The 1933 DeLong cards combine a colorful design with a limited checklist that is chock full of Hall of Famers.
Unfortunately, it was a case of one and done.
While it can’t match Goudey for comprehensiveness, you’ll recognize most of the names.
There are 15 Hall of Famers in this 24-card set, and an argument can be made for Riggs Stephenson to have a plaque at Cooperstown, too. Lou Gehrig was at the zenith of his career and is the key card in the set, but surprisingly, Babe Ruth is not part of this collection. Neither is Mel Ott nor Rogers Hornsby.
Still, the fact that the DeLong set was only issued for one year makes it one of the scarcer products of the 1930s. The DeLong Co. of Boston was among the first companies to issue gum along with cards, and they were produced the same year as another competitor, Goudey. DeLong cards measure 1-15/16 inches by 2-15/16 inches. They are designated as R333 in the American Card Catalog.
History of DeLong Gum
That the DeLong set should be mentioned in the same breath as the Goudey cards is not a stretch. Company owner Harold Clark DeLong had a distinguished career before his death at age 79 on June 6, 1960. He was born in Boston on November 26, 1880, went to school at the venerable Boston Latin School and received his bachelor’s degree at Harvard in 1903. He would receive his master’s degree in engineering in 1904, and became the chief chemist for the Boston Transit Commission. He joined the Goudey Gum Co. and served as treasurer from January 11, 1919, until December 20, 1928.
DeLong formed the DeLong Gum Company in 1932 to develop confectionary and chewing gum machinery; the 1940 census lists him as an executive for a manufacturing machinery company. DeLong’s patent for that machinery would be acquired by Gum Products, Inc., a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1941. That company, started in 1940 by Wellington M. Cramer Jr., specialized in sugarless gum balls and Yank Bubble Gum, the biggest selling candy during World War II.
1933 DeLong Cards: The Basics
In 1933, both DeLong and Goudey decided to produce cards with gum. What makes the DeLong set stand out are the bold colors. The main subject of the card is a black-and-white action cutout of the player, set against a colorful stadium backdrop. Look closely and you can see players circling the bases. The player’s name is at the bottom of the card is in large block letters, with his team name underneath in a smaller font of block letters.
Most of the front card designs are vertical, although Lefty Grove and Pepper Martin sport horizontal layouts.
The card backs are horizontal in design and do not have player statistics; rather, they feature a playing tip by Boston Evening American columnist Austen Lake, who was a fixture on the Beantown sports scene for 40 years. Lake played professional football (pre-NFL) in Buffalo and Philadelphia and had a tryout as a catcher with the New York Yankees just before World War I. Lake would later make similar contributions to the backs of Diamond Stars cards from 1934 to 1936.
The backs included a number and an advertisement for DeLong Gum.
1933 DeLong Gehrig
The key card in the set is Gehrig’s, which is card No. 7. The latest “Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards” lists a near-mint specimen at $13,000. But those are hard to find. His card contains thin white borders and centering is usually an issue. Of the 179 cards submitted to PSA, the highest grade was an 8.5, and there was only one — and there were only 8 that graded at PSA-8. There also were 11 PSA-7s, one PSA-6.5 and 10 PSA-6s.
The SGC registry lists 83 graded Gehrig cards, but the highest grade is a 92 and only one card fits that description. There are two that grade 88, and one that is an 86.
A Foxx By Any Name
Foxx is generally regarded as the second toughest card in the set, and the “Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards” lists a near-mint card at $2,100. Interestingly, his first name is spelled “Jimmy” on the card, although Double-X spelled it “Jimmie.” But then again, Norman L. Macht, who wrote an exhaustive three-volume set about Connie Mack, referred to Foxx throughout his work as “Jimmy.” Go figure.
A total of 125 Foxx cards have been submitted to PSA. And like the Gehrig card, few grade higher than PSA-7. There are only nine PSA-8 cards in the registry, one at 7.5 and six at 7.
Graded DeLong Cards and Other Hall of Famers
In total as of this writing, 2,710 cards have been submitted to PSA, with only one grading as high as 9.5 (Hall of Famer Chuck Klein) and two others at 9 (Marty McManus and Hall of Famer Pie Traynor). There were 1,268 cards sent to the SGC registry, and only one grades as high as 96 (Traynor).
Other Hall of Famers in this set include Al Simmons (No. 2), Bill Terry (4), Charlie Gehringer (5), Mickey Cochrane (6), Kiki Cuyler (8), Freddie Lindstrom (11), Rabbit Maranville (13), Lefty Gomez (14), Chick Hafey (19), Grove (23) and Goose Goslin (24).
Harold C. DeLong remained in the gum business for most of his life. He joined Gum Products, Inc., and retired from that company in 1951 after serving as assistant treasurer, treasurer, vice president and director. He also was treasurer, vice president and director of Two Star Confectionary Company, Hartz Gum Company and Henry Wenz, Inc.
No real reason has ever been given for the short life of the DeLong baseball card set. Times were tough and the Great Depression was at its height; certainly, that might have been a factor. Or, DeLong perhaps believed that developing his gum machinery was a bigger priority.
But the DeLong set from 1933 remains an attractive set to collect, although rather pricey. The Hall of Fame lineup is the biggest draw, but so is the vibrant, colorful design.
Despite a relatively low population, 1933 DeLong cards aren’t really that expensive considering the Hall of Fame roster. A complete mid-grade set with an EX (5) Gehrig sold in 2015 for $6,655. As of this writing there are a few dozen on eBay.