Walter Johnson Baseball Cards

Walter Johnson (1887-1946) is known for his 21 year baseball career with the Washington Senators from 1907-1927. He is widely considered one of the greatest pitchers ever, and many say that he had the best fastball in baseball history.

He finished his career with a 417-279 win-loss record, 2.17 ERA, 3,508 strikeouts, and 110 shutouts. To date, he is the record holder for shutouts, second with wins, and fourth in complete games. He had the strikeout record until 1983 when Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, and Gaylord Perry all passed him. Johnson led the league in strikeouts 12 times, which remains a record.

Johnson was born on a rural farm outside of Humboldt, Kansas. Though sometimes believed to be Swedish, Johnson’s family came from the British Isles. Around the age of 14, his family moved to California, and Johnson began to make his name as a baseball player during high school. He began his career with a local semi pro team after moving to Idaho with a telephone company.

Quickly, Johnson began to be known as the best power pitcher of the early MLB era. His fastball was once measured at 134 feet per second which is roughly 91 mph. While that may not seem much today, it was unmatched in 1917. In addition, his pitching mechanics are legendary because of the rotation achieved along with perfect balance.

His strikeout total was remarkable for the time period as well. When Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame, only three players were within 1,000 strikeouts for their career (Bob Feller, Tim Keefe, and Cy Young).

His 417 games won was also remarkable. With Cy Young, Johnson is one of two players to have at least 400 wins in their career. He had 12 20-win seasons, and he had two 30-win seasons.

Despite Johnson’s successes, the Washington Senators struggled for most of his career. Yet, at the end, the Senators made the World Series in 1924 and 1925. Though he lost the first and fifth games of the 1924 World Series, Johnson came in as a reliever and pitched four scoreless innings in Game 7, and the Senators won in the 12th inning. The Senators would then lose in Game 7 of the World Series next year.

After his retirement he was the manager for the Senators (1929-1932) and the Cleveland Indians (1933-1935). His managerial record is 529-432 which equates to a .550 winning percentage. In seven seasons, he had five winning seasons, and the two losing seasons came at the beginning of his tenure with the two teams.

In 1936 Johnson was honored as one of the “first five” inaugurated into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which also included Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner.

Johnson retired to Germantown, Maryland. He was encouraged to run for Congress by the future Speaker of the House, Joseph Martin. Johnson lost a narrow election.

Johnson died at the age of 59 in 1946. He is fondly remembered as an absolutely remarkable pitcher and there are some great cards of Johnson from an important era of collecting, and this article will go over some of the best.

1909-11 T206 White Border Walter Johnson

This is one of the most important sets in the hobby. It is the ultimate tobacco card set, and it measures 1 7/16” x 2 ⅝”. American Tobacco Company produced the set. There are several different backs to the cards, and the set also has different baseball players in a variety of poses.

Johnson has two major cards for the set: Portrait and Hands at Chest. Both have similar prestige as Johnson rookie cards, and they have similar rarity. The PSA population report has the cards at over 800 apiece, and there are a few cards in top grade, though conditions are tough given the age.

With the prestige of Johnson, the importance of the set, and the rarity of the cards, collectors do not often put one of these cards up for sale; they are just too well treasured. In Mint condition, a Johnson card will reach six figures. In general, the Portrait card will be somewhat more expensive than a Hands at Chest card.

If you want a card for around $1,000, you will most likely have to go to a PSA 1. If you are skilled on a bargain and the market cooperates, you might be able to get a PSA 2.

1909 Ramly Cigarettes Walter Johnson

This tobacco set has 121 cards in total, and they measure 2” x 2 ½”. The cards show an oval picture which is black and white portrait surrounded by a gold design. The backs have a Ramly or “TTT” advertisement or they are blank. Johnson is a key to the set, and some people will argue that this is his rookie card.

This card is rare. There are only 32 cards graded by PSA. Johnson’s legacy and the rarity of the card result in some pricey auctions. There is one PSA 8 sale registered for $132,000. Mint condition cards would be a treasure. $1,000 cannot get you this card at any grade. Even Poor condition cards will sell for a couple thousand each at least.

1915 Cracker Jack Walter Johnson

The 1915 Cracker Jack is an important set. It actually uses the same picture as the 1914 Cracker Jack, but Johnson’s card increases in value for the 1915. The set is condition sensitive because it was put into the caramel sugary treat. There are 176 subjects, and the cards measure 2 ¼” x 3”. Walter Johnson is a key to the set, along with Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Honus Wanger, and Christy Mathewson.

There are nearly 100 cards graded by PSA for this card, and they have decent conditions. The Mint condition cards have been pretty crazy, reaching $100,000 in 2016. This card has done well at auction. PSA 7’s increased from about $5,000 to over $10,000 in 2020. If you wanted to try to grab a card for $1,000, a PSA 1 would be your only hope.


Johnson has several more sets worthy of his career. The cards are always rare and expensive. This article covered some of the best ones (such as his rookies), but the average collector can always find a Johnson tobacco card for their budget.

Johnson could be considered the best pitcher in MLB history. Had he been on better teams, his win totals would have been through the roof. Still, the standout numbers that he does have, such as shutouts and strikeouts, show an incredible pitcher. One of the best ways to respect his career is the possession and preservation of some of his fine cards.