Robert Edward Auctions Discovery: A Hoard of Goudey Gum Patent Cards Hits the Auction Block
Gehrig
Gehrig

The Goudey Gum Company Archives

The Goudey baseball cards and copyright materials featured in the Spring Robert Edward Auctions sale represent one of the most fascinating and unique collections ever assembled. This extraordinary archive of original Goudey copyright cards includes the very cards submitted in 1933 and 1934 by the Goudey Gum Company to the United States Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., many accompanied by the official Certificate of Copyright Registration cards issued by that governing bureau. All of these items originate from the legal files of the Goudey Gum Company.

What are Goudey copyright cards?

The 1933 and 1934 Goudey "Big League" sets are universally recognized as the most important bubble gum cards ever issued. In order for Goudey to officially copyright these cards, they were required to submit to the United States Copyright Office (for each individual card) a fee of two dollars, a completed application form, a notarized affidavit of printing, and two examples of each card.

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The registration process for each bubble gum card was identical to that of a book. This approval process provided the company with copyright protection (for the image and text of each card) for a period of twenty-eight years. After copyright approval, Goudey then received back the submitted cards, and was issued official, individually numbered certificates of copyright registration for each card. In addition to issuing the certificates of copyright registration, the Copyright Office also stamped the back of each submitted card with its respective official registration number and the date it was received.

The unique nature of these "copyright submission" cards is further highlighted by the fact that they were all originally hand cut (some neatly, others less so) from the first run of printed sheets. Thus, they represent, quite literally, the very first cards produced for each series during that two year period.

Where have the Goudey copyright cards been all these years?

All of the offered cards and corresponding certificates of registration originate directly from the Goudey Gum Company archives. The files of Goudey were discovered in 1969 and quickly dispersed to the four corners of the collecting world at that time. The hobby was not extremely sophisticated at this early date, and even the uncut sheets (including one with Lajoie) in the Goudey files received very little attention from collectors. The significance of the copyright cards (often referred to by collectors as "patent cards"), like all of the unique materials included in the files, was barely recognized, and these cards were sold off to collectors all over the country as if they were regular cards to fill in sets.

Durocher
Durocher

As noted earlier, all of the cards have been hand cut from sheets and upon close inspection display slightly uneven borders as a result. It appears that when the cards were originally submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office, they were attached to the application forms by means of a paper clip, as many still display a faint paper clip impression along the top. It is also interesting to note that many of the submission cards have small pencil checks along the reverse, indicating where the Copyright Office worker crosschecked the information on each card with the information on the application form.

Despite the minor imperfections, the cards still retain all of their inherent visual appeal. At a glance, they stand as fine examples from this popular issue. Upon closer inspection, it is revealed that they have an extraordinary historical significance to the Goudey Gum Company and to these landmark sets.

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Each preprinted copyright registration card (5 x 3 inches) has handwritten information filled in by the Copyright Office clerk that includes the name of the company ("The Goudey Gum Company"), the company's city of headquarters ("Boston, Mass."), the name and team of the player on each respective card, the author and/or illustrator of the card (usually either "Saul M. Arkin" or "Elmer Crowell," and sometimes both), the card number, three dates (date of publication, date copies received, and date affidavit received) and the card's unique registration number. Each card also bears the official stamped seal of the Copyright Office.


How did all of these Goudey copyright cards get in one place?

This collection of Goudey copyright cards and documents was amassed by an extraordinarily dedicated collector who is also an attorney. In the early 1970s, he became aware of the existence of Goudey copyright submission cards and Goudey registration cards, and spared no expense in time and effort searching high and low in the collecting world for these lost treasures. This included advertisements, printed flyers, dozens of conventions (back when conventions were the lifeblood of the hobby), phone calls, and networking with dealers and advanced collectors. No stone was left unturned.

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Intrigued by both the historical and legal significance of these cards, he later paid for further research into the subject and as a result obtained copies of corresponding additional related documents on file taken directly from the files of the U.S. Copyright Office. One of the most important discoveries found within those file documents is the fact that all of the submitted cards were apparently returned to the Goudey Gum Company. That fact is noted by the stamped notation, "Copies Returned," that appears on each copied individual card application form.

As noted in the research report (a copy of which accompanies each lot), even if some cards were originally kept by the Copyright Office, they would have long since been destroyed. That supposition is supported by the fact that the Library of Congress, which sometimes receives deposits from the Copyright Office, has no baseball cards in its present collection.

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The assembly (or perhaps it is more accurate to use the term "reassembly") of this collection of copyright cards is one of the most extraordinary collecting feats of any kind we have ever seen. Advanced and longtime collectors will recall seeing an example here or there, usually taking note of them only after seeing a second example with the unique characteristics of copyright cards. In recent years, a few have turned up occasionally on eBay (properly identified and usually selling for hundreds of dollars each, often won by our consignor), but never have more than a few copyright cards been seen in the same place at the same time and offered at auction.

Presented in the auction are a total of 184 different 1933 Goudey copyright cards, representing 77% of the set, plus 159 copyright registration cards from the set, in addition to a selection of copyright and registration cards from the 1934 Goudey Gum series. It is not known for certain how many of the original copyright submission cards or certificates of registration were included in the files of Goudey; however, due to their unique nature, this collection almost certainly represents the vast majority of all known surviving examples. This offering is the result of a lifetime of collecting.

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This journey has resulted in the almost complete reassembly of the copyright cards from the files of Goudey, a feat which any reasonable person would have thought impossible, and which, armed with our knowledge of the difficulty and nature of this assembly, must be saluted as one of the most successful and extraordinary collecting feats ever embarked upon in the card collecting world. Everyone stops collecting at some time.

The consignor (who has requested to remain anonymous, has decided that after more than thirty years of searching it is time to pass this collecting baton to a new generation, and in the process perhaps create a greater understanding and a greater appreciation of the significance of these historic artifacts, which literally represent the birth of the bubble gum card, and in many ways the birth of the card collecting world that we know today.

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All of the offered Goudey copyright submission cards and corresponding copyright registration cards have been authenticated and encapsulated by PSA. Robert Edward Auctions has separated out a few highlights to be offered separately, and divided the collection by year into matched pairs of copyright and registration cards, copyright cards without matching registration cards, and registration cards without matching copyright cards.

Robert Edward Auctions is one of the collecting world's leading collectibles auction companies, specializing in the rarest and most historic baseball cards and memorabilia, as well as other sport, non-sport, and Americana collectibles.

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For further information regarding consignments or to register for a complimentary auction catalog please contact: Robert Edward Auctions, PO Box 7256, Watchung, NJ 07069 or call (908)-226-9900 or visit www.RobertEdwardAuctions.com.