Released in the 1930s and the early 1940s, Ted Williams rookie cards are some of the more popular options from the era.
Along with Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, Ted Williams (1918-2002) is seen as one of the most formidable hitters in the history of baseball. Williams spent 19 years in MLB, and was an All-Star for every season that wasn’t interrupted by a military campaign. (For example, he fought in WW2, and missed most of the 1952 and 1953 seasons after flying combat missions for the United States.
His .482 on-base percentage is the highest of all time, and he was the last MLB player to bat over .400 in a season. Williams entered the Hall of Fame in 1966, and his first cards were released in 1939.
The Best Ted Williams Rookie Cards
Here are the best early options to bear Ted Williams’ likeness. As a pre-war era player, there are a couple of vintage cards to choose from.
3. 1939-46 Salutation Exhibits Ted Williams (eBay)
The first option is an oversized set featuring superb black and white images of the best baseball players from the late 1930s. Williams is found twice in the collection, in two separate poses. They can be identified by the number 9 shown on his back in the second image.
The unnumbered set earns the name as each card features a salutation such as “Best Wishes,” or “Sincerely Yours,” alongside a facsimile copy of his autograph. You’ll also find a small ‘Made in USA’ stamp on the bottom right corner.
Given the size and the full bleed design, it’s tough to find copies in decent condition as of 2023.
Check prices of 1939-46 Salutation Exhibits Ted Williams on eBay
2. 1941 Play Ball Ted Williams RC #14 (eBay)
1941 Play Ball is a colorized version of the 1940 Play Ball release, helping the image of Williams to pop out of the card. It features a shadow behind the player and a bright color background, even if the image isn’t the greatest likeness.
The art style is a little basic. However, the color is a clear improvement compared to the earlier version which can be seen below:
The 1940 release is another viable option if you’re looking for vintage Ted Williams rookie cards. It’s fairly rare, and features an ornate nameplate.
Check prices of 1941 Play Ball Ted Williams RC on eBay
1. 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams RC #92 (eBay)
The first Play Ball set consists of 161 cards, including the only Ted Williams RC from 1939. You’ll find a crisp black and white image on the front of the card, with biographical information located on the reverse. (This can actually differ depending on the card.)
It features Williams in a simple batting pose, staring directly into the camera.
As well as being his only true 1939 RC, these were released by Gum Inc, who eventually became the famous Bowman brand. The set has historical significance, and the card is extremely valuable if you’re looking at higher grades.
Check prices of 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams RC on eBay
Ted Williams Rookie Cards: Final Thoughts
Ted Williams is a true legend, and that’s reflected by the high prices for his rarest rookie cards. You should be able to find ungraded base versions for less, but that always carries a risk, especially given their age. We’d stick with graded copies just to be safe, especially considering the money at stake.
The colorized 1941 release is especially popular, and the same goes for the 1939 Play Ball set. Either would be sure to complete any vintage collection. We’d opt for the latter given its overall significance within the hobby.