top of page

The Original “Color Match” Variations

Updated: Jun 26

In the modern Hobby a “color match” occurs when a card’s border matches the player’s uniform or team colors. This 2024 Topps card of Mookie Betts is a nice example.

The amateur baseball card researcher could definitely have some fun figuring out the Hobby’s earliest “color match” variations, but that’s not quite the direction I’ll take in this article—at least not until the very end. Instead I’ll take “color match” even more literally and turn back the clock nine decades to a colorful set issued in 1934 by the Diamond Match Company. (Get it? Color? Matches?)

The 200 “cards” in this set, cataloged as U1, were actual matchbooks, and each came in up to four colors: red, green, blue, and orange.

I believe it is currently unknown whether every player is available in all four colors, so the master set may or may not contain 800 matchbooks. Nonetheless, even without a single color variant, the set would already be the year’s largest baseball issue by far. (In comparison, 1934 Goudey had 96 cards, the 1934 National Chicle “Batter Up” release had 80 cards, and the 1934 National Chicle “Diamond Stars” release had only 24.)

Like its better known 1934 counterparts from Goudey and National Chicle, the set has no Babe Ruth. However, it still boasts significant star power, offering 27 Hall of Famers—28 if you count Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer Lefty O’Doul. Oddly though, the set’s most expensive players are probably not the ones you’d guess. Mel Ott, Dizzy Dean, Hack Wilson? Why, you could have all three of them for less than the fellas I’m about to name.

According to my most recent copy of the Standard Catalog, the set’s three most expensive players are Isadore Goldstein, Milton Galatzer, and Arthur Veltman. And if we extend our purview to non-players, then it’s umpire Bill Klem who rounds out the set’s Big Four.

Now unless you’re some sort of Immaculate Grid savant, you must be asking yourself, “Who the heck are these guys?!” Good question! Let’s unpack it.

  • Milt Galatzer played for the Cleveland Indians from 1933-36 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1939. There is little in his career accomplishments that stands out. However, for collectors who focus on Jewish players, the matchbook is one of his few cards, which may explain much of its premium.

  • Izzy Goldstein played for the Detroit Tigers in 1932, pitching in 16 games. As was the case with Galatzer, Goldstein’s “on the field” success was limited, but—also like Galatzer— his cards carry a special appeal to collectors of Jewish subjects. Notably, the Diamond Matchbook is Goldstein’s only vintage card, which makes it a must have for “every Tiger” collectors as well. (As a bit of trivia, Goldstein is also the most recent major leaguer born in the Ukraine, though his matchbook bio has him born in New York.)

  • Before you sense a pattern here, Arthur “Pat” Veltman, who played for four teams in five years, was not Jewish. However, his matchbook is the set’s only documented short-print.

Overall the 1934 Diamond Matchbook set has at least three characteristics that tend to scare away set collectors: the set is large, at least for its era; the set’s priciest cards are players most collectors have never heard of; and the cards live squarely in the Hobby’s dreaded “oddball” category. (Despite these matchbooks being fairly prevalent in the Hobby, less than 400 total have been graded by PSA!)

Still, these very reasons may make it a nice target for player collectors or simply Hobbyists looking for affordable vintage cardboard of a Hall of Famer. In comparable condition, these matchbooks are about a tenth the price of their Goudey or Diamond Stars counterparts. Plus, how fun is it to chase a rainbow, especially when you don’t even know how many cards are in it? 

For example, as a Hubbell collector, I have his orange and blue matchbooks from 1934 (along with three others from subsequent years), but I have no idea if any red or green ones are even out there!

Still, for the Hobby News Daily reader looking for the ultimate challenge, might I suggest Red Sox pitcher Wes Ferrell? Sure you might just settle on the red “color match,” but why not go for all four? Ah, here’s why! Rarer than the famed T206 Wagner, it’s unknown whether the Ferrell matchbook, in any color, even exists!

And you thought finding that “Dodger Blue” border for your Mookie card was tough!

BONUS CONTENT: So what was the earliest baseball card set to feature border color variations? A notable candidate is the 1914 Baltimore News set, which featured a certain pitcher who would go on to great fame. However, you will see some even older candidates in this discussion thread on X.


bottom of page