Ranking Goudey’s Sets from Worst to First
Goudey produced several baseball card sets and here’s my not-so-definitive ranking of them
Goudey ruled the baseball card era in the 1930s. While other sets popped up from different makers, it’s clear that Goudey held top billing for baseball cards in the decade.
But how do the different Goudey sets stack up against each other? Here’s my own personal ranking of them. Note that I don’t include Goudey’s photo premiums or their movie flip books. Only their primary cards are presented here and I’ve also left out the Canadian World Wide Gum sets.
No. 7 – 1941 Goudey
My worst Goudey set is the 1941 issue and I’m not even sure it’s all that close.
In a nutshell, the 1941 Goudey set was a disaster. The company had taken several years off from creating ‘standard’ baseball cards before this one showed up on the market and, judging by the looks of things, they would have been better off simply not issuing it.
The set included a total of 33 cards and while they are among Goudey’s more expensive cards due to their rarity, they aren’t pretty to look at. The design is basic and, worse yet, many of the cards had production issues with edges that are cut unevenly or torn. And the only real stars in the set are Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell. That’s it, folks.
Plus, while the set has some stars, it’s missing quite a few. Some will point to World War II as a cause for that but the U.S. involvement didn’t start until the end of the year. A short checklist with few stars won’t make anyone happy and that’s exactly what we’ve got here.
This set is a disaster from start to finish.
No. 6 – 1936 Goudey
Speaking of short sets with few stars …
The 1936 Goudey set isn’t quite as bad as the 1941 set was but, well, it’s still missing several big names. This set has only 25 cards in it and while there are some key players here like Mickey Cochrane, Hank Greenberg, and Lefty Gomez, among other Hall of Famers, it’s noticeable for the guys it doesn’t include.
No Joe DiMaggio rookie card. Ditto for Bob Feller. No Lou Gehrig. No Jimmie Foxx. Many players were excluded from it. And while Ruth had retired after the 1935 season, a tribute card for him would have been incredible.
I’ve long since held the set as being a great one for pre-war beginners. As annoying as it is to see so many stars left out, it makes for a very affordable set for starters. And with only 25 cards, it’s even more inexpensive.
Still, there’s no denying that this wasn’t one of Goudey’s best efforts.
No. 5 – 1938 Goudey
As I once wrote, the 1938 Goudey set has a lot of collectors on opposite sides. Some love it and some hate it.
Me? I don’t have as much problem with the design as others do. It’s at least different and I can award some style points for that. My problems are with the set in other ways.
First, while there are 48 cards in the set, there are only 24 different players/poses. The high numbers of the set merely duplicate the first 24 cards and have cartoon sketches in the background. It was just kind of a lazy way to increase the checklist while using as few players as possible. Second, while it does include stars, it also leaves some players out, including Lou Gehrig. And I don’t know if the odd numbering adds to or detracts from the set.
I’m not sure I slot this set as low as some do. But those are the primary reasons I’ve got it in the lower half of Goudey’s offerings.
No. 4 – 1935 Goudey
Some collectors would probably place the 1935 Goudey set a little lower. I’ve spoken with several that find it downright abhorrent.
There’s the cheesy four-in-one design. The fact that Goudey recycled images from earlier sets. The somewhat obnoxious red borders. I’m not thrilled with any of that but I’d still rank it ahead of the other three sets.
The set has only 36 cards but a master set makes for a significant challenge as different puzzle pieces were printed on the backs. Plus, the set has many more stars than either of the bottom two sets and also includes a Babe Ruth card (and an affordable one at that). Several of the cards include numerous stars.
There are things that I’m not crazy about but there have been worse sets. For one thing, one cool aspect was grouping players from the same team on cards. And while images were recycled, some of them are still really great pictures. Plus, the 1935 Goudey set gives us one of Ruth’s few Boston Braves cards. That has to count for something.
No. 3 – 1934 Goudey
I’m kind of a fan of the 1934 Goudey set. It’s not perfect but definitely has its appeal.
This was Goudey’s second baseball-only offering and it was mostly a good one. The key gripes with the company regarding it are the fact that it does not include Babe Ruth and also that it repeated many of the same images from the previous year. But the set was certainly different, too.
Lou Gehrig was the focal point of the set and cards included a, “Lou Gehrig says” commentary on them (or, in the case of many of the high numbers, “Chuck Klein says”). Gehrig was also featured adequately with two new cards using different poses from his 1933 issues.
One thing I love about the set is that it is an entirely manageable one but not ridiculously small. At 96 cards, it is in between Goudey’s smaller offerings of under 50 cards and the massive 1933 set that can scare collectors off. The two Gehrig cards can be expensive but mostly, this is a doable set for most.
Plenty of stars, a key rookie card in Hank Greenberg, a good amount of cards, and a nice design make this set a winner.
No. 2 – 1933 Sport Kings
I’m willing to concede that I could be a little biased towards the 1933 Sport Kings set. At least I’m honest.
While a lot of collectors stick to baseball, I’ve really expanded my collecting reach. Baseball is very clearly my focal point, but I’ve come to appreciate older cards in other sports, too. And I’m not only talking about major sports like football, basketball, and hockey. I’ve got plenty of those but have also dabbled in things like boxing, tennis, golf, wrestling, and even track and field and cricket.
And for multi-sport collectors with that kind of range, the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set is among the best pre-war issues with that kind of diversity..
The set includes only three baseball cards in Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Carl Hubbell among the 48 in the release. Baseball is important in the set as the Ruth and Cobb are possibly the most expensive cards. But there’s so much more. Included, for example, are what are often considered to be the first true professional basketball cards. There are key football stars. Stars in golf, tennis, and wrestling, among other sports.
The set is really a Who’s Who of legendary athletes and includes some really great poses, too. Count me as one that loves this set.
No. 1 – 1933 Goudey
While some of the sets on this list are pretty great, there’s none that comes close to the iconic 1933 Goudey set. Goudey’s 1933 offering isn’t only their best set, it’s one of the top sets of all time created by anyone.
In short, the 1933 Goudey set has it all.
Big names? Check. Multiple cards of big names? Check. Massive checklist? Check. The set even has some key rookie cards. Among them, Dizzy Dean. While Dean has some earlier collectibles such as photos and pins, his 1933 Goudey cards are his first standard cards. The set also has a U.S. spy in former catcher Moe Berg.
And, of course, in addition to the four Babe Ruth cards and the two Lou Gehrig cards, the set is also famous for the shortprinted Nap Lajoie card, which is one of the top cards in the pre-war era.
Add it all up and it’s a very clear and deserving No. 1 set.
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