A Great Chase: Can Babe Ruth’s 1935 Goudey Card ‘Catch up’ with his 1933 Goudey Issues?

Ruth’s 1935 Goudey card remains a major bargain … especially compared to his 1933 Goudey issues

Most of the time when the subject of Babe Ruth’s most affordable baseball cards comes up, his international issues are at the forefront. That’s for good reason. As I’ve covered before, you can get some of those cards for under $100 and there are some really good deals to be had.

But a lot of collectors aren’t interested in those. For many, they’d prefer to have a more mainstream American card from a baseball set. And when looking for one of those, Ruth’s 1935 Goudey card is probably at the top of the list when it comes to affordability.

The 1935 Goudey set is one of the easier Goudey sets to complete. It’s certainly not as easy as the 1936 set, which doesn’t include Ruth. But, all told, with some patience it can be completed in very low-grade shape for somewhere around $1,000-$1,200. And while it only contains 36 cards, considering that low-grade 1933 Ruth Goudey cards can cost that much on their own, it’s easy to see that the 1935 card checks in at a substantially lower price.

How much lower? You can get a 1935 Goudey Ruth in low-grade condition starting around $500, give or take about $100, depending on the exact condition. A low-grade, unaltered 1933 Goudey Ruth almost always will cost you twice that. Ditto for Ruth’s 1933 Goudey Sport Kings card.

But why the disparity?

A Closer Look

Ruth 1935 Goudey

Ruth 1933 Goudey Red

For one thing, the 1933 Goudey cards only feature Ruth while Ruth shares his 1935 Goudey card with three others. Some will point out that shouldn’t matter and that one of those players, Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, even should add its value, not detract it.

But while that might seem like solid logic, most collectors in most cases would prefer to have a card featuring only one subject.

Along those lines, that Ruth only occupies a small part of the card is probably part of the reason, too. The card doesn’t have a full body image of Ruth with other players. Rather, his picture is confined to a very small part of the card.

Another reason the card isn’t as valuable as the other Goudeys? I’d argue that because it features Ruth with the Boston Braves instead of the New York Yankees. Now, Ruth’s picture is from one used in the 1933 set when he was with the Yankees. But the 1935 card labels him with his new team and I’d imagine that most collectors looking for a Ruth would rather have an earlier one with him on the Red Sox or one with him shown as a Yankee.

A Big Disparity

Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey Sport KingsNow, let’s consider the 1935 vs. the 1933 cards. The 1935 Goudey set is certainly collected — even widely. It’s a much shorter set than the 1933 or even 1934 Goudey sets, and doesn’t have the high-dollar cards in those issues. But the 1933 Goudey set is often considered part of the hobby’s Big Three along with the T206 and 1952 Topps sets. It’s such a popular issue and that no doubt helps drive the prices of those cards up. And while the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set may not be as popular, that’s also a multi-sport set with only three baseball cards — hardly a fair comparison.

Now, the 1933 cards being more valuable is nothing new. The 1933 Goudey Ruth cards, in particular, have indeed shot up in value at a greater rate than Ruth’s 1935 Goudey card. But the 1933 issues have always been seen as the more valuable and, frankly, better cards. However, the disparity in values once you get out of the lowest grades is astonishing.

For example, recent PSA 4 Ruth cards from the 1935 set are still incredibly reasonable, selling in the $1,100-$1,200 range recently. But if you want a PSA 4 of one of Ruth’s 1933 Goudey card, you can expect to pay through the nose. In that case, you’re talking about $6,000 – $7,000 and one even recently approached $10,000 in April.

Ruth’s Sport Kings cards in that grade aren’t quite as valuable as those but they are significantly more than his 1935 cards. This PSA 3.5 sold for more than $4,000 recently.

That’s already a pretty shocking look at the cards. But it gets even stranger when you consider the populations of some of those cards.

Rarity and Future Outlook

In terms of rarity, the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Ruths are on par with the 1935 cards. But Ruth’s regular old 1933 Goudey cards, while iconic, are certainly not difficult to find. That is because the cards were printed in large quantities and, while we don’t know how large, there is clearly no shortage of them. And they are certainly much easier to find than Ruth’s 1935 Goudey card.

There are a total of four Ruth 1933 Goudey cards and, on average, there are approximately 1,050 graded of each by PSA. By contrast, there are only about 500 of Ruth’s 1935 Goudey cards graded in all. In other words, it is far rarer than any of Ruth’s 1933 cards.

Now, the rarity/value argument is a tricky one. And, as I wrote before in depth, rarity is only one piece of the puzzle when determining a card’s value. There are a lot of very rare cards out there that are not worth much. And there is no doubt that the 1933 Goudey cards are more popular than Goudey’s 1935 set.

Still, I can’t help but come back to the same thing here. The 1935 Goudey card is one that, like the others, came during Ruth’s playing days. In fact, as a card that came in his final season, I’d think there’d be some added value there. It also is still a Goudey card and Goudey cards are incredibly popular. Given all of that, I’m surprised the gap between the two cards, particularly as you go up in grade, is as significant as it is.

Add it all up and I think there’s real chance for the 1935 Goudey Ruth to make some gains in the future. I don’t expect it will ever be as popular as any of the 1933 Goudey Ruth cards or maybe even the Sport Kings card. But, if nothing else, I would be surprised if the disparity between Ruth’s 1935 card and his 1933 issues is always this great.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean the 1935 Goudey Ruth cards are due for a big jump. It’s possible that the 1933 Goudeys tail off a bit. But when you’re talking the 1933 Goudey mid-grade cards being worth four, six, and even eight times as much as the 1935 Goudey cards, I’m not sure that kind of gap will continue forever.

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