking $400 for the pair. Two copies ended recently for $35 each. They were nice looking, but had no striker.