Comparing Low Number and High Number 1938 Goudey Cards

The 1938 Goudey baseball card set is known for an oddball type of design that fans have either come to love or hate. But one of the more intriguing facts about it is that it’s actually two sets in one.

In all, there are a total of 24 different player pictures but there are 48 cards in the set since those pictures are repeated, giving every player two cards. The only difference is that the first 24 cards had blank backgrounds and the last 24 (high numbers, theoretically) with the pictures repeated had a wide assortment of cartoon images in the background.

Why Goudey did that is anybody’s guess. But my guess is because it was a cheap and easy way to add to the set’s checklist. And making a checklist larger was always something companies wanted to do so that kids would have to buy more product to collect the entire set.

Whatever the reason, while the cards are similar, they are very clearly different since the backgrounds are not the same and, more importantly, have different card numbers.

But are the two types different in terms of rarity? Is one easier or harder to find?

Well, technically the 1938 Goudey types aren’t the same in terms of rarity. There are some exceptions but, according to PSA’s population reports, the high number cards have been graded more.

The two types don’t vary wildly, which is probably why many collectors don’t even know there’s a difference. But the high number cards, according to PSA’s grading, anyway, seem to be slightly easier to find.

For example, Bob Feller’s cards are some popular ones in the set. His high number card (No. 288) has been graded about 220 times — about 40 times more than his low number card (No. 264).

Same goes for Joe DiMaggio’s cards. His cards are the most valuable ones in the set and clearly a target for grading. His low-number card (No. 250) has been graded by PSA a little more than 300 times while his high number card (No. 274) has been graded about 30 more times. The same is seen up and down the checklist. Many high number cards have been graded 10%, 20%, or even more than the low number cards.

But there are definitely some exceptions. More than a few, in fact. Certainly enough to make you question the idea that the high-number cards are definitively easier to find.

Several of the low-number cards have been graded about the same as the high-number ones (or, in some cases, even more) — those include Hank Greenberg, Bobby Doerr, Ducky Medwick, Ervin Fox, Frank Demaree, Bump Hadley, Zeke Bonura, Van Lingle Mungo, and Julius Solters. Joe Vosmik’s low-number card (No. 247) has been graded much more (111 times) than his high-number card (80 times) for some reason. But in general the high-number cards seem more plentiful.

Still, if you look at the cumulative numbers, you see that more high numbers have been graded, even if only slightly. Looking at all of PSA’s graded cards, approximately 2,800 of the 6,000 cards from the set that have been graded are low-number cards. The balance, approximately 3,200, are high-number cards.

In short, the high-number cards may exist in larger quantities. But the difference is not so great that it should warrant major differences in price between the two types.

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