Judy Garland ‘Rookie’ Card Found in 1939 Gallaher My Favourite Part Set

The first card of Judy Garland is gaining steam as an affordable (and important) non-sports cigarette card

Even though this is generally a sports card site, I’ve really been meaning to hit the non-sports stuff a little more frequently than I have to date. A recent card pickup sort of got me thinking about one in particular that I felt was worth writing about — the 1939 Gallaher My Favourite Part card of Judy Garland.

I’m sort of intrigued by first cards of subjects. I’m not a rookie card collector, really, but I certainly understand that niche of collecting. It was one reason I wrote before about the valuable Walt Disney ‘rookie card’ a while back. I’m sort of fascinated by such cards, even if I don’t heavily collect them myself aside from, well, pro wrestling. But that’s another story for another time.

One card that is gaining a slight bit of steam is the first card of famous actress/singer Judy Garland. Garland, of course, made her mark in the 1939 film, the Wizard of Oz, and while she did plenty more after that, that’s really her calling card. The Wizard of Oz is not all that far from being 100 years old and it’s generally still lauded as one of the top films of all time.

Garland would no doubt appear on all sorts of collectibles in the years to follow. But her appearance in the 1939 Gallaher set is notable because she was just then coming into fame. It is, by my account, the first time I’ve seen her on a legitimate trading card.

The set, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is not a wildly popular one. It has all sorts of famous actors and actresses of the era, and includes a total of 48 cards. But even though it’s full of popular names like Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, it has the same problem that most film star sets have — there are just way too many of them. The large number of sets was even a mockery of some collectors like Lady Margaret Macrae, one of the first writers in the popular Cigarette Card News, a 1930s publication. But Garland’s card, No. 13 in the set, stands out as likely her first trading card. It is the most sought after of the cards in it, despite a strong checklist.

Even more important is that the card documents her performance in that film, which was not even released until August of that year. True to the theme of the set, Garland discusses her role in the movie, citing it as the favorite of her young career, on the back:

I’ve always liked unusual things, and that’s why my part in “The Wizard of Oz” is my favourite so far. It’s a fantasy for “children of all ages from nine to ninety,” as they say — and there are few people aren’t children when it comes to something like this. I have an opportunity for singing, too, and the picture is in Technicolor. But I’m quite young yet, so I’ve time to have plenty more favourite parts!

I don’t know if Garland would go on to have a more favorite role. But she certainly could not have been prepared for the success of the film or, more precisely, its staying power.

If the spelling of ‘favourite’ is throwing you off, it shouldn’t. While Garland is obviously an American, the set was issued by Gallaher for their packages of cigarettes, and Gallaher was based out of the UK. The Gallaher name might not be too popular in America but in the 1930s, they released a slew of cigarette cards, along with others like Churchman and Wills. I do not know how many sets Gallaher issued in the pre-war era but my copy of the Cigarette and Trade Card Catalogue, a publication of The London Cigarette Card Company, lists about 100 sets, not including many variations, of which a few more dozen exist.

The Garland card has certainly risen in value. A few years ago, it was a card you could find for a couple of bucks. Today, it’s more in that $15-$25 range for nice raw copies. And graded Garland cards, of course, are significantly more, with some high-grade cards topping $75. I would not be surprised to see those going for over $100 at some point, given the trajectory and the sellers’ market we all now find ourselves in.

One note on that price point is worth a mention. Like many 1930s UK cards, there are lots of high-grade ones to go around. Not bucket loads, but certainly a lot more than American gum cards from the 1930s that were collected more by kids while the international cigarette cards often drew a more sophisticated, older collecting audience that took better care of the cards. In fact, it’s often more common to find cards from a particular set in mid-grade or high-grade condition than it is to find them in low-grade condition. So the fact that the high-grade Garland cards are not commanding hundreds of dollars is not a surprise.

That may keep the card from getting truly out of hand like some of the other 1930s international stuff that was once cheaper and now getting expensive for, say, Jesse Owens. But keep in mind that, compared to the junk wax era stuff that is getting out of control, these cards are still far rarer than those. To date, PSA has graded only about 100 of these cards. And while that is an admittedly low number compared to the raw number out there, even if it jumped to, say, 500, it would still be far less than something like a 1993 Topps Derek Jeter card. The Garland cards are not exactly rare but I wouldn’t call them plentiful, either. Usually, there are about ten on eBay at any given time.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s honestly a great card. Garland was an iconic talent and given the widespread draw of Wizard of Oz collectibles, it’s a card that potentially could draw a rather large audience if more people knew about it.

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