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Vean Gregg

1915 Cracker Jack

CRACKER JACK®, the sticky-sweet candy treat, will be a part of our National Pastime forever... and we are reminded of its place in baseball history during the seventh-inning stretch of every game:

Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

Most of us have vivid memories of going to baseball games in our youth and devouring boxes of these caramel-covered treats, leaving our hands so sticky that we felt like Spider-Man for a couple of hours. No, you might not have been able to scale walls like the web-slinging superhero but the Cracker Jack residue could help you snare a foul ball if one was headed your way. It was also helpful when turning the pages of your baseball program at the game.

While many baseball fans can recall the look and taste of the candy, along with the tiny wrapped gift inside each box, most of us were not around when original baseball cards were included in every package. In 1914, Cracker Jack would produce the first of two classic sets. Each inserted card from the 144-card set could be found nestled amongst the syrupy concoction that kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on.

So, of course, each card that found its way into the Cracker Jack boxes was subjected to a host of condition obstacles. The cards bounced around inside the box, covered by an avalanche of candied corn and peanuts. As the temperature rose, the contents became stickier and more hazardous to the trading cards enclosed with the sweet and gooey treats. As a result, the 1914 Cracker Jack issue is terribly difficult to find in high-grade today. How some of these cards survived in presentable condition is beyond me, but it is clear that some of the best examples must have escaped being subjected to their candy cages. This is also true of other candy and tobacco issues from the first half of the 20th century. Absent rare finds of unblemished examples, ones that were never placed into the product packages, most of these types of cards are found in mid-to-lower grades.

In 1915, Cracker Jack continued planting Shoeless Joes, Ty Cobbs, Christy Mathewsons and the like inside their boxes, but they also offered the public an opportunity to acquire a complete set with an accompanying album, in exchange for coupons, to house the cards that avoided the minefield of sugar. This offer, the first major “factory set” offer of its kind, has helped to ensure that beautiful specimens could reach collectors today.

It is virtually impossible to locate high-grade copies from the 1914 set but, while still challenging and larger at 176 cards, the 1915 Cracker Jack set is one that the collector can actually assemble in top condition if they possess the financial wherewithal to do so. Ironically, despite being technically easier to find in high grade, the 1915 cards actually sold for more than their 1914 counterparts for a long time. Many collectors dared not try to collect the 1914 set. The difficulty operated as a deterrent so, in turn, more collectors flocked towards the technically more attainable 1915 set.

It was only recently, perhaps the last several years, that collectors began fully appreciating the great disparity in scarcity. As a result, collectors began paying stronger prices for the 1914 Cracker Jack cards across the board. There were always great price premiums paid for key cards, such as the 1914 Christy Mathewson (pitching pose) card, but the premiums now applied to all the cards in the set.

At the time of this writing, the legendary 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack baseball card issues were approaching their 100th anniversary. While not considered part of The Big Three baseball sets in the hobby, which includes the classic 1909–1911 T206, 1933 Goudey and 1952 Topps issues, the Cracker Jack cards would arguably round out The Big Four if the list was expanded. Some would argue the Cracker Jack issue should be part of The Big Three. One thing is certain, the cards have always been desirable.

The Cracker Jack issue, which is loaded with great stars from the period, is one of the most eye-appealing releases ever manufactured. The distinct poses, which lie against the rich, red background, provide some of the best visuals ever captured on cardboard. From the ferocity in Ty Cobb’s gaze to the regal portrait of Christy Mathewson to the joyous look on Shoeless Joe Jackson’s face prior to the Black Sox scandal, many collectors feel that this set provides some of the finest-looking cards known of many of its featured figures.

There was one major star who could have been included in the 1915 release but didn't make the cut. This man was a young pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who made his debut in 1914. First, he became the most dominant left-hander on the mound but, once he was sent to the New York Yankees in 1920, he became the most dangerous hitter at the plate. Yes, you guessed it, Babe Ruth. Falling under the heading of “what could have been,” a mainstream Babe Ruth rookie card could have appeared in the set, but it wasn’t meant to be.

If the Cracker Jack Ruth rookie card had ever been made, there is no doubt it would be one of the most coveted and valuable cards in the entire hobby. Prior to 1948, there weren’t what most collectors would describe as “mainstream sets” produced each year. Many great players like Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig did not have official rookie cards, at least the way we define rookie cards today. There are two rookie-era Ruth cards and both are worth a tremendous amount of money. In 1914, Ruth appeared on a Minor League card as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. This Baltimore News card has fetched well into six figures with the highest price ever paid exceeding $500,000 in 2008.

Ruth’s first appearance as a Major Leaguer came in the black and white M101-5 and M101-4 Sporting News sets, which are now both believed to have been released in 1916. Several copies of that Ruth card, in various grades, have sold for in excess of $100,000 during the past several years. The Cracker Jack Babe Ruth rookie card may not exist but, as collectors, we can still dream.

As long as the hobby exists, Cracker Jack baseball cards will remain a part of the collecting fabric. Their link to the classic American confection, their stunning eye-appeal and fantastic player selection have made these tiny time capsules one of the most desired card productions of all time

- Joe Orlando: The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball’s Prized Players

Sylveanus Augustus “Vean” Gregg

Born: April 13, 1885 - Chehalis, WA
Died: July 29, 1964 - Aberdeen, WA
Batted: RH
Threw: LH
Position: P
MLB Pitching Record: 92–63
ERA: 2.70

Cleveland Naps AL (April 13, 1885 - July 29, 1964)
Boston Red Sox AL (1914–1916)
Philadelphia Athletics AL (1918)
Washington Senators AL (1925)

Sylveanus “Vean” Gregg came out of the gate like a house afire. Probably the most dominant lefty in the majors from 1911 to 1913, Gregg won 63 games during his first three seasons with the Cleveland Naps in the American League, and is the only pitcher in the 20th century to win at least 20 games in his first three years. The Naps signed the 26-year-old Gregg after his incredible performance for the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League where he won 32 games, racked up 383 innings pitched, and struck out 379 batters in 1910. Tall and lanky, Gregg had a deceptive fastball that would fool hitters, but his big sweeping curveball was his signature pitch.

Unfortunately, Gregg developed arm problems from overuse and struggled after the 1913 season. After his trade to the Red Sox in 1914, his arm woes continued. He actually pitched so infrequently that, even though his team appeared in the 1915 and 1916 World Series, he was not voted a full share of the Series winnings. Gregg was again traded, this time to the Philadelphia A’s where he continued to struggle. He finally dropped out of baseball in 1918 to work his ranch in Alberta, Canada.

The story does not end there. After resting his arm for three years, Gregg decided to give the game another try and hooked up with the Seattle Indians of the Pacific Coast League in 1922. He won an amazing 61 games over the next three years and, incredibly, returned to the majors at age 40 to play for Clark Griffith’s Washington Senators. He went 2–2 for Washington in 1925 before returning to the minors for a few more years. He then returned home to Washington state where he played semi-pro ball, hunted, fished, and ran his sporting goods and luncheonette business “The Home Plate.” Voted the greatest lefty in Cleveland Indians history, Vean Gregg is a member of the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame. Had it not been for his arm miseries, Gregg could possibly have been one of the greatest pitchers of the Deadball Era. 

– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html

Condition Census

Pos Grade Thumbnail Pedigree and History
1 MINT 9
1 MINT 9
2 NM-MT+ 8.5
2 NM-MT+ 8.5
3 NM-MT 8 (11)

Prices By Grade


Grade Most Recent Price Average Price SMR Price Population POP Higher
GEM - MT 10
MINT 9 $2,750.00 2
NM - MT 8 $816.00 $1,150.00 11 4
NM 7 $480.00 $550.00 14 15
EX - MT 6 $291.82 $265.00 7 29
EX 5 $236.95 $236.95 $185.00 8 36
VG - EX 4 $90.00 5 44
VG 3 $219.73 $55.00 9 49
GOOD 2 $145.00 $30.00 3 60
FR 1.5 1 63
PR 1 $15.00 2 64
Auth 66

Auction Prices Realized

Date Price Grade Lot # Auction House Auction/Seller Type Cert
07/14/2020 $237 5 392873074437 eBay dacardworld Best Offer 03463923
12/09/2019 $480 7 713 Robert Edward Auctions 2019 Fall Auction 07040745
11/04/2019 $292 6 383232118397 eBay probstein123 Auction 18776910
07/22/2019 $828 7 488 Memory Lane, Inc. Summer 2019 Auction 15777233
07/14/2019 $312 6 401805015550 eBay pwcc_auctions Auction 11784567
05/30/2019 $4,320 8.5 51029 Heritage Auctions 2019 May 30 1915 Cracker Jack PSA Set Registry Au Auction 07087754
04/14/2019 $145 2 173868121420 eBay cooperstownsportscards Auction 42377241
04/06/2019 $828 7 488 Memory Lane, Inc. Spring Break Rarities Auction 2019 Auction 15777233
11/07/2018 $461 7 401624961837 eBay pwcc_auctions Auction 18834172
04/20/2018 $480 7 80260 Heritage Auctions 2018 April 19-20 Spring Sports Card Catalog Auctio Auction 27902928
12/03/2017 $220 3 112659196538 eBay clydepepper Auction 14129293
07/17/2017 $816 8 362031802046 eBay probstein123 Auction 50047603
06/16/2017 $332 6 1035 Mile High Card Company June 2017 Auction 18776910
03/05/2017 $1,288 8.5 187 Mile High Card Company March 2017 Auction 31746891
05/07/2016 $1,998 8.5 111 Memory Lane, Inc. Spring Classic Rarities Auction 2016 Auction 31746891
11/09/2013 $568 8 80238 Heritage Auctions 2013 November 7 - 9 Sports Collectible Catalog A.. Auction 50047603
05/25/2012 $562 8 181 Mile High Card Company May 2012 Auction Auction 07052851
12/18/2011 $312 7 167 Memory Lane, Inc. Winter 2011 Auction 07040745
10/07/2009 $679 8 182 Mile High Card Company October 2009 Auction Auction 03565027
07/09/2009 $1,530 8.5 38 Goodwin and Co. Auctions Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XXII Auction 31746891
09/14/2008 $503 7 281 Memory Lane, Inc. Hot Summer Classic Rarities Auction 05301773
09/11/2004 $526 8 19334 Heritage Auctions 2004 September (HSC) Signature Auction Sep 11, 200 Auction 50047603
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