A Tale of Two Gehrigs

The 1933 Goudey set is famous for a lot of things. There’s the shortprinted Nap Lajoie card that wasn’t supplied until 1934. Then, of course, there are the four Babe Ruth cards.

One of the odd things in the set is that a few cards are repeated. Same pictures, same players, just different card numbers. One of those guys, as I’ve covered before, is Jimmie Foxx. Another is Lou Gehrig.

In checking the PSA and SGC pop reports recently, I noticed something pretty odd.

One of These Gehrigs is Not Like the Other

Gehrig 1933 GoudeyWhile the two Foxx cards in PSA’s report for the set have similar numbers of graded cards, the Gehrig’s most certainly do not.

Gehrig’s first card is No. 92 in the set and far more populous than his later No. 160 card. To date, PSA has graded nearly 1,300 of his No. 92 cards. By comparison, they’ve graded only a little more than 700 of card No. 160.

SGC tells a similar story. Nearly 500 of card No. 92 has been graded by them while about 200 less of No. 160 have been graded. In all among the two companies, that would seem to suggest that there are about 30% more of card No. 92 than there are of the No. 160 card.

In addition, I did a quick glance on eBay and those numbers were similar there as well. Of the 50 or so Gehrig 1933 Goudey cards that were sold, about 2/3 were for card No. 92 to 1/3 for the rarer card No. 160.

Pricing Oddities

The interesting thing here is not only that one of the Gehrig cards appears to be far rarer than the other. While you might think that would lead to a gap in pricing, that’s not always the case.

Past sales of card No. 160 are sometimes higher but not all the time. Many times, the cards are sold at roughly the same price and there are even plenty of instances where even the same graded cards result in the tougher No. 160 card being less expensive.

REA, for example, sold a PSA 5 of card No. 92 for $3,600 in May. In April, card No. 160 in that same grade sold for only $3,360 at a Heritage auction. Also in April, Heritage sold a PSA 3 of the rarer card No. 160 for $300 less than a PSA 3 of card No. 92 sold for on eBay.

Comparing the sales of card No. 92 vs. those of card No. 160 on PSA’s website produces other similar types of results.

Obviously, card sales depend on more than just the technical grade of the card. Sometimes the seller plays a factor. A card’s eye appeal can also help or hurt the value. Additionally, the amount of Buyer’s Premium that must be paid depending on the auction house matters, too. But it’s still surprising to see several instances of the two cards being treated as virtually equals when one is clearly harder to find.

Why?

So what’s the reason for this? Why does the same exact card with the same exact picture of the same exact player for a rarer card sell for the same and, in several instances, often for less?

My guess, if you forced me to make one, is that most collectors just don’t know of the rarity of these two cards and treat them the same. Similar to the Ty Cobb T206 green background phenomenon, I’m just not sure many people are up on the rarity of these two cards.

That, by the way, is no knock to collectors, obviously. I myself wasn’t even aware of it until recently. Trying to keep up with the specific rarity of every card out there (even the major ones) is an impossible task. But I do expect that if collectors had a better idea of the rarity of these two cards, they wouldn’t be valued the same as they often are.

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