Author’s note: This is the second in a series of pieces that will offer a mix of facts, unknowns, and speculation on one of the Hobby’s most iconic brands. This installment looks primarily at the 1933 set’s sequel and how the two sets might fit together.
1934 Goudey Basics
We’ll start with some basic information about the 1934 Goudey set.
- The set included 96 cards, a significant drop in the size from the previous year’s 240-card offering.
- While the set included two cards of Lou Gehrig and single cards of several Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth is conspicuously absent from the set.
- Cards 1-79 and 92-96 feature a blue “Lou Gehrig says…” banner while cards 80-91, all National Leaguers, feature a red “Chuck Klein says…” banner.
With that background out of the way, we’ll jump into the checklist.
1934 Goudey Checklist
Just as the 1933 set was produced on sheets of 24, the 1934 set used at least three sheets of 24 and a fourth sheet of 25. “That’s 97 cards,” you say, and indeed it is! A careful look at the sheet of 25 will reveal a card not formally considered part of the set: the “1933” Napoleon Lajoie.
I don’t know if all copies of the 1934 set’s final sheet were 5 x 5 and included the Lajoie, or if some/most copies were 6 x 4 and minus the Lajoie. (As always, let me know in the comments if you have information on this.)
The first sheet in the 1934 set was by far the most star-studded, highlighted by Grove, Dean, Foxx, Hubbell, and others. In fact, 13 of the set’s 20 Hall of Fame cards reside among the set’s first 24 cards.
Unlike the 1933 set, cards on Sheet 1 bear the numbers 1-24 (no skips), though the numbering within the sheet is so random even I have literally zero to say about it.
The most salient (but not immediately evident) characteristic of the set’s first sheet is that every single one of the cards is recycled from the 1933 set, artwork and all.
First, here are cards 1-6 from the 1934 set…
And their counterparts from 1933.
And here are the next six cards, 7-12, in the 1934 set…
…along with their 1933 doppelgängers.
And finally we round things out with cards 13-24.
And once again…
Study the artwork carefully enough and you’ll spot some changes. One of the more notable updates is the coloring of Lefty Grove’s hat to reflect his move from the A’s to the Red Sox.
Add Ruth and Gehrig and this sheet would be nothing more than “1933 Goudey’s Greatest Hits!” Care to guess how many of the next 72 cards in the 1934 set reuse their 1933 images? [Cue “Jeopardy theme” while reader thinks.] Zero! This first sheet provides the only instances in the entire set and does so by going a perfect 24 for 24.
Given the star power of Sheet 1, it’s no surprise that the second sheet has far fewer luminaries. Appling, Hafey, Lombardi, and Gehrig are the sheet’s lone Hall of Famers, but oh what a Gehrig! The next sheet will feature a Gehrig as well, but this yellow one, Card 37, seems to be the one nearly everybody likes best.
Cards are numbered 25-48 but again are scrambled randomly within the sheet. But hey, since it’s what I do, I’ll offer at least one thing not random about the numbering. Cards 25-36 are in the top two rows and cards 37-48 are in the bottom two rows.
Feel free to read a much earlier post on 1934 Canadian Goudey for more detail, but this is as good a time as any to note that its crazy hodgepodge of a checklist corresponds exactly to this sheet (numbered more sensibly), the preceding sheet, and Sheets 4 and 5 from the 1933 U.S. set.
Reminiscent of the early 1933 sheets, we now encounter a sheet arranged by color, this time progressing from yellow to green to red to blue. We are down to only two cards of Hall of Famers, though they represent two of the three top cards in the entire set: the Hank Greenberg rookie card and the green Gehrig. This second Gehrig marks the only instance of a repeated player in the set.
Cards on this third sheet are numbered 49-72 but again in no particular order. A bit of trivia is that the mini-Gehrig icon that lived in the “Lou Gehrig says…” banner on Sheets 1-2 has now been updated to a new mini-Gehrig icon. The Coleman (Sheet 2) and Bolton (Sheet 3) cards below show the change at a size you can maybe even see on your phone.
I started off the post with a picture of this final sheet, which not only includes cards 73-96 but the famous “1933” Lajoie as well.
If every instance of Sheet 4 looked like this, then we are forced to conclude that, at least off the press, the Lajoie card was no more rare than, say, Lloyd Johnson. Of course, very few Lajoie cards (I’ve seen estimates around 100) ever made it to collectors, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that a gigantic pile of these cards were simply thrown away…either that or will make for one helluva find someday!
What kind of set is it?
I’ll introduce a concept here that’s not really new but perhaps under-discussed with respect to older sets. We are of course accustomed these days to Topps putting out a new set each year. If last year’s set had 600+ players, this year’s probably will also. Most players in last year’s set will also be in this year’s. Perhaps the biggest difference from year to year, rather than size or composition, will simply be the design or appearance of the cards. I’ll call such sets sequels.
Contrasting with the sequel is a second type of set I’ll call an extension. A simple example is the 1981 or 1982 Topps Traded set. Compared with their predecessors (i.e., the 1981 and 1982 Topps flagship sets), they are obviously much smaller and include very different compositions of players. In particular, the Topps Traded sets of the 1980s were where we would find rookies not in the main set (or at least not yet on solo cards) and players who changed teams.
Returning to Goudey, my belief is that the 1934 release was more an extension than it was a sequel. Yes, the first 24 cards repeated players from the prior year, a quality we’d normally find in a sequel. However, I believe this was more about expedience than anything else. Go beyond cards 1-24 and 64 of the remaining 72 cards feature brand new players, often rookies not around in 1933 or players of secondary status who didn’t make the cut the first time around.
Now how about the other eight cards, the players repeated from the 1933 set? Two were the Gehrig cards already identified. With Gehrig the pitchman for the set, his two cards make sense, even if they “ruin” the clean run of nearly all new players.
Another repeated player is Mark Koenig, whose new card shows his move from the Cubs to the Reds. In other words, Koenig is here as a “Traded” card.
Next up is Marty McManus, whose new card shows his move from one Boston club to the other (by way of Brooklyn). Another traded card.
Finally, Adam Comorosky’s new card, yet another traded card, shows his move from the Pirates to the Reds.
This still leaves three players (Cuyler, Bridges, Hallahan) we wouldn’t expect to see in an extension/update of the 1933 set, and I offer no explanation for them. Still, three out of 72 is not a very big number.
If we think of 1934 Goudey as a sequel, it’s an underwhelming one indeed. Less than half the number of cards and almost no star power in the final three series. Conversely, if we regard 1934 Goudey as an extension of 1933, nearly all of its peculiar features make sense.
- Why so much smaller? It’s a traded set!
- Why so many no-names? It’s a traded set!
- Why no Ruth? He didn’t get traded! (More likely, Ruth/Gehrig super-agent Christy Walsh wanted the set’s marquee player to be Gehrig, favoring even grander plans for the Bambino. As a final note, Walsh also represented Chuck Klein, which explains the dozen “Chuck Klein says…” cards toward the end of the set.)
See, all your questions answered! That’s what I’m here for, right?
In the next installment of the series, following up on a question from Nick, I’ll examine the chronology of the 1933 release based on three different sources.