Piecing a set together can take time and get a little expensive. So can buying the big kahunas in the set: Babe Ruth (four of them) and Lou Gehrig. But for those marking what is the unofficial transition from tobacco and candy cards to the gum era, finding underrated 1933 Goudey baseball cards is one way to collect the ultra-popular set.
Sold inside waxy paper with a stick of gum, 1933 Goudey cards marked the first major, nationally issued set in many years. The set itself was called “Big League Chewing Gum” and is considered by most to be the third most popular vintage card set behind 1909 T206 and 1952 Topps.
Smaller than the average cards today, each one is 2-3/8″ by 2-7/8″, smaller than the standard 2-1/2” by 3-1/2” of today.
With the amount of time between major sets being produced, every one of the 240 cards in the set is a rookie card except for two, including the Nap Lajoie card that was sent to customers who wrote in wondering where card number 106 was. Lajoie played in the big leagues from 1896-1916. The other is a remake of Tris Speaker who ended his career in the late 20’s. It is unclear exactly why both were included in the set.
There are four Babe Ruth cards that are popular and valuable and numerous others that help keep the set price high. However, there are a few cards worthy of your attention that won’t cost you a month’s pay. Here, then, are five great cards you can snare for less than the price of some current era boxes.
Jim Bottomley: With his cap cocked at an angle, ever-smiling “Sunny Jim” just looks like a 1930s ballplayer. And a good one, he was. A two-time World Series champ for the St. Louis Cardinals and lifetime .310 hitter, Bottomley made it into the Hall of Fame with the help of the Veteran’s Committee in 1974. An MVP in 1928, he hit .325 with a .401 OBP that year while clubbing 31 home runs to lead the National League the same year Babe Ruth slugged 54 to lead the American League. Bottomley drove in more than 100 runs each year from 1924-29. Other than Lou Gehrig, he is the only player in MLB history to hit over 150 home runs, doubles and triples.
Despite his successful big league career, Bottomley’s card (which pictures him as a member of the Reds following a trade from St. Louis), flies under the radar a bit because there are so many stars in the set. You can buy a VG-EX type example for under $200 and if you’re not fussy about condition, you can locate a lower grade Bottomley for under $50. Pretty nice for a Hall of Famer.
Waite Hoyt: Sold to the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox, Hoyt (#60) is not Babe Ruth, but they do have some similarities. Both of them are also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as Hoyt got in via the Veteran’s Committee in 1969.
One of the great pitchers of his time, Hoyt was a member of three World Series champions, all of which came with the New York Yankees. He won 155 games for them from 1921-1929, which made him a key asset to the start of the New York Yankees dynasty.
Although Hoyt is one of the all-time greats his cards aren’t that much online. You can grab a solid one for $100-150.
Bill Terry: Despite being a lifetime .341 big league hitter who hit .401 for the New York Giants in 1930, it took Bill Terry 13 unsuccessful ballots before he made it to the Hall of Fame. One of the greatest players in New York Giants history, the man Sporting News ranked 54th on their greatest players of all-time list in 1999 spent 19 years with the Giants when it was all said and done as a player and a manager and sometimes, even both.
There are two Terry cards in the set (#20 and #125), which gives you an idea of his place in the game at the time Goudey put its set on the market. One card features his follow through after throwing a ball while the other is a portrait. The latter card tends to be the better buy (#125) as it runs a little bit cheaper than the lower numbered card. The portrait card can be found in VG condition for $100 or less while #20 will be about $30-40 more.
Sam Rice: Known for a controversial World Series catch and the tragic tornado deaths of his mother, father, wife, two children, two sisters and a farmhand in 1912, Rice (#134) was elected to the Hall by the Veteran’s Committee.
In 1925, he snared an apparent home run ball from Pittsburgh’s Earl Brown, but fell into the stands making it unclear whether he caught the ball or not. Although Rice and the Washington Senators did not win the World Series that year, he did win one the year before.
Rice was a .322 hitter who finished his career just 13 hits shy of 3,000, the closest any player has come to the milestone without actually achieving it.
Despite being such a talented player in his 20-year big league career, Rice’s card does not exactly command a mint. There are plenty of mid-grade Rice cards out there, some of which are under $100.
Herb Pennock: Going from high school and then straight to the top, Herb Pennock (#138) lived up to all of the hype that surrounded him at a young age. Winning 240 games in his big league career while losing just 162 times, he proved effective with a 3.60 lifetime ERA.
Making his big league debut in 1912, Pennock ended up playing for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees 22 year career. It would have been 23 years, but he served in World War I in 1918, forcing him to take a year off to serve his country.
A member of four World Series-winning teams during his tenure in New York, Pennock recorded a pair of saves in the 1932 series.
Although the highest grade a 1933 Goudey Herb Pennock has ever received is a PSA 8, his cards are quite affordable for any Goudey collector, although lately they seem somewhat elusive, especially in graded form, because of his popularity with Yankee team collectors. With patience a VG-EX example can be obtained for $90-125 with low-grade cards at no more than $50.