"Need something to draw on? OK, son, just grab some paper from daddy's desk. Wait, is that my Nolan Ryan? Noooooo..."
Whoops. That's coloring outside the lines for sure.
First in modern baseball history? That implies a cutoff around 1900, but a look back in the 1880s pushes numbers even higher. In 1884 alone, 14 different pitchers struck out more than 300 batters. 4 of those (Hugh Daily, Dupee Shaw, Old Hoss Radbourn, and Charlie Buffinton) cleared 400. The all-time record goes to 20 year-old rookie Matt Kilroy, who sent down 513 batsmen in 1886 for the original Baltimore Orioles.
Nolan Ryan's 1973 mark of 383 still stands as the modern single-season standard, an amazing feat considering the runner-ups (Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson) both played in the NL and got to strike out other pitchers every couple of innings.
Value: Thanks to all the ink, this Ryan cost $1. Nolan's a key card in any set, so I take the cheap ones where I can get them.
Fakes / reprints: Topps reprinted plenty of Ryans for their Archives series and other vintage-style inserts. Not sure if they included this record breaker, but it's possible. Look for a glossier finish and foil stamping on newer versions.