Goudey Gum Company sailed across the pre-World War II landscape with a busy run that included standard issue baseball cards, premiums and some non-sport sets. The 1941 Goudey Baseball set would mark the end of a relatively brief but impactful run.
The Boston-based firm got off to a huge start with its ultra-popular 1933 set that featured four Babe Ruth cards. The ’34 issue was smaller in number and boasted spokesman Lou Gehrig–but no Ruth. What followed were some quirky and far less popular issues that lasted through 1938 when the ‘Heads Up’ set picked up where the ’33 set left off, including some Hall of Famers, most notably the early cards of Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller.
Goudey stepped aside in 1939 but then returned to create a final set of baseball cards.
About the 1941 Goudey Set
The 1941 Goudey cards are certainly different from past years. I suppose that can be said of most sets, but it is especially apparent with this release.
Goudey’s previous sets were either full color or black and white and the 1941 issue includes a mixture of both. Pictured is a black and white image of a ballplayer against a color background. Those backgrounds vary and players can be found with more than one color. So while there are only 33 cards in the basic set, a master set comprised of every color combination for every player would be much larger.
Card fronts included a mix of portrait and action shots. The Big League Gum logo baseball was on the front as were the player names, positions, card numbers, and teams. Backs were entirely blank.
The issue was the last set of baseball cards released by the company.
Problems with the Set
I expect that collectors were happy to have any sort of cards at all. But the 1941 Goudey set definitely falls short in several areas.
From a design standpoint, the set can be seen as somewhat lazy by many standards, I suppose. The small checklist, basic design, and blank backs will give off that vibe.
Those blank backs are particularly frustrating since several of Goudey’s other cards had quality biographies on the backs of them, including the 1933, 1934, and 1938 sets. Those provided key information to collectors and would have been welcome in this release.
Additionally, there were also all sorts of printing issues with the set. Several of the cards have jagged edges and, coupled with the blank backs, are even reminiscent of a 1920s strip card set of sorts.
Of course, it’s also important to note that the world was firmly entrenched in World War II at the time with America officially joining after the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The production of this war time series could have certainly been affected by that in terms of the resources that were available.
1941 Goudey Stars and Lineup
The set is a small one, which would generally make finding a wealth of stars difficult. But even accounting for that, most collectors would hope to find more than what is included here.
Leading the way in the set is all-time great Mel Ott. That’s a significant piece to any set from that era but, unfortunately, is one of the few big time stars here. Ott’s No. 33 card is the final one in the set so at least it ended on a bang.
Aside from Ott, you won’t find much else in terms of star power. Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell is really the only other significant big name in the release. A few other players landed on some all-star teams but were not what we consider as definitive stars. Both Ott and Hubbell were still quality major leaguers at the time. Ott, in particular, was still a bonafide star, even leading the league in 1942 in home runs, runs, walks, and OPS.
Still, it would have been great to include some of the game’s younger, more relevant stars. And while many would go on to miss seasons due to service in World War II, that didn’t occur until a little later. Having the likes of players such as Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams would have given this set a much needed shot in the arm. Also of note is that an opportunity for a Phil Rizzuto rookie card was missed as he debuted in 1941.
1941 Goudey Prices
While the 1941 Goudey cards aren’t terribly desirable to a lot of collectors, the singles are not inexpensive compared to other Goudey sets. Decent, ungraded commons from this issue start around $20-$40 with a premium offered for higher-grade cards.
Obviously, you can expect to pay more for one of the two big names found in the set. However, they aren’t wildly expensive compared to their cards in other sets. Ott starts around $100-$125 for decent copies with Hubbell’s cards starting a little bit less than that.
Complete sets are sometimes available, too, and the good news is that the price is affordable with so few cards. A nice medium-grade raw set, for example, was sold in a 2018 REA auction netting $1,800.
Click here to see 1941 Goudey baseball cards on eBay.