Genius, as it turns out, is hard to duplicate.
The 1934 set was nice, don’t get me wrong. The cards are colorful and the square-like cut was a great 1930s innovation in trading cards. Plus, I particularly enjoyed the idea to team up with Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Chuck Klein to create first-hand accounts of each player. But the set was significantly shorter, was missing Babe Ruth, and was, in general, just too similar to the 1933 cards.
One of the shortcomings of the 1934 set is that some of the images were reused from 1933. Cartoon drawings were added to the backgrounds to serve as a minor distraction, but did little to hide the glaring weakness of duplication. Among those with reused images was the card of Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx.
Jimmie Foxx Card
Goudey figured it would start its 1934 set off with a bang. Seems like a good idea. The 1933 set began with Hall of Famer Benny Bengough, so it’s not as if that issue led off with a scrub. But Foxx was one of the biggest names of his era and an incredible way to start a set.
As a result, using Foxx as a kickstarter made some sense. In 1933, he had just led the league in home runs for a second consecutive season and also had just won the Most Valuable Player award for the second straight time. Playing in the star-studded American League, he was the hottest player around. Great choice, right? Well, let’s talk about that.
One really dumb thing that Goudey did was make his one of the images that was recycled from the 1933 set. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a major issue. But as one of the game’s biggest stars, he probably deserved better. And, by the way, Lou Gehrig was another player that had two of the same image in the 1933 set and he got two new images in the 1934 release.
But fine. Gehrig was the set’s headliner so Goudey went a little above and beyond for him. Foxx’s card mishap was not ideal but not a deal-breaker, either, right? I suppose, but the problem with reusing Foxx’s issue was two-fold.
First, it was used twice in 1933 in their set, as stated. Goudey used the very same image in the very same set twice for him. Same image, same background color, etc. Worse still was that the biography on the back wasn’t even different. To this day, no discernible difference has been found on his two cards (No. 29 and No. 154). The massive T206 set pulled that stunt for a handful of cards and got away with it but at least the poses that were reused had some different background colors or were done to depict a player with a new team. Foxx’s cards are unmistakably the same for no apparent reason and collectors now had three Foxx cards using the same image in the span of two years.
Second, the card is right up front as the very first one in the set. Of all cards, why would you make that the first card in the release and continue to call attention to that picture? It just makes little sense. Gehrig, as stated, was the headliner in the issue and the frontman, so to speak. Why not put one of his cards first instead? Gehrig’s portrait would have been an ideal No. 1 for the set. Fresh image, portrait shot whereas his last two were action shots, the spokesperson – it would have been great.
Having used Foxx’s image twice in the previous year, you might expect that if one guy was due for a new picture, it’d be him – especially because of his stature. But even if securing a new picture of Foxx wasn’t reasonably possible, a better place for his card might have been, say, buried in the middle of the issue so collectors didn’t have to be reminded of it so easily.
Finally, there’s one more small annoyance – the incorrect spelling. While ‘Jimmy’ is usually how that name is spelled, Foxx’s version is spelled ‘Jimmie.’ Goudey wasn’t the only set to botch that as you can find several pre-war cards with the incorrect spelling. But if we’re talking about reasons why this card needs help, that’s yet another one that deserves mentioned.
One Poor Card
When you view the pop reports for this card, they might not look too unusual. Few high-grade copies? That’s to be expected for a card nearing 100 years old. But a closer look reveals an interesting factoid, which is common in other sets, too.
There are a lot of low-grade 1934 Goudey Foxx cards lying around. More specifically, a lot that are bottom of the barrel. In all, PSA and SGC have graded about 625 of them to date. Of that, about 120 have been graded either Authentic or Poor. Doing the math using the exact numbers graded, we get nearly 20% falling under that category. Most others in the set are in the 5% to 10% range.
Now, we know that stars and more expensive cards are more likely to have an abundance of lesser-grade cards. That’s because of their value and even as a PSA 1/SGC 10, the Foxx is still worth a good $100 or so. a PSA 1/SGC 10 common, meanwhile, is about 1/10 of that and not really worth the cost of grading unless you just happen to like your cards displayed in that manner. But even taking that into account, the ratio of Authentic/Poor cards for other big names in the set, such as Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, Hank Greenberg, and others isn’t nearly as pronounced as Foxx’s cards.
So what gives?
The biggest factor is almost surely Foxx’s placement in the set. As many collectors know, cards that are No. 1 in the set are often difficult to find in high-grade. That’s often because when collectors put sets together, they were the cards on the top of the pile and subject to the most abuse and least amount of protection, so to speak.
Similarly, because they take so much abuse, you’re also more likely to see larger numbers of really ugly cards that happen to be No. 1 in a set. Take a stack of non-glossy cards, bundle them in a rubber band, and toss them around a little. The cards likely to take the most damage are the first and last ones.
This is true of many sets and a similar trend is found in the 1933 Goudey issue as well. Remember that Bengough card I mentioned? Well, his issue has a really high number of low-grade examples, too – even worse than Foxx’s, actually. Bengough has a little more than 650 of his 1933 Goudey cards graded and more than 25% are Authentic or Poor.
Foxx’s 1934 Goudey card wasn’t only poor because of the duplicative image and poor placement in the set, but that placement also makes it one that is often quite literally in poor condition.