It’s nothing new for card companies to mix sports with politics, entertainment, music, famous names from American history and even dinosaur bones. The idea might seem a little left of center, but it’s not the first time traditional sports cards have gone a little non-traditional.
In the midst of the Great Depression, Goudey Gum Company, seeking to make a splash in the bubble gum market, supplemented its baseball card issue with an eclectic 48-card issue that actually spanned two years before completion. The Sport Kings set has been copied in recent years, but the original issue is truly one-of-a-kind.
Painted color images adorn the front of each card with complete biographies on the back. They came in one of two different wrappers known to have been used to package the cards, which measure 2 3/8″ by 2 7/8″.
Still considered by many to be a “baseball card set”, the Sport Kings run actually has just three baseball players. Ty Cobb stole the spotlight from Babe Ruth as the #1 card in the set. Ruth is #2. The third player is Carl Hubbell, the screwball pitcher who at the time was leading the New York Giants to greatness.
There are three football icons in the set. Knute Rockne, the late coach of Notre Dame is joined by the legendary Jim Thorpe and Red Grange. Four Boston Celtics offer the first-ever nod to individual basketball players on trading cards. Hoops was still a second tier game back then–on even par with pro hockey in Goudey’s eyes. Four hockey players found their way onto the Sport Kings cardboard.
Bobby Jones had put golf into the American sports consciousness and golf memorabilia collectors gravitate toward the card that appears as well as the Gene Sarazen.
Boxers Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney round out the remainder of what were then considered the top sports. Yet there are figures from 18 different sports featured. Everything from dog sledding to swimming to skiing is represented in the set.
The Goudey Sport Kings set is attainable if a collector isn’t overly concerned with condition. Graded NM-MT commons regularly sell for over $2000, but non-graded common cards in slightly lesser grade can easily be found for much less. At 48 cards, the set is not at all impossible to piece together with a certain amount of patience. The Nat Holman card has emerged as being difficult to find in high grade.
Highest dollar values are attached to the Ruth, Cobb, Thorpe and Jones cards. In mid-grade, the Ruth still commands $2500-3500.
The popularity of the ’33 Goudey Sport Kings set has grown at a fast clip in recent years and it’s little wonder. Not only does the set include some legendary baseball and football personalities, it offers a glimpse of life as a well-rounded sports fan 76 years ago.