The Nap Lajoie 1933 Goudey card is one of the most iconic cards in the hobby. Lajoie has other cards but this is clearly his most popular one. Shortprinted by Goudey, it is highly desirable and almost always a five-figure card these days.
Here are seven interesting facts that not everyone knows about this famous card.
It was Printed in 1934, not 1933
The Lajoie card belongs to the 1933 Goudey set but it actually wasn’t printed in 1933. Instead, Goudey printed the card as part of their 1934 set after collectors wrote in to inquire about the missing No. 106 card. The card was not distributed in those packs, though. To receive one, collectors were required to request one via mail from Goudey.
Lajoie was printed on the sheets with other 1934 cards and some uncut sheets even exist to this day. When offered, they got for big bucks. Heritage sold one in 2015 for nearly $80,000.
Printing Sheets Were Altered to Accommodate It
As stated, the cards were printed on sheets with 1934 Goudey cards. But the printing sheets actually had to be altered to include it. 1933 and 1934 Goudey cards were printed on sheets of 24 cards.
That worked out well given the 1933 set had 240 cards (10 sheets) and the 1934 set had 96 cards (four sheets). But Lajoie’s card was added into one 1934 sheet and it was made into a 25-card sheet with five rows of five cards.
Babe Ruth Connection
As I covered here, the card also has a connection to Babe Ruth. Lajoie’s No. 106 on the 1933 sheets was replaced by Babe Ruth’s No. 144 card. That card was always suspected of being double printed and an uncut sheet confirms that, showing Ruth’s card on the sheet twice.
That uncut sheet actually includes three Ruth cards as the Babe’s No. 149 card is there, too. And if that wasn’t enough, one of Lou Gehrig’s cards is on the same sheet. That’s a pretty nice consolation price in exchange for Lajoie’s omission. As you can imagine, that sheet is also expensive. REA sold one in a 2015 auction for $168,000.
By Comparison, Not Many Were Distributed
While Goudey mailed the card to collectors asking for one, it doesn’t seem like a ton of folks took them up on the offer, given how popular Goudey cards were in the 1930s. And certainly not many have survived. There are only a little more than 100 graded copies in existence to date.
Some were certainly lost or destroyed over time. But it is easily the toughest card to find in either the 1933 or 1934 Goudey issues.
What happened to the rest that were printed is a bit of a mystery. After all, if it was included on the 1934 sheet shown above, it would have theoretically been printed just as much as those cards. But given how few exist today in comparison to those cards, most were likely discarded after a period of time once collectors stopped asking for them.
Not a Current Player
Most pre-war collectors could tell you that Lajoie was retired by the time this set was released but I suspect it’s a fact lost on collectors of more modern cards. Lajoie was not only retired when this card was released but he had been out of the game for some time.
The set was printed in 1933 and Lajoie’s specific card, as mentioned, didn’t come out until 1934. But Lajoie had been out of the majors since the end of the 1916 season and was probably somewhat of an afterthought as the game had evolved by the 1930s, particularly with home runs being hit with more frequency. By the time his card was printed, in fact, he would have been about 60 years old.
Many’ High Grade Examples
The term ‘many’ is relative, of course. But, compared to how few have been graded, it’s fairly remarkable how many high-grade copies exist. To date, PSA has graded only 86 copies of the card, for example. But a whopping 30 are known in grades PSA 7, PSA 8, and PSA 9. An astonishing nine of those are PSA 9s and it easily has the most cards in that grade despite being graded the least of any card in the set, save for a couple of Jimmy Dykes variations.
So what gives? Why are so many in such great condition? My guess is that it was a highly treasured card and people took care of it. Sure, some sheets may have been cut down later yielding some high graded examples. But remember, enthusiasts were likely the ones that ended up with these cards as you had to specifically ask for it. A good number of these folks probably took care of the card. Additionally, Goudey would not have distributed all that it printed. Some probably ended up in the hands of workers and went untouched for periods of time. Whatever the case, high-grade Lajoie cards do exist and in surprising numbers.
Still, that hasn’t really destroyed prices too much. One sold at auction for more than $225,000.
Cards Often Have One Flaw
Despite the condition to the rest of the card, many of the Lajoies have one flaw that is common among many of them. Often, they are found with an indented paperclip mark.
Goudey must have affixed them to correspondence using a paperclip and, today, indentations from that are still sometimes seen on the cards. While the paperclip mark hurts the value, it’s seen as a relatively minor issue because the card is so rare and it is prevalent.