Even with His Career Nearly over, Babe Ruth Ruled the 1930s Baseball Card Issues
Babe Ruth dominated the baseball landscape in the 1920s. He routinely led the league in home runs, RBI, and walks, as well a slew of other categories. But by the early 1930s, it was clear he had seen his better days. Ruth would continue to dominate for a few more seasons but by 1934, he was hitting under .300 and his 22 home runs were the least he’d hit since his early days with the Red Sox.
But Ruth’s presence in the trading card industry was still beyond notable in the 1930s. He continued to be featured on products across the country, and even the world.
One great thing about many of his cards from this decade is their affordability. The most popular ones, such as the Goudeys and the gum cards, can be pricey. But Ruth has a lot of relatively inexpensive cards from the 1930s, too.
Other players emerged in the 1930s – big names, too. Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller, Joe Dimaggio, etc. But none really held the star power that Ruth did in the 1920s and, as a result, Ruth was littered in 1930s sets, even as his career was winding down.
Gum cards were ‘in’ in the 1930s and Ruth was all over them.
The most notable of the gum sets were the Goudey issues and Ruth got star treatment in them. In 1933, he was the only player to have four cards in the 1933 Goudey set. That same year, Ruth also appeared in Goudey’s Sport Kings set and on their R309 Premiums. He would also appear in their 1935 Goudey set, which was important because it was one of his few cards where he appeared as a member of the Boston Braves.
Ruth showed up in many other sets, too. One was the 1933 Eclipse set, where, unfortunately, he may be on the ugliest card of all time. He was the headliner in the 1932 U.S. Caramel set and you’ll also find him in the ultra rare 1933 Uncle Jacks Candy set, among other issues, such as the 1934 Al Demaree Die-Cuts. In some other sets, such as the 1933 E285 Rittenhouse Candy set (where he’s featured twice), he was included more than once.
As mentioned, Ruth was a mythical figure and he was well-known outside of the U.S. You’d expect to find him in the World Wide Gum issues that were Canadian parallels to Goudey. He wasn’t only in their 1933 set but also was there in 1934, which was noteworthy as he didn’t appear in Goudey’s 1934 release. But he wasn’t just found in Canada as he was in several other international sets, too.
Ruth also had a big presence in tobacco cards, even though those had long since mostly faded here in the U.S. Most of these cards are international issues since tobacco cards were still going strong in other countries. Domestically, he’s in the popular 1933 Worch Cigar set.
Outside of the U.S., he’s found in the 1932 Abdulla Cigarettes set as well as the 1932 Bulgaria Sport issue – both German releases. He was also the unnamed subject in the popular Sports and Games in Many Lands set, which produced by several brands, including British American Tobacco in 1930.
One of his more interesting tobacco cards is from the 1930s Sociedade Industrial dos Tabacos de Angola set, where he is a baseball player that appears to be throwing a football. A particularly interesting set is the 1939 African Tobacco issue, which featured Ruth, even though he was out of major league baseball several years earlier. It was a testament to his staying power as a celebrity.
Finally, one interesting aspect of Ruth’s baseball career was that it led to him being involved in several movies. A few of these had collectibles, including the cards from the 1931 Jasmatzi/Josetti/Sulima set, a German tobacco issue featuring movie stars.
Ruth is in this category, too. Blue Bird Soda appeared to be one of the companies giving him an endorsement deal as he’s found on some 1933 premiums.
But working with Quaker Oats seemed to be one of his primary deals. He was the primary player mentioned in trivia questions in their 1934 trivia game set. And in addition to being featured on a premium for the company, he was also the subject of a small flip book movie (Wheaties also produced a similar book two years earlier, shown here). All of those items came in 1934 when he was near the end of his career.
Additionally, he was the primary figure found in the 1932 Sanella and Astra Margarine sets found in Germany. Starting around $100, these cards are really more like small photographs since they were printed in thin paper. However, they remain very popular with collectors and usually surface on lists of his most affordable cards from his playing days.
In addition to these categories, collectors will find Ruth in an abundance of other sets. These are some of the more oddball type of cards where he was included.
Ruth, for example, was found in the quirky 1930 Ray-O-Print set, where collectors could develop their own baseball cards (or, more accurately, miniature pictures). Then he’s in the 1935 Indiana-Sport-Avion set, which was a combination of athletes, famous people, and … airplanes. He also continued to endorse products such as Lion Brand shirts, which featured him in a flip book issue. Ruth was also featured in several exhibit and strip card issues as well.
Finally, on a domestic level, Ruth had a presence in a few gaming sets. One of those was his own game, the 1936 Milton Bradley Babe Ruth’s Baseball game. He was mentioned to a lesser degree in the 1935 Whitman Party Stunts game and also could have been on a few others.
Internationally, in addition to his aforementioned German sets, where Ruth really was featured was Japan. Sometime around 1930, he was included on a postcard in a publication called King Magazine. In 1934, he was featured in several card sets related to a Tour of Japan. Heck, one of the sets, the Babe Ruth Bromides, featured him exclusively.
Ruth’s career was winding down in the 1930s but he was still being featured on plenty of collectibles.