Today, a new era begins as the finest 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set sold to a private collector for $360,000! This set was, and still is, currently ranked #1 on The PSA Set Registry and is comprised of virtually all PSA NM-MT 8 or better quality throughout. The 48-card set was sold intact by Memory Lane, Inc. and the sale is now recognized as the highest price ever paid for a complete trading card set. Memory Lane, Inc., a company that specializes in high-end material, negotiated the sale of the set between two very active PSA collectors.
There have been some very notable sales in hobby history. The ones that comes to mind first is of course the sale of the famous PSA NM-MT 8 T206 Honus Wagner card that has sold several times over the last 15 years with each sale setting a new record for a trading card. The last one came in at $1,265,000 a few summers ago. There have also been record setting complete sets like the 1952 Topps PSA NM-MT 8 set that sold in a MastroNet auction in 2002 for $276,771.
Over time, it has been tradition to break up sets when it came time to sell. That was simply the way it was. A great example of that would be the famous auction of the Harris Collection – the finest T206 set ever assembled. SportsCards Plus held that sale but each card was offered individually. The sale was tremendous as the auction total exceeded $1,000,000 but, today, the strategy might be different with the impact of The PSA Set Registry and the appreciation of complete sets in general.
For those in the know, the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set has long been one of the most desirable productions the hobby has ever known. This set combines the best of the best, from a variety of sports, inside a 48-card set that not only exhibits brilliant artwork but also offers a level of difficulty that exceeds its own sister – the 1933 Goudey Baseball Set.
No, the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set does not have the sheer size of the much larger 239-card baseball counterpart, or the difficulty of the similar but less popular 1932 US Caramel set, yet these "Kings" offer the appeal of both – great eye-appeal with solid scarcity. Baseball, basketball, boxing, football, hockey, wrestling, golf and even swimming are among the sports represented in this unique set. There are even two "Babes" in the set, perhaps the two most popular "Babes" in sports history – Didrickson and Ruth. Finally, the last card in the set (#48 Leonhard Seppala) represents dogsled racing? Dogsled racing? For the love of trading cards!
In terms of condition obstacles, the set is plagued by three main culprits. Bleeding, border toning and poor centering are all noted problems. It is very common, as it is with most Goudey issues, to see bleeding on the reverse of the cards. When sheets were fresh from production and placed on top of one another, the color from the cards buried underneath each sheet would often bleed onto the reverse of the cards above. Usually, a light bleed will not prevent a card from reaching higher grades but, if severe, it can hurt the eye appeal quite a bit.
Another condition obstacle is the presence of border or edge toning on the front or back of the card. Again, this is very common for Goudey issues as well as Diamond Star cards of the era. Some border toning is acceptable, even for higher grades, if it is not severe and does not cause a slight off-white/yellow appearance. The problem is when the discoloration becomes an almost brown or strong yellow color.
Last but not least, centering can be a huge problem on this issue. The borders are very narrow due to the design of the cards, making it very tough to find exceptionally centered examples. One slight move left to right or top to bottom will cause the cards to fall outside of the acceptable guidelines for unqualified higher grades. As centering is seemingly becoming more and more of an issue for collectors, this is a key to note.
Marshall Fogel, who owns one of the finest collections in the world, has long been a fan of this set and had this to say about this hobby classic. "After I wrote the history of the Goudey Gum Co. for SMR for their National Sports Convention issue of August, 2003, I had the opportunity to reflect on the various Goudey sets that were produced by this company and how the sets compared with others throughout the ages," Fogel explained. "There are several sensible conclusions that come to mind."
"The 1933 Sport Kings set provides a valuable written history and card pictures of America's great athletes from all important sports for the time. The set gave early drecognition to the game of basketball, golf, tennis, hockey and other defined sports. No other set covers such a wide range of sporting activities as this set. The Sport Kings cards, along with the 1933 Goudey baseball set, pioneered many pictures of the athletes in action as evidenced by the colorful "Babe" Didrickson card. The final "crowning achievement of this set is the innovative artwork illustrated on each and every card. This set is so rare that the demand is at the top of most advanced collectors' want list. It deserves to be one of the most expensive sets in the hobby."
As far as market value, Fogel continued to praise this set's importance. "A straight eight complete set is virtually impossible to put together today card by card unless you are fortunate enough to find a collector that is willing to sell the set," Fogel said. "In my opinion, the market value for a PSA 8 set is over $225,000 if sold as a complete set."
Super-collector Charlie Merkel couldn't agree more about this set's difficulty. "The 1933 Sport Kings cards are really rare and difficult to find in high grade," Merkel explained. "I have been upgrading my own set for years and I know how tough it is to assemble a set such as the one that just sold with the number of PSA 9's it contained."
Merkel further explained how the hobby has changed. "For years dealers have bought complete sets to break them up believing that break-up maximized value," Merkel said. "At this point in time, however , I believe that a high grade , highly ranked complete PSA sets should and will command a much higher premium than the breakup price in recognition of the difficulty if not impossibility of ever again duplicating the feat. Regardless of how rare a single card may be, the truly high grade complete set taken as a whole is infinitely more rare. I congratulate the new owner on his recognition of the value attributable to a set of this quality and his willingness to step up and acquire a unique collectible treasure like this."
Let's take a closer look at the set that many hobbyists can only dream of owning and find out more about the athletes and cards that find themselves amongst Kings.
#1 Ty Cobb – Yes, it was Cobb, not Ruth that was chosen for #1 in this prestigious set. In fact, many writers of the era felt that it was Cobb who deserved to be called the best overall player in the game from the first half of the 20th Century. It's hard to believe, but true. This card is much like the 1948 Leaf Ruth in that both cards were produced after their playing days; however, the cards are treated otherwise by collectors. In addition to the traditional condition obstacles associated with the issue, pay close attention to the yellow background. In many cases, the color is faint and lacks eye-appeal. If you can find one with exceptional color, it can do wonders for the card.
#2 Babe Ruth – The Sultan of Swat had to take a backseat to Cobb but the Ruth card is clearly the most valuable card in the set. One aspect that makes this card very compelling is the fact that while the Goudey baseball counterpart offers four different Ruths, there is only one Ruth card here. In addition, this card is very tough in higher grades. In fact, it is clearly more difficult than at least two of the four Goudey Ruths (#'s 144 and 181) for the baseball-only set. With Ruth and the word "King" on the same card, it just seems so fitting for baseball's best.
#3 Nat Holman – During the 1920's, Holman was one of the best shooters and skilled ball handlers in the game for the Boston Celtics – the dominant franchise of the era. As a coach for City College of New York, he led his team to win both the NCAA and NIT tournaments in 1950 – they were the first and only team to accomplish this feat. He finished with a 423-190 in 37 seasons. This card is extremely tough in high-grade with only a handful of known PSA NM-MT 8's today to satisfy the most discriminating collectors. In fact, if one were to surface today, it would almost certainly sell for a record price.
#4 Red Grange - The "Galloping Ghost" was the biggest draw in football during the 1920's and he raised the sport to a new level after his tremendous career at the University of Illinois. This card is widely regarded as one of the most visually appealing in the 48-card set due to its great assortment of colors. In addition, it is also one of the first major keys in football collecting history. Just a couple of years later, National Chicle would produce a football set with the legendary Bronko Nagurski card but this Grange card beat Bronko to the punch so to speak.
#6 Jim Thorpe – This is, arguably, the best looking card in the set and it features one of the greatest all-around athletes of all-time. Thorpe excelled in track and field, baseball and football amongst other sports. Thorpe was even featured in some other major card issues like the 1915 Sporting News Baseball set (his only mainstream baseball card) and the popular 1955 Topps All-American football set but this Sport Kings card is his most interesting. Thorpe paved the way for modern day multi-sport stars like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan and that will never be forgotten.
#17 Jack Dempsey – Jack Dempsey does have some other important cards like his 1932 US Caramel and 1948 Leaf examples but this one is no slouch. The "Manassa Mauler" was a devastating puncher who destroyed Jess Willard for the Heavyweight Championship in 1919. For several years, he dominated the division. This card is important because boxing was considered by many to be the most popular spectator sport during that era and Dempsey was one of the first true stars of the sport. In addition, this is, arguably, Dempsey's most visually appealing trading card.
#19 Eddie Shore – This hockey legend represents the sport well in this set. Shore is the only NHL defenseman to win the Hart Trophy as MVP four times (1933, 1935-36, 1938) and he was a leader for the Boston Bruins, who were Stanley Cup champs in 1929 and 1939. During his 14-year career, Shore was named to 7 First Team All-Star squads as well. This card is another fan-favorite because of its wonderful artwork and color, although you can basically say that about every card in this supremely attractive set.
#22 Gene Sarazen – Sarazen was one of the most successful golfers in the game during pre-war times. He emerged from virtual poverty to become of the highest paid athletes of his era, winning 7 Major titles and traveling the world for golf exhibitions. This card, along with the Jones card, are very important in that they help capture the beginning of a game that has become so popular today. While not nearly as valuable as the Jones, this card is certainly one of the keys to this set of Kings.
#35 Knute Rockne – Rockne's legendary speeches were his trademark. The famous "Win one for the Gipper" speech helped spark The Fighting Irish to victory over favored Army. This great Notre Dame coach finished with a 105-12-5 record, including three National Championships. This card, along with the Grange card, are two of the earliest football classics in our hobby and Rockne has long been of one the most desirable figures in the football card market.
#38 Bobby Jones – This is widely considered the most important golf card in the hobby. The US Caramel Jones card is very tough and desirable but the Sport King Jones is tops. His classic swing is captured brilliantly on this tiny piece of artwork. Jones was really the first major star of his sport and his legend is magnified by his sudden exit from the game at the age of 28. By that age, Jones had already captured 13 Majors, a record that stood for 40 years. With the popularity of golf today, this card has enjoyed steady increased demand for the last 4-5 years.
#45 Babe Didrickson – While Mr. Thorpe usually receives the label of Best Overall Athlete by many sports historians, some would argue that Babe Didrickson was even more dominant. She excelled in more sports than Thorpe and was actually nicknamed "Babe" after the legendary Mr. Ruth because of her ability to hit a baseball with power. She also had to deal with discrimination, as women were not supposed to play "men's sports" during that era. Today, she would be embraced as a role model. When you consider what she went through and how far ahead of her time she really was, this card takes on extreme importance. She is pictured in mid-hurdle and there were many hurdles for Babe to leap over at the time.
Of course, there are plenty of other favorites in the set. There's the ever-popular #20 Duke Kahanamoku card featuring this swimming icon, featuring tremendous colors, especially the bright yellow background. How about Primo Carnera, perhaps known more for playing tug of war with Mighty Joe Young and being a mountain of a man than for his boxing skills. There are also other many other notable cards like those of Ed Watcher, Walter Hagen, Bill Tilden, Gene Tunney, Howie Morenz, Ace Bailey, Carl Hubbell and Max Baer to name a few.
One great aspect of this set is the fact that regardless of current Hall of Fame status, all of the athletes included were considered Kings of their era. This set offers a window into the past, a chance for hobbyists of the current generation and future generation to appreciate the athletes who paved the way for others. This set provides tremendous historical value and manages to look great all the while.
What a great set!
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