1941 Goudey Set is Wrought with Problems

The unpopular set has a litany of issues that hardly make it worthwhile for most collectors

Here’s the thing. In 1941, baseball cards were generally put on hold. We have World War II to thank for that and after the December bombing of Pearl Harbor made the war closer to home for Americans, things really disappeared.

Because of the lack of production of card sets during the war, the 1941 Goudey set was a somewhat welcome distraction. Like the significantly better 1941 Play Ball set, the cards allowed collectors to still find cards of their favorite baseball players. But aside from that, the set was mostly a disaster.

Mel Ott 1941 GoudeyThe first problem was the size of the set. The 1941 Play Ball set included only 72 cards and even that was considered small. After all, the 1940 Play ball set has 240 cards and larger sets are really where things were headed with gum card issues. But the 1941 Goudey set only included a meager 33 cards.

If that was the only problem, that wouldn’t be so bad. After all, plenty of smaller sets, like early caramel issues, the 1933 DeLong set, etc. had equally small checklists and still are considered very nice sets. Unfortunately, though, Goudey had even bigger problems.

One of those was the collection of talent that made up the checklist. Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell are there. But that’s basically it. Even in those cases, if we want to nitpick, it can be suggested that both players were past their prime. Hubbell, in particular, was really on his way out with a pedestrian 11-9 record and 3.57 ERA in 1941. After those players, we’re basically left with the Dario Lodigianis and Bill Posedels of the world. Woof.

Then, of course …

Alright, let’s talk about that. Dario Lodigiani was probably a fine chap. But his inclusion in the set really tells you all you need to know about it. Lodigiani did have a couple of solid seasons to start his career in 1938 and 1939, batting .280 and .260, respectively. In 1940, he played in only one game after being beaten out on the roster and then came back with the White Sox in 1941 and hit .239.┬áHis inclusion in a larger set may have made sense but how he managed to sneak into such a small issue is really kind of mind-boggling.

Carl Hubbell 1941 GoudeyNone of that is to pick solely on him. I merely picked his name as I had not heard of him when scanning the checklist. Others (like Posedel) were similarly unsuited for inclusion in such a tiny set and it makes you wonder what was behind the checklisting decisions. Some of the big stars, of course, left to actually serve in the war. But that didn’t really happen until after this set was produced — thus, the likes of legends that were also veterans, such as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Bob Feller, were plenty available.

The players were the main issue, of course. Collectors will excuse all kinds of ugly looking cards if said cards have pictures of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb on them. But when the players are bad and the cards are ugly, you’ve got a problem.

And the 1941 Goudey cards are ugly, boys and girls.

I don’t mind the concept of the crux of the design, actually. Black and white images on color backgrounds has been done to death but can look really nice. But this set with its monotone backgrounds just doesn’t have quite the same effect. Plus, the rest of the card design is just incredibly basic. You’re left with the feeling that Goudey paid a high school graphics design student $100 bucks and said, ‘Make a baseball card set in a week.’ The backs are blank and blah, blah, blah. Not real impressive.

Further, another really big problem is that the cards were often miscut terribly and even have rough edges on some sides. I suppose if you’re a perfectionist and enjoy the challenges of trying to find perfectly centered cards, you might enjoy this masochistic exercise of putting together a clean, high-grade set. But if you’re a sane person, it’s just sort of frustrating to see so many of these cards miscut.

Few stars, ugly cards — you might think that adds up to low prices if nothing else, right? Wrong. These cards are actually quite expensive compared to other earlier Goudey sets. You can often find low-grade commons in several of those sets for $10 or even less. But finding any 1941 Goudey cards for that amount is virtually impossible. Low-grade commons from this set usually start about double that. That’s almost solely because of the rarity — PSA has not even graded 2,000 of these cards, which is a testament to how tough they are by comparison with other Goudey issues.

If you’re a completist like me and someone that just wants to collect all of the Goudey cards, you’re sort of stuck with these. But unless you’ve got a specific reason to pursue them, it’s hard to find a reason to want them.

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