WHat are these?
Show these two cards to most collectors, and they’ll identify them without hesitation.
1933 Goudey Rabbit Maranville and 1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig, right? In fact, both cards come from a single Canadian release known variously by the names V354, 1934 World Wide Gum, and 1934 Canadian Goudey.
“Aha, so Goudey just released their same cards in Canada, eh?”
Sort of, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. For a two-year stretch, Goudey did release their cards in Canada, but it was only some of their cards and not necessarily the ones you might have expected. This article seeks to explain the what, when, and why (or at least how) of two years of Canadian baseball cards that aren’t nearly as confusing or strange as they first appear.
1933 world wide gum
We’ll start with the first of the Canadian Goudey releases, the 1933 World Wide Gum set, designated as V353 by Jefferson Burdick in his American Card Catalog. As the two Babe Ruth cards below show, the World Wide Gum fronts (left) are indistinguishable from their U.S. Goudey (right) counterparts.
However, differences on the card backs are evident. On this particular card, the most prominent differences are the card number (80 in this set vs 144 in the U.S. set) and the footer, which shows World Wide Gum of Montreal as the distributor and Canada as where the printing took place. Additionally, each of the World Wide Gum card backs has two language variations: English only and French-English.
In addition to minor layout differences and a more crammed look, the French-English cards commonly omitted the final paragraph of the player bio as a space saving measure.
Side note: I have three possible theories for the language variations.
- French-English was “Plan A” but necessarily took longer than English-only. As such, early runs of English-only were produced to avoid delay.
- English was “Plan A” but poorly received by the market, leading to a second release in French-English.
- French-English was produced for areas with large francophone populations (Quebec, New Brunswick) while English was produced for predominantly anglophone areas.
If you know the answer (or have a different theory) let me know in the Comments. While I can’t produce any viable alternative theories, I can also offer reasons why I think each is incorrect! (I’ll avoid going down that rabbit hole here, but I’ll offer more info in the Comments section on request.)
Another major difference between the two sets is their size. The U.S. set included 239-240 cards, depending how you count the Lajoie card. Meanwhile the Canadian set was much smaller, including only 94 cards. On the off chance you’re wondering which 94, you came to the right place.
- Cards 1-52 and 58-67 on the Canadian checklist align perfectly with the U.S. release, including numbering. For example, card #1 in both sets is Benny Bengough.
- The other 32 cards, at least at first glance, appear to be more or less random, though we will later see they are not.
The chart below shows the correspondence between the Canadian and U.S. checklists.
A final mini-mystery, particularly if you know that Goudey cards of the era were printed on sheets of 24 cards each, is the unusual size of the Canadian set: 94 cards.
As it turns out, the size of the Canadian set and the apparent randomness to the second half of the checklist are both explained by various quirks of the U.S. set.
meanwhile back in the states…
As mentioned, Goudey printed its 1933 set on sheets of 24 cards each. However, the cards on the sheets were not numbered sequentially, instead jumping around and leaving gaps. A 2015 article written for PSA by Kevin Glew provides this summary of card numbers by sheet.
For example, here are Sheets 1, 2, 3, and 6 from the U.S. Goudey set…
…or if you prefer, a complete set of 1933 Canadian Goudey! Yes, all the “randomness” of the Canadian checklist is simply a reflection of the oddball numbering scheme used in the States. World Wide Gum simply took four of the first six U.S. sheets and renumbered the cards sequentially from 1 to 94.
For those of you who’ve already done the math, you’re a step ahead of me. Correct…there are 96 cards here, not 94. However, we can also look at the number of different cards. While there were no duplicates on the set’s first three sheets, the sixth sheet introduced extra cards for three different players: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Lou Gehrig.
I’ve marked up an image of the final Canadian sheet to demonstrate how the 96 cards became 94.
- Babe Ruth’s two “full action” cards, double-printed as 144 in the U.S. set were both numbered as 80 in the Canadian set.
- Jimmy Foxx was the star of the first U.S. series (sheet) as card 29, a number that was retained in the Canadian set as well. The Beast’s second card, identical to his first save numbering, was assigned 154 in the U.S. set and 85 in the Canadian set.
- Lou Gehrig was the top player on the third U.S. sheet as card 92. His Sheet 6 duplicate is card 160 in the U.S. set. In the Canadian set both cards are given a single number, 55.
In summary then, the 94-card Canadian checklist is perfectly explained by its four source sheets from the U.S. set, the retention of Ruth DP, and the creation of a Gehrig DP. Armed with this information, we are ready for the 1934 edition, a set I believe is the strangest of the entire decade.
1934 World wide gum
As shown at he beginning of the article, this 96-card set colors very much outside the lines by merging cards from both the 1933 and 1934 U.S. sets.
The first 48 cards follow the 1933 U.S. design, and the final 48 cards follow the 1934 U.S. design, so we’ll look at each of these groupings separately.
the lower 48
Cards 1-48 on the 1934 Canadian Goudey checklist match up with the following 48 card numbers from the 1933 U.S. set: 53-57, 68-74, 80-91, 100-105, 115-120, and 130-141. While this grouping of numbers appears odd on the surface, you are now zero shocked to see a perfect match to U.S. Goudey sheets 4 and 5.
For those of you keeping score at home, that means Canadian gum chewers pocketing both the 1933 and 1934 World Wide Gum sets now had Canadian counterparts of every card from the first six sheets of the 1933 U.S. issue.
While the card fronts were a perfect match with the U.S. series, a number of expected differences could be found on the backs of the cards: reduced bios to make room for French translation, new card numbers, WWG/Montreal vs Goudey/Boston, etc., i.e., the same things we’d already seen the year before. Another key change, one that’s particularly helpful to collectors sorting their cards, is the “1934 Series” header.
My favorite changes, however, are not evident from the Frankhouse card, and show that the World Wide Gum set was not simply a lazy retread of its neighbor to the south. (This just in: Readers from Windsor, ONT, would like to remind you that their city is actually south of Boston!)
The very first card in the 1934 World Wide Gum set provides one of many team changes.
And lest you imagine such changes are few and far between, here is card #2. As the card front suggests, Morgan was with Cleveland in the 1933 set but the back of his 1934 Canadian card reflects his move to Boston, a transaction that occurred in October 1933.
Not owning this half-set nor even finding a complete run of 1-48 online, I am not able to provide a full catalog of team changes. (Other sources such as Trading Card Database are not yet reliable for this set.) As such, I will simply share two more examples to convey the idea that someone in Montreal (or Boston) was willing to go the extra kilometer (or mile) to keep things au courant (or current).
I particularly like this next example in that it involves two teams many collectors were not even aware had 1933/34 Goudey cards, the Milwaukee Brewers and Montreal Royals.
And my all-time favorite is this one. First, here is the 1933 Goudey version…nothing too unusual.
But what’s this? When I first saw it, I thought mission must have had an alternate meaning in French or that Friberg might have been Mormon and taking a break from baseball. It’s also hard not to think of the Blues Brothers movie: Friberg’s on a mission, a mission from Goudey!
As it turns out the answer is more Reds than Blues. Friberg had simply headed west to San Francisco to play for the Mission Reds of the Pacific Coast League. The story goes that one time Bernie was left out of the Mission lineup and a lone fan in the San Francisco crowd immediately began chanting “FREEEEEEEE-berg, play FREEE-berg, man!”
The upper 48
No decoder ring is needed to understand cards 49-96 in the Canadian set. They correspond exactly the first 48 cards in the 1934 U.S. set, just in a totally different order easy enough to confuse for random.
Look a little more closely and you’ll find in fact the first 24 Canadian cards are a shuffled version of U.S. cards 1-24 and the final 24 Canadian cards are a shuffled version of U.S. cards 25-48.
The sequencing looks even less random when you look at a 1934 Goudey uncut sheet or two. Here is how the first two sheets, 1-24 and 25-48, of the U.S. issue were numbered. I am happy to award a prize package to anyone who can find the pattern!
And here is how World Wide Gum numbered the same 48 cards. (No prize this time if you spot the pattern!)
And here you were thinking the Canadian set was the random one!
Side note: Cards 1-48 in the Canadian set (i.e., the “lower 48” profiled earlier) worked in exactly the same way. While numbering on sheets 4 and 5 from the 1933 U.S. set was in no particular order, World Wide Gum re-numbered the cards on each sheet sequentially from left to right and top to bottom. For example, while these same cards were numbered 119, 116, 118, 117, 136, 132, etc., in the 1933 set, here is their numbering in 1934 World Wide Gum.
By now you’re a pro at anticipating what differences the Canadian card backs will show versus their U.S. counterparts. You can check off your guesses against Heinie’s (ahem) backsides.
However, the 1934 U.S. series actually features two other styles of card backs.
- Cards 1-24 match the Manush card already shown.
- Cards 25-79 and 92-96, the remaining “Lou Gehrig says…” cards in the set, feature the first card back shown above.
- Cards 80-91, the “Chuck Klein says…” cards, feature the second card back shown above.
Because the Canadian set doesn’t include U.S. cards 80-91 it’s not a surprise at all that no Canadian cards have the Klein back. Given the space saving measures already seen on the Canadian cards, the absence of the Gehrig signature might not surprise you either.
Nonetheless I do attach significance to another missing element: the line on U.S. cards 25-96 that reads “By arrangement with Christy Walsh.”
Christy Walsh was of course the super-agent of many of era’s biggest stars, among them Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Walsh’s “arrangement” with Goudey is often cited as the main reason there are no Babe Ruth cards in the 1934 U.S. set.
Certainly it is possible that the Walsh tagline was omitted in Canada only to conserve space. On the other hand, legalese is often the last to go. My own hunch is that the Goudey/Walsh arrangement extended only to the United States and did not extend north of the border. In particular, I connect the absence of the Walsh tag line with the set’s checklist boasting this heavy hitter.
There he is, Babe Ruth, on a 1934 (and sort of) Goudey card! Meanwhile American collectors could only dream of such a card in their wildest mastication fantasies!
Odds and ends
For all the ink I’ve spent explaining the construction of the two Canadian Goudey sets, one question I’ve left alone is the why. Here are my best guesses to a few questions that remain outstanding.
- Why did the 1933 set draw from Sheets 1, 2, 3, and 6 of the U.S. set vs some other set of sheets (e.g., 1-4)?
In order to have a product on shelves in any timely manner, using low-numbered U.S. sheets was a necessity. In my own research I’ve come to believe that Sheets 1-3 and 5 were all ready to go even before the start of the 1933 season whereas the other six sheets were prepared in a series of later efforts. As such, the use of Sheets 1-3 is probably no surprise: they were available quickly. As for why the set then skipped to Sheet 6, I suspect it was for the star power. Boasting a Foxx, Gehrig, and three Ruth cards, this was the one to put out there if the clock was ticking and you wanted the most buck for your bang.
- Why did the 1934 set use any 1933 cards at all?
Again I’m going to go with time-to-market. Waiting on true 1934 Goudey cards and adding time for translation meant it would be a while before cards could hit shelves. Meanwhile here was a ready made supply of cards that needed only translation and (in some cases) team updates.
- Why did the 1934 set switch in the middle to the 1934 Goudey cards?
An auction house listing I read suggested the change was in response to criticism that the set was “behind the times.” I doubt this for two reasons. First, unless kids were in frequent correspondence with their American cousins, I’m not sure they would have noticed or complained much. Second, provided the 1934 U.S. cards were ready for us, why wouldn’t WWG want to use them? While modern collectors might frown at WWG putting out a set using two different card designs, bear in mind that Goudey (U.S.) did the exact same thing in 1933.
- Matthew Glidden has a terrific write-up of World Wide Gum cards, going well beyond the 1933 and 1934 baseball sets. Among the highlights is his rock solid case that the 1936 issue (as catalogued) was in fact a 1936-37 issue.
- Some very clean front/back scans of the 1934 World Wide Gum cards are here. The collector is pretty far from a complete set, but his images are among the better ones online.
- My own gum-in-cheek article on the history of the Goudey Gum Company is here. Most Goudey company biographers skip the poisoning scandals. Not me.