I started collecting autographed 1933 Goudeys in about 1988. Back track about 6 years earlier, a carpenter neighbor of mine asked my dad for some help with some baseball cards he had found in an attic – all very good + 1933 Goudeys and Delongs. We flew with him to St. louis to auction them off and after the auction there remained a few lesser cards. Dealers came up to my neighbor offering him a few bucks. He turned to me (then 7) and my brother (then 10) and said “you want these?”. I got a Burleigh Grimes and a Bill Terry and was hooked. Flash forward to 1988, I have been collecting autographs through the mail mostly with the help of my dad and brother. While looking at my 1933 Goudeys (I had about two dozen by that point) I realized that Bill Terry was still alive. I mailed the card and two weeks later when I got back autographed, thus started a 25 year collecting journey.
I managed to get about 40 players through the mail before they passed away. I was on a tight budget so I got the cards autographed as I could afford them. Somehow I ended up with 14 signed Willis Hudlins?!!? They were all great signers except Randy Moore who stamped everything and Dick Bartell whom charged $5 (!!). I can still remember throwing them in an envelope with no cardboard (Yikes!). I received a Earl Whitehill signed Goudey for Christmas in 1988 that my dad bought for $50. I remember thinking how much he over paid back then. In the 25 years since I have only seen one other signed Earl Whitehill whom died in 1950.
The best part about collecting these back in the day was they were pretty worthless. Dealers frowned upon autographed cards and often sold these for less then the card itself was worth. I remember picking up my signed Pie Traynor on ebay in 2001 for $30!. In the last few years however, the vintage signed card market has went crazy. Signed Ty Cobb tobacco cards are going for $25k. Recently a trimmed Bing Miller (died in 1966) sold for $1200!!! I have TWO that I paid a total of $50 for and they are UNTRIMMED!
Rarities: of course Ruth and Gehrig are the kings value wise though, if you have the money, you can undoubtably get one within a year as there are quite a few in existence. I am more concerned with the real rare ones. Earl Clark died in 1938 giving him the distinction of being the first casualty of the Goudey series. He was also a minor leaguer and I have never actually seen one signed making him the holy grail of signed Goudeys. The toughest one I have is Johnny Welch whom died in 1940. Some other tough ones that i have seen 1 or less of are Fred Brickell, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker, Pete Scott, Heinie Sand, Heinie Meine, and Bernie Friberg.
I currently have 176 different. I have 39 different hall of famers. I have over 130 doubles. I currently have every player that died back to Dizzy dean (that is 1974 and I am only missing the Luke Sewell standing card which is way more difficult to find then it should be because Luke insisted that wasn’t him on the card). The most I have paid for any of the cards I have is $325 for my Johnny Welch. The nearest I have to a complete team set is the Chicago cubs where I am only missing the Pat Malone. If I ever sell my set i might keep the Cubs just so i can have the oldest signed team set in existence (?).
I am happy to share my collection on Helmar’s blog and hope you enjoy them as well.
Happy Collecting! 🙂 Sean Brennan