The 1935 Goudey set is one of the company’s smaller issues. With only 36 card fronts, it is a set that can be completed with only a little bit of money and not too much trouble. Babe Ruth is included in the full-color release, but his is one of his more affordable pre-war cards with low-grade cards starting around $400-500.
Collecting the entire master set, however, is another challenge entirely.
Commonly called the 4-in-1 set, each card front features four different players. But while the set has only 36 different card fronts, many more cards are needed to complete the full master series. That’s because the backs varied and included individual pieces of baseball puzzles.
Each card contains one puzzle piece on the reverse that was a part of one of nine different puzzles. Now, if you simply want to collect all of the puzzles and aren’t concerned with getting every single front and back combination, that can be done in a more manageable 72 cards. However, if you want every possible front and back combination that was offered by Goudey, there are a whopping 114 cards to obtain.
About the 1935 Goudey Puzzles
In all, there are nine different 1935 Goudey puzzles. The puzzles form large sepia style images of the subjects. Six of the puzzles show individual players and three feature complete teams. Even a cursory glance shows several things are immediately notable about them.
First, there are fewer cards required for the puzzles of single players than there are for full teams. A total of six cards make up each of the individual puzzles while 12 cards are needed for the team picture puzzles. Second, it’s a star-studded group as all six of the players featured on the individual puzzles are Baseball Hall of Famers.
Shown here is an example puzzle from a REA auction. You might have difficulty in determining where the lines are for the individual cards but that’s because this is actually an uncut puzzle. This unique item with uncut Goudey cards sold for nearly $7,000 back in 2004.
Here’s a complete checklist of all of the puzzles:
- Puzzle #1: Detroit Tigers Team
- Puzzle #2: Chuck Klein
- Puzzle #3: Frankie Frisch
- Puzzle #4: Mickey Cochrane
- Puzzle #5: Joe Cronin
- Puzzle #6: Jimmie Foxx
- Puzzle #7: Al Simmons
- Puzzle #8: Cleveland Indians Team
- Puzzle #9: Washington Senators Team
Goudey didn’t make putting the puzzles together difficult, offering a road map of sorts. The puzzles can be easily put together due to a unique letter and number combination printed on them. Each complete puzzle is assigned a number, 1-9. These are designated as the ‘Picture’ on the puzzle side of the card (i.e. each puzzle is called a ‘Picture’). Each individual card also has a letter assigned to it on the puzzle side. Put those together and you’ve got a relatively easy code.
For example, the card front featuring Babe Ruth, Rabbit Maranville, Ed Brandt, and Marty McManus has four different backs. One of those backs identifies the card as 1J. That indicates that the piece on that particular back would be for Puzzle No. 1 (the Detroit Tigers puzzle) and is Card J within that puzzle.
From a desirability standpoint, puzzles of Foxx and Cochrane would probably be the more desirable ones. But since the values of the cards are based primarily on the players on the front of the card, that would determine the more expensive ones. Puzzles using a Ruth card, for example, are going to be more expensive to assemble.
1935 Goudey Master Set Conundrum
The puzzles are a nice feature in a truly unique set. But that also means that master collectors have their hands full with building it.
Some 1935 Goudey cards, of course, are relatively inexpensive. Decent raw commons in the set can be bought starting around $20. And several Hall of Famers and more important cards won’t exceed the $50 starting point. But the problem with collecting a master set is threefold.
First, there’s the volume of cards. With a total of 114, even at $20 each, you’d be at nearly $2,300. And, of course, many cards will cost more than that. Second, a master set means a total of four Ruth cards, according to Old Cardboard’s master checklist. As stated, even low-grade Ruth cards start around $500 and ones in better condition can easily run a grand each. The cards are significantly cheaper than Ruth’s more popular 1933 Goudey issues but still quite expensive considering you need four of them.
Finally, all sellers aren’t necessarily interested in what front / back combination they are offering. Most times, an online seller will only mention the card’s players on the front since that’s where the value is. In other words, tracking down specific front / back combinations needed for the master set can be a bit of a headache.
Master sets have been built and they aren’t impossible to assemble. But when you add it all up, completing one makes for a bit of a pre-war challenge.