All 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Cards are not Created Equal

The 1933 Goudey set is one of the most iconic releases in baseball card history. There are any number of reasons to collect it but, aside from the shortprinted Nap Lajoie card, the biggest cool factor for the set easily stems from the four Babe Ruth cards.

Even though one is double printed, many collectors generally lump all of these Ruths together without giving much credence to the fact that one could be better than the others. There is no doubt, though, that the four Ruths shouldn’t be judged equally at least in terms of rarity.

Before we look at what the pop reports have to say about the Ruth cards, though, here they are in case you need to get familiar with them.

Four 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Types

#53 Yellow Background

This card shows a half-body shot of Ruth in a swing follow-through. It’s easily defined by the full yellow background.

#144 Full Body

This is the only card of the four that features a full body shot of Ruth. The pose is the same as the yellow and red background parts as he’s pictured in the follow-through of a swing but it shows a larger picture of Ruth in his full uniform with a stadium backdrop. This card is arguably the most attractive and that could be the reason it is believed to have been double printed.

#149 Red Background

This card is the same as the yellow background card but only with a red background instead.

#181 Green Background

This card features Ruth sitting down with a bat at the bottom.

All four cards are pictured here.

Rarity

The cards aren’t commonplace but all four cards are relatively plentiful by many pre-war standards. To date, PSA, SGC, and BVG have combined to grade more than 5,000 of the four types combined. But while they aren’t terribly hard to find, one is significantly easier to locate.

The yellow and red background cards seem to be rarest. In all, PSA, SGC, and BVG have graded about 1,150 of the #149 red background cards and about 1,200 of the #53 yellow background issue.

Judging by the pop reports, the green background #181 cards are a little easier to find. The three grading companies have combined to grade about 1,300 of those.

Finally, with about 1,550 cards graded, the full body pose #144 cards are the least rare. They are considered to be a double printed card and that makes it little of a surprise that they are the most plentiful in the pop reports.

In other words the rarity looks like this when considering the three pop reports:

  • #149 Red background (rarest) – approx. 1,150 graded
  • #53 Yellow background – approx. 1,200 graded
  • #181 Green background – approx. 1,300 graded
  • #144 Full body pose (least rare) – approx. 1,550 graded

Conclusion

Despite that information, there really isn’t much variance when it comes to pricing. Some knowledgeable sellers will ask for a little less for the full body cards that were double printed but to many, a Ruth is a Ruth.

One thing to watch is the discrepancy between the red background cards and the green background cards. 150 is a sizable gap since we’re talking about cards with populations of fewer than 1,500 graded. That’s more than a 10% difference and could mean that the red background, and perhaps, the yellow background cards command more of a premium if the trends with future cards being submitted for grading continue.

All of this being said, keep in mind that, while the pop reports are generally a decent indicator when trying to compare the relative scarcity of cards, they aren’t fool proof. Perhaps some collector is out there hoarding a few hundred raw, ungraded versions of the red background cards and they aren’t as rare as they seem. Or maybe we see fewer green background cards submitted for grading and that brings those closer to the red/yellow background issues.

For now, though, if you’re looking to buy or sell a 1933 Goudey Ruth card, there’s no question that some appear a little rarer than others.

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