In 1936 and 1937, Goudey produced its famous ‘wide pen’ premiums. The two sets are dubbed the wide pen releases because of the replica autographs on them where a thicker type of pen was used. These were distributed as in-store premiums to promote Goudey’s gum products.
Here’s a closer look at the 1937 set, which featured both major league and minor league players.
The 1937 Goudey Wide Pen Premiums were Type 4 and Type 5 of the series. Type 1, 2, and 3 were found in the 1936 set and all five types are similar.
The 1937 sets were 3 1/4″ wide x 5 1/2″ tall. The front included a black and white player image along with the trademark replica signature where players used a slightly thicker pen compared to other issues (such as the regular 1936 Goudey cards).
Printed on a paper cardstock with blank backs, these are much more a type of photo than they are an actual baseball card. What qualifies as a traditional card is in the eye of the beholder, but these are larger and on thinner stock than most of the cards from today’s era or even other cards of that time period.
There isn’t much difference in terms of aesthetics between the Type 4 and Type 5 series. The only real distinction is that Type 4 included major league players while Type 5 included players in the International League.
The 1937 Goudey Wide Pen Premium set also was scaled back quite a bit from the 1936 release in terms of quantity. While there are about 170 known premiums from the 1936 Type 1, 2, and 3 sets, there aren’t even half that many different ones in 1937.
Why the company didn’t print as many premiums in 1937 isn’t really known. Perhaps they weren’t as popular as the company thought they would be. Another intriguing possibility is because the company was diversifying a bit in 1937. Other than its traditional card set in 1936, Goudey didn’t produce any other baseball issues. In 1937, they created two additional products on top of the premiums. First, there was a Goudey Knot Hole League set, which was a card game. Also in 1937, Goudey produced its first set of movie booklets featuring baseball players. These were small booklets which simulated a various action shot with specific players. These must have been somewhat of a hit with collectors since Goudey created another movie booklet set in 1938.
Part of the reason for smaller 1937 Goudey Wide Pen premium sets may have been due in part to the focus of additional products by the company.
As mentioned earlier, Type 4 included major league players. That, unsurprisingly, is where the most popular premiums are found. The Type 4 set includes many big names and Hall of Famers, such as Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Luke Appling, Earl Averill, Mickey Cochrane, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Goose Goslin, Gabby Hartnett, Carl Hubbell, and Al Simmons.
By far and away, the DiMaggio is the key issue here. Not only is his easily the most sought after photo in the set, but it is the most valuable in all of the Wide Pen series from 1936 and 1937. Interestingly enough, it’s also more valuable than his earlier 1936 issue, which can be seen as a rookie of sorts. The 1936 photo includes both he and Joe McCarthy.
On the DiMaggio front, there is some confusion as to which set his premiums are a part of. Some collectors (and third party grading companies) have identified what is believed to be his 1937 issue as a 1936 issue – thus stating that he has two 1936 issues. The 1937 card can be found graded as both a 1936 and 1937 issue.
Along the lines of rookie cards, Feller’s 1937 Goudey Wide Pen photo is viewed as a rookie or pre-rookie as well by some collectors. Feller’s first true ‘card’ is viewed by many to be his 1938 Goudey issue.
1937 Goudey Wide Pen Prices
Most of the cards in the Type 4 and Type 5 sets are affordable. When identified as a 1937 issue, the DiMaggio, as referenced above, is easily the most scarce–and expensive. Midgrade copies are sometimes available in the $500-$750 range. Commons in decent shape can be found for as little as $20.
Overall, 1937 Goudey Wide Pen premiums are not all that easy to find. At any given time on eBay, you will only see about 50 or so for sale. For that reason, it is difficult to find complete sets for sale all at once.