By the time the 1933 Goudey set was released, George Herman Ruth was no longer a Babe, he was by then the long reigning Sultan of Swat, and though his throne remained unchallenged it was increasingly clear with each passing at bat that his rule was reaching it's end.
Looking back though from that late stage of his career, it was clear to the world that this mountain of a man had single handedly changed the game of baseball forever. It was only right then, as a sign of appreciation, respect, and sheer awe, that Goudey created a four-piece tribute to honor The Great Bambino within the company's inaugural baseball release.
Like the man himself, the 240-card set was a game changer from the very beginning, and it's release sparked renewed interest in buyers who had grown bored of the stale offerings of other companies. Collectors young and old were immediately drawn to the Goudey's larger format, detailed illustrations of both action and portrait shots, and thoughtful layout, as well as the added bonus of a stick of their favorite penny gum. The cards themselves, each measuring approximately 2 3/8" x 2 7/8", were printed on ten 24-card sheets that were released periodically throughout the year of 1933.
Though many other players had multiple cards, none had as many as Babe Ruth, and one Nap Lajoie wasn't even included at all (a ploy by the marketing team to keep determined kids coming back to the five and dime that backfired when irate parents wrote the manufacturer demanding the cards be delivered to their diligent and disappointed children). The fact that there were four Ruth cards was a testament not only to the man's past greatness, but also his ability to excite collectors still, even at this stage in his career.
Three of the cards featuring the Bambino's likeness (#53, #149 and #144) are more or less identical, with the only difference being #53 has a yellow background, #149 has a red, and #144 (commonly referred to as the "batting pose") is merely the full length version from which the two previous images were cropped from. The fourth and final Ruth card though (#181) boasts a handsome portrait of him with bat in hand against a cool green background, making it the only truly unique Babe card in the set. Regardless of their similarities or differences, each of these cards have been highly sought after and as such come at a premium when they surface in high grade condition. And while any such prize would be considered a tremendous addition to any collection, it must be pointed out that each variation has been found in vastly different quantities.
The Yellow Ruth (#53) has proven to be the most elusive of the bunch, followed closely by the Red Ruth (#149) that portrays the slugger in the exact same pose. And although, the Full Length Ruth (#144) was double-printed and has been discovered in greater numbers, far fewer specimens have earned high grade status than the Green Ruth (#181). Also worth mentioning is the small difference between the two versions of the double-printed #144 card, wherein one print appears to be in considerably better focus than the other.
|Card||PSA 1 (PR) Value||PSA 2 (GD) Value||PSA 3 (VG) Value||Total PSA Population|
|1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53||$1100-$1200||$1900-$2100||$2600-$2800||784|
|1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #144||$800-$1000||$1500-$1800||$2700-$3100||1096|
|1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #149||$900-$1100||$1200-$1500||$2500-$2700||816|
|1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #181||$700-$1000||$1400-$1600||$1900-$2200||937|
*updated March 2016
With the exception of the Napoleon Lajoie rarity, a card that wasn't part of the original set, these four cards represent the core of this elite Goudey production. An historic release that set the standard for the modern baseball card and is now considered one of the hobbies "Big 3". And while this issue is not Babe Ruth's most valuable or scarce, it is arguably his most important and it captures the mighty slugger near the tail end of his legendary career.
Strikingly similar upon first glance to their American counterparts, Ruth's Goudey World Wide Gum cards (like the rest of the set) were only distributed in Canada. What sets them apart though is on the verso. Approximately half of these cards were printed with a bi-lingual/French-English backs, making them far more rare and far more valuable.
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