As the country was beginning to emerge from the Depression, the Goudey Gum Company of Boston was struggling to stay afloat, having recently purchased the assets of the defunct National Chicle company, incorporating those assets into the Goudey product line. 1937 saw no new gum card issue featuring major league players, but the company’s innovative marketing ideas nonetheless remained strong as they issued the first series of what they called the “Heads Up” set.
A series of 24 cards featuring color photographs of players’ faces set into a caricature of a player’s body, the whimsical card designs also attempted to capitalize on the immense popularity of Goudey’s 240-card 1933 issue by mimicking the cards’ backs, and by beginning the set with card #241 – Charlie Gehringer. For the second series, the company simply recycled the first 24 cards, adding various cartoon illustrations, along with player biographical information, to the card obverse.
Wartime rationing and paper drives, along with Goudey’s own financial distress, have made this issue more difficult to obtain than most of Goudey’s baseball issues (particularly in higher grade), and provided us with very little information about the production of the set. As legend has it, most of Goudey’s company records were burned in the factory furnace in the 1960s, taking any files that might help us to understand the company’s decision to re-print the first series cards with modified designs, as opposed to issuing new cards of new players. Certainly, many of the day’s superstars are not represented among the set’s 24 subjects – Carl Hubbell, Al Simmons, and Bill Dickey, to name a few. Further, the issue’s second series refers to the set’s containing a total of 312 subjects, when the set itself actually cut off at number 288 (Bob Feller). What happened to those last 24 cards?
We are pleased to offer an outstanding group of 1938 Goudey cards – among the finest in the hobby – as collected by the owner of Love of the Game.
The cards, which represent 41 of the set’s 48 cards, are currently ranked #2 on the SGC Registry (minus the #274 DiMaggio, which is not included in this auction). The #1 set is, of course, the famous Lionel Carter set, which was purchased and kept together as a single set, and includes the only 1938 Goudey to be graded MINT 10 to date.
This same set was also retired as the #6 set on the PSA Set Registry some years ago, and crossed to SGC as a “second opinion.” Each of the cards in this offering has been graded by both companies, and received a numeric grade each time. More than half the cards grade NM or better, with only two grading below EX-MT.
One of the two is the #246 Ernie Lombardi variation – a scarce variation of which only one example is known to have graded higher.
One of the set’s key cards – the #264 Bob Feller – is graded NM-MT 88. An extremely scarce card in high grade, just one has ever graded higher. The collection also features the rookie card of Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, card #258, in NM-MT 88.
Lastly, the collection features two different wrappers. The wrappers are very scarce and rarely make their way to public auction, never before as a pair (to our knowledge). While the wrappers are not marked, we believe these to be the first and second series wrappers.
An outstanding collection of very scarce, high-grade cards from one of the hobby’s more interesting mainstream gum card issues.