Build a Great Lou Gehrig Collection on a Budget

The name Lou Gehrig evokes so many different thoughts — his streak, his speech, his bravery.

He is revered by collectors and casual fans alike, making him one of those rare players with appeal inside and outside collecting circles.

The wide-ranging interest and fascination, high-demand by collectors and non-collectors as well as very few items which bare his likeness – all put Lou Gehrig memorabilia into a different stratosphere.

If you’re hunting for a 1934 Goudey or a signed baseball, you will pay handsomely for either item. But, if you’re OK with more obscure items, there’s more Larrupin’ Lou memorabilia to be had than you’d think.

Lou Gehrig 1935 WheatiesMay 2 marked the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s final game. With that in mind, here’s a look at some nice pieces of Iron Horse collectibles that won’t break the bank.

The Cards

Lou was active from 1923-1939. His career missed tobacco cards and ended before the appearance of pre-war issues in the late 30s and early 40s. His only mainstream issues – 1933 and 1934 Goudey – cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Affordable alternatives include an assortment of strip cards like this great looking W517, as well as various Exhibit cards, but an even more reasonable option are the Wheaties cards of the mid-1930s. Great color, graphics and price are a decent trade for weird sizes. Wheaties issues, Lou Gehrig Baseball Magazine 1939depending on rarity, can consistently be had for right around $140-$160.

The Magazines

Like all things Gehrig, if it has his likeness on it, sellers and collectors both assume it’s valuable. Case and point are magazines with Gehrig on the cover. Sellers ask for the moon, but if you’re patient there are many affordable examples of Gehrig’s mug on a mag.

Here’s a nice example with a classic shot from 1939 which sold recently for just $40.

Lou Gehrig Cracker Jack pinThe Pins

If you’re going to add any pin to your collection, be careful. They are about the simplest piece of memorabilia to counterfeit. As far as Gehrig pins and buttons are concerned, there isn’t a ton to choose from but what’s out there is affordable.

The most affordable Gehrig pin comes from 1938 and it really isn’t a pin, but a less desirable lapel tab. Our National Game issued a set of 30 lapel tabs that year that are still easily found. A nice example of Gehrig recently sold for $72. You can find other examples for closer to $50.

Lou Gehrig Panini Prime CutsCracker Jack issued a pin set in 1930 that includes a Gehrig. Here’s one for $300 but if you’re paying attention, lesser condition examples can be found for around $150.

Memorabilia Cards

The continued influx of game-used memorabilia cards into the market has brought down the price of many of these cards – even for players of Gehrig’s caliber. There are many examples of game-used Gehrig items, many of which fetch no more than $50-$60. This nice example from 2003 Topps Tribute is all over eBay as are several other Gehrig bat cards. Jersey cards like these are little more expensive but readily available and–if you’re OK with cutting up vintage memorabilia–pretty cool.

Gehrig cigarette ad 1935Advertisements

One of the most underrated bits of memorabilia out there are advertisements. What else features prominent players, have great color and visuals and are almost suspiciously affordable? Baseball players were used to pitch virtually everything in Gehrig’s day and Gehrig was a Madison Avenue darling, hocking everything from razors to cigarettes to cigarettes and cigarettes.

Just $10 to $15 and a picture frame and you can add a really good looking piece of memorabilia that in some cases is close to 80 years old.


About Aaron Wasser

Aaron Wasser is a former sports writer and current communications director at the Washington State Senate. He is a lifelong enthusiast of our national pastime and is fascinated by baseball ephemera of all eras. His wife and young daughter tolerate his pursuits.