Goudey’s second baseball card set is easy to overlook in the shadow of the landmark 1933 set, but I really like the 1934 set. Here’s what to like about 1934 Goudey baseball cards.
You stand a chance of completing it
The 1933 Goudey set includes one of the least obtainable cards in the hobby, plus four Babe Ruth cards. Give me a choice between a three-bedroom house and a Toyota Camry to park in its driveway or a 1933 Goudey set, and I’ll take the house and car, thank you very much.
None of the 1934 set’s heavyweights are in that league. Yes, it includes two iconic Lou Gehrig cards. Yes, it includes a Jimmie Foxx card that’s really hard to find in decent condition. It also includes Hank Greenberg’s rookie card. Yet all of those are easier to acquire than one of the 1933 Ruth cards. Or you can settle for a 92-card near-complete set and skip those four while still having something nice.
The size also helps. It’s 96 cards, rather than 240 cards. It will take time, expense, and effort to complete, but it won’t take decades.
And thanks to sales figures surfacing in the 1960s, we know 1934s are about 20% more common than 1933 cards.
Lou Gehrig’s endorsement
In 1933, competitor DeLong Gum had a sportswriter from Boston write the biographies on the back of their cards. Goudey came up with a brilliant countermasure. They drafted a player into duty. And not just any player.
He stood in Babe Ruth’s shadow for most of his career, but Lou Gehrig was one of the most durable players of all time, and Ruth wouldn’t have hit 714 home runs without Gehrig hitting behind him in the lineup. The bottoms of the cards said “Lou Gehrig says…” and on the back, the card had a biography, ostensibly written or dictated by Gehrig, about each player.
Twelve of the cards had Phillies slugger Chuck Klein standing in for Gehrig. The reason is a bit curious. All 12 players were National League players, so Klein spent a lot more time playing against them than Gehrig. Some have speculated Gehrig had never heard of those 12, but there are other National League players, including players he never played against, that do say “Lou Gehrig says…”
I have my own theory. All of the Klein endorsements appear in the last series of the set. Half of those 24 cards are AL players and half of them are NL players. I think late in the series, Goudey decided it would make sense to have a National League player comment on other National Leaguers. The 1934 set didn’t sell as well as the 1933 set did, and I think Goudey decided to see if the Klein experiment might goose sales.
A good example of 1930s design
The design isn’t too far off from the 1933 set. Some might prefer the 1933 set and how it captures the environment behind the player. Some might prefer how the 1934 set focuses on the player image, with whimsical action line art in the background that suggests what position the player played. The design is less blatantly art deco than the 1935 Diamond Stars set.
As 1930s cards go, it’s hard not to put the 1934 Goudey set in the top 5. Maybe it’s not a perfect 10 out of 10 but calling it a 9 feels harsh.
Sure, if you’re chasing a high-end set, you’ll spend hundreds of dollars per card. But in low grade, 1934 Goudey baseball cards are still affordable. Most of the Hall of Famers in the set fetch $25 per card in low grade. Commons vary based on scarcity. The most plentiful of them, from numbers 1-48, run $6 in low grade. The tougher middle series, 49-72, run $8 in low grade. The toughest high numbers, from 73-96, run $10 in low grade.
The price guides generally don’t discriminate between minor stars and utility infielders. A common is a common, unless the guy was a Yankee. So 1934 Goudey baseball cards give you the opportunity to get vintage cards of some nice players like George Earnshaw and Rip Collins without spending a ton of money. The set is full of players like that who had plenty of great moments but fell short of the Hall of Fame.
A decent class of Hall of Famers
There are 20 Hall of Famers in the 1934 Goudey set, if you let me count both Lou Gehrig cards. There are plenty of Hall of Famers who played in 1933 and 1934 missing from the set besides Ruth, but it’s a big enough list to give you a challenge without breaking the bank.
1. Jimmie Foxx
2. Mickey Cochrane
6. Dizzy Dean
7. Leo Durocher
10. Chuck Klein
11. Paul Waner
12. Carl Hubbell
13. Frankie Frisch
18. Heinie Manush
19. Lefty Grove
21. Bill Terry
22. Arkie Vaughan
23. Charlie Gehringer
27. Luke Appling
34. Chick Hafey
35. Ernie Lombardi
37. Lou Gehrig
61. Lou Gehrig
62. Hank Greenberg
90. Kiki Cuyler
Gehrig’s two cards are the most expensive. Foxx’s card, as mentioned before, is hard to find in nice shape. Greenberg’s card is his rookie card. Dizzy Dean’s card can be tough as well. He’s in the 1933 set too, but Dean is very popular and didn’t have a lot of cards, so that inflates the value of his 1934 card.
Other notable cards
The last card in the set, Jim DeShong, commands a premium due to condition issues. It usually was the last card in kids’ decks, so it, along with Jimmie Foxx on the top, took more wear than other cards.
Red Rolfe, a Yankee teammate of DeShong and Gehrig, commands a slight premium over other non-Hall of Famers. He didn’t play long enough to rack up Hall of Fame-type numbers, but was an All-Star four times. That plus playing in New York is enough to inflate card values.