In 1933, Goudey released one of the most popular baseball card sets of all time. Classified in the American Card Catalog as the R319 set, this issue was anchored by four Babe Ruth cards and two of teammate Lou Gehrig. However, the reach of the set expanded beyond the U.S. borders as the 1933 World Wide Gum release was virtually a mirror image in Canada.
1933 World Wide Gum Basics
The 1933 World Wide Gum cards were practically the same as their 1933 Goudey counterparts. World Wide Gum, a Goudey company operating in Canada, was the distributor of the cards. Both sets utilized the same images and from only the fronts, are impossible to distinguish between one another. At 2 3/8″ x 2 7/8″, the cards not only measured the same but were also a unique shape in that they were nearly a perfect square with equal sides. Even the players and corresponding card numbers from 1-52 matched the Goudey set.
Fronts included color pictures of players as either portraits or action shots. The backs, however, are how the two sets differed. The bottoms of the World Wide Gum cards stated they were printed in Canada and also carried the World Wide Gum name. The ‘Big League’ printing at the bottoms on the backs also was significantly thinner than the block-style font utilized on the Goudey cards. These make them easy to distinguish to even novice collectors.
Another distinguishing feature is that while many of the World Wide Gum cards were printed only in English, some of them were printed both in English and French. Versions with both languages are rarer and can command a premium. Finally, those players with card numbers after No. 52 are numbered differently.
A Shortened Set
Yet another difference between the two sets is that the Canadian World Wide Gum cards were a much shorter issue. Goudey’s 1933 set, including the missing No. 106 Nap Lajoie issue, featured a total of 240 cards. By contrast, the 1933 World Wide Gum set had only 94.
Because of that, the set wasn’t nearly as star-studded as the American version. Instead of having four Ruth cards, for example, the World Wide Gum edition has only two. Instead of two Gehrig cards as in the 1933 Goudey set, the World Wide Gum release has only one. Several stars, such as Dizzy Dean and Tris Speaker, are missing altogether. Curiously, while the set cut back on some players that had more than one card, it also included both of the Jimmy Foxx cards from the Goudey issue even though they are completely identical other than having different card numbers. Swapping out one for those for a missing Hall of Famer would surely have made it a little more interesting.
Despite both of the Foxx cards, though, the World Wide Gum set still has plenty of big names. At the end of the day, it just doesn’t have quite the firepower as the U.S. release.
Scarce in High Grade
How rare are the 1933 World Wide Gum cards in high grade? Consider this: Of the 1,692 cards in PSA’s Population Report, just 161 grade 8 or better. The 1933 Goudey population stands at over 75,000 with over 4,000 grading 8 or better.
The population of the World Wide Gum #80 Ruth card shows just three 8s (none higher), five 7s and six 6s. The #93 Ruth is even rarer with only one eight (none higher), four 7s and eight 6s. The Gehrig card has only one 8 (none higher), four 7s and eight 6s.
1933 World Wide Gum Prices
Since it is considerably rarer, collectors might be inclined to think that the cards would command higher prices. That simply isn’t the case, however. While still a valuable set, most collectors simply don’t hold the set in as high a regard as they do the 1933 Goudey release. Perhaps that is because the 1933 Goudey set is one of the hobby’s ‘Big Three’ and the World Wide Gum cards simply look like a bit of a knockoff. For whatever the reason, though, the 1933 Goudey set almost always sells for a little more when all other factors are equal.
Logic would seem to dictate the World Wide Gum cards are tremendously undervalued.
There is value here, of course. Decent mid-grade commons start in the $20-$30 range. The most expensive cards in the set belong to Ruth and at lower mid-grade condition, start in the $2,000 – $2,500 range.
You can see several dozen 1933 World Wide Gum cards on eBay here.