1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide
When it comes to pre-war baseball cards, it doesn’t get much better than the 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig card.
Considered the pioneer of bubble gum baseball card sets, Goudey cards of any player are incredibly desirable.
But what happens when you add the Iron Horse to the equation?
You are talking about one of the most iconic baseball cards in the hobby…
And, in this guide, we’ll look at what makes it so unique, how much it’s worth, and how to best go about buying and selling one.
Let’s jump right in!
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Some things to consider before we get into more detail:
- there are actually two different 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig cards, #92 and #160
- the cards measure 2-3/8" by 2-7/8"
- both cards are some of the most expensive in the 240-card (when including the elusive Nap Lajoie) set checklist
- it's one of the most valuable baseball cards in existence
Whereas his teammate, Babe Ruth, appeared on four different 1933 Goudey cards with different images, both of the Gehrig cards use the same artwork.
Jimmie Foxx was another guy who appeared on two different cards in the set with identical imagery.
Why Goudey did this is a mystery to me.
Regardless, the beautiful artwork on the each card, inspired by a Charles Conlon photograph taken during the 1927 season, resulted in two of the best-looking Gehrig cards in the hobby.
Gehrig is pictured in his Yankee pinstripes in mid-swing, giving collectors a small glimpse into his smooth yet powerful form.
The replacement of the dugout and crowd with a light blue background gives a calm and relaxed feel to the card.
Gehrig's name rests in the upper-right corner while "Big League Chewing Gum" across a red stripe holds down the bottom.
1933 Goudey #92
1933 Goudey #160
The only real way to tell the two cards apart is by looking at their reverse sides as the card number rests at the top above his name and Yankee team affiliation.
An excellent write-up, even if it's in sentence fragments, takes up most of the mid-section to commemorate Gehrig's skills and importance to his teammates.
The wording "This is one of a series of 240 Baseball Stars" informed collectors of how many cards were needed to complete a full set, although it was misleading.
To keep collectors buying more cards in a chase to complete the full set, Goudey famously withheld card #106 of Nap Lajoie.
Once they caught on, collectors flooded Goudey with complaints, which caused them to print and distribute the Lajoie the following year in 1934 to any collector who sent in for one by mail.
Information on the Goudey Gum Co. anchors the bottom of the reverse side.
1933 Goudey #92
1933 Goudey #160
Condition Issues and Grading
Centering is the most common challenge with these cards as both the fronts and backs may be off-center.
You may also see the reverse sides with ink that appears to have bled through from the front or was caused by stacking wet sheets on one another.
Although it may detract from the eye appeal a bit, professional graders tend to overlook the ink blotches when assigning a final grade.
Most of the wear and tear commonly found on these cards today is simply from their age and how often they've been handled over the years.
To give you an idea of how a professional grader may judge differences in condition, notice the sharp corners and smooth surfaces of the SGC 7 card below versus the SGC 3:
SGC 3 VG Condition
SGC 7 Near-Mint Condition
While the SGC 3 example does appear to be better-centered, it shows rounded corners and a bit of wear to the surface.
It's anyone's guess as to how an individual grader assigns a specific grade, but clearly, the SGC 3 card shows more wear and tear to it than the SGC 7.
For perspective, grading takes place on a 1 - 10 scale with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest--the higher the grade, the higher the value.
To be graded in mint condition, the card has to be nearly perfect:
- centering has to be pretty much 50/50
- the corners have to be sharp with no signs of wear or rounding
- the surfaces can not have any blemishes, divots, cuts, creases or wrinkles
- the edges cannot be damaged or have any chipping
Even as a "1" in poor condition, this card has a lot of value since it's a Lou Gehrig from an iconic set.
The big price tags come into play once you start seeing conditions in the mid to higher grades as collectors are willing to pay much more for higher-quality examples.
Counterfeits and Reprints
Because it's an iconic card of one of the game's biggest legends, it is often reprinted.
And, because it's so valuable, this card is often counterfeited.
Reprinting and counterfeiting are not the same, however.
Reprints, like the 1983 Renata Galasso example below, are usually intended to commemorate an iconic card/set or provide collectors with a cheaper alternative to the original.
One of the quickest ways to tell a reprint from an original is to look for the word "Reprint" somewhere on the back:
The text on the backs of reprints is sometimes in black ink as opposed to the green ink used on the originals, so that can be a dead giveaway.
Counterfeits can be a bit trickier to identify, sometimes, as they exist solely to deceive and cheat people out of their money.
They will often be artificially aged by rounding the corners, creasing them a bit, and even darkening their surfaces using coffee grounds.
If the card smells like coffee, chances are it's a fraud.
Counterfeiters will often take an eraser to any "Reprint" text on the reverse and try and pass it off as an issue of "paper loss."
Sometimes the print quality on the fronts will be too sharp or new, milky-white card stock will show through signaling a modern counterfeit.
If you have one of these cards you're looking to buy or sell and aren't quite sure, feel free to reach out to me, and I'll see if I can help.
So what is this card worth?
The value of a 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig card will depend on its condition and can range between $1,000 to well into the six figure range.
It's also important to note that, although there are believed to be fewer #160 cards than the #92 in circulation, there does not appear to be a price premium on it.
The following table shows rough estimates in conditions ranging from a 1 (Poor) all the way to a 9 (Mint) when graded by either SGC or PSA:
As you can see, condition is everything in this hobby when it comes to a card's value.
Lou Gehrig's 1933 Season In Review
After helping the Yankees to a World Series title and finishing second in MVP voting for the 1932 season, expectations remained high for Gehrig heading into the 1933 season.
While his production dipped slightly and he didn't get another World Series ring, he still turned in an incredible year and finished fourth in MVP voting.
His stat line was incredible and featured the kind of monstrous production he was known for:
- Hits: 198
- Runs: 138 (Led the Majors)
- Home Runs: 32
- RBI: 140
- Batting Average: .334
- OPS: 1.030
- SLG: .605
For his efforts, Gehrig also made his first All-Star appearance that season, the first year in which the Midsummer Classic debuted.
Gehrig was a phenomenal baseball player and Yankee legend.
Because of his legacy and the significance of this set in general, his Goudey cards will forever remain high on the want lists of many collectors.