As far as collectors of vintage baseball cards are concerned, not many sets are as challenging and rewarding as the 1933 George C. Miller set. The issue not only has a high artistic quality but is packed full of key players despite its small size and a Babe Ruth omission.
A regional issue which was distributed in the Greater Boston area alone, this Depression era set is very fascinating, with portraits made from original artwork. They were purposely designed for marketing toward children and kids could swap a 32-card set for a baseball they liked, a glove or a ticket to any big league game.
Many were sent in and returned but with holes punched into them or their edges trimmed so that they would be difficult to redeem a second time. For this reason and also for the fact that those which were not redeemed were possibly carried around by kids, it was very difficult to find them in high grade. The cards that were sent in were cancelled by a company rep either cutting off the bottom fourth of the card or via a series of punch holes. Obviously, the cancelled George C. Miller cards are considered low grade and not worth as much.
George C. Miller cards are artistic, challenging and yet enticing. Far more scarce than the more common Goudey gum issues from the mid-1930s, they’ve earned the respect of hobbyists for a long time. Jefferson Burdick, the creator of the American Card Catalog designations which are still used today, tagged the George C. Miller issue as “R300”, an even number which he used to possibly demonstrate the importance he attached to a set that was already difficult to find in the ‘50s.
Two players were represented for all of the National and American teams; 16 for each league. The Ivy Andrews card was short printed, apparently to keep the Miller company from having to send out too many prizes. The Andrews card has significant value, no matter the condition. That was evident in a 2016 example that had the bottom cut off and still sold for more than $800 at an REA auction.
Each card has two different back variations. Mostly, the differences are subtle, including things such as font variations. However, the two largest ones included spelling errors/corrections. “Type 1” cards have Jimmie Foxx’s name spelled with only one “x” and Chuck Klein’s last name with the “i” before the “e”. The errors were corrected in the Type 2 variations, which is why most collectors consider that version to have been printed later.
The biggest weakness of the set compared to the Goudey issue from the same year is that this set is missing Babe Ruth. Ruth doesn’t only appear in the Goudey set, of course, but he’s there four times. Also notable by his omission is teammate Lou Gehrig, who is found twice in the 1933 Goudey set. Missing those players is a blow to this issue, but several big names are still found, including the aforementioned Foxx, Dizzy Dean, Mel Ott, Lefty Grove, and about a dozen other Hall of Famers. In fact, approximately half of the entire issue is comprised of players enshrined in Cooperstown.
The Andrews, Foxx, Dean, Grove and other Hall of Famers are the priciest cards in the set with even poor quality examples often selling for hundreds of dollars. On rare occasions when higher grade cards have been offered, prices soar into the thousands.
The cards are, in general, difficult to find. To date, PSA has only graded about 700 of them (and nearly half are in lower Poor, Fair, or Good condition).
Less than 50 George C. Miller cards are usually available on eBay (click here to see them) including several of those that were cancelled by the company. Even better lower-end cards typically sell for about $200. Complete sets are hard to find but do surface on occasion. One graded lower-end set sold in 2014 for more than $7,000.