After single-handedly reinventing and invigorating the gum card market in 1933, the Goudey Gum Company was on track for a satisfying encore performance the following year. Its clientele's expectations were high and the Bostonbased confectioner delivered the goods.
The 1934 edition of Goudey's "Big League Chewing Gum" reflected the best choice its maker could possibly have selected in terms of basic premise, namely, it kept all of its glowing and trend-setting 1933 innovations intact. Such top-quality pieces as the 1933 Goudey cards must have required much more expense to produce than the smaller, less-impressive collectibles that had come before - and which were doubtless mentioned at some point by those in charge of Goudey's finances - but the company still held true to the vision established by its spectacular 1933 effort. The 1934s retained their predecessors' large size, sturdy construction, painted images and blazing color, and one can easily imagine that a buyer's excitement at first sight of the new 1934 cards was mixed with relief that the items were, once again, superb in character.
In 1934, Goudey managed to satisfy the truly difficult goal faced by every manufacturer of products that require annual revision - improving upon a concept without diluting its essence - in fine style. Goudey didn't subject its cardfronts to a drastic redesign, but it improved them. Where solid colors had been employed as many of the 1933s' backgrounds, 1934s added discreet line-drawing graphics of ballplaying figures in action. And, where 1933s offered straightforward company name blocks in the caption areas of most entries, 1934s took pains to showcase one of the game's most prominent heroes.
The bottom one-fifth areas of 1934 Goudey's cardfront player depictions, in the majority of the series' subjects, are devoted to a blue strip holding a small likeness of Yankees immortal Lou Gehrig, along with the legend "Lou Gehrig says ... " Statements ostensibly authored by Lou appeared on the backs of of the cards and constituted the entirety of the items' descriptive texts. This was a gimmick that highlighted an explicit endorsement of the cards by one of the game's finest! To achieve balance between rival leagues, Chicago Cubs slugger Chuck Klein performed the same role, with his photo presented in a red strip at the lower edge, on most of the set's high-numbered cards. Interestingly, both men's appearances, as noted on each cardback, were arranged by Christy Walsh, the time's famously relentless promoter who is widely acknowledged as the first "sports agent."
Composition - The 1934 Goudey release is complete at 96 cards. Perhaps more were planned for later issue, but the series' roster of just eight dozen subjects reveals a thoroughness in player selection that should have inspired thrills in even the most demanding fan.
The lowest numbers in the 1934 Goudey set are packed full of superstars and future Cooperstown honorees. The flagship entry - the #1 card - pictures charismatic slugger Jimmie Foxx; he and Mickey Cochrane, Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher and Chuck Klein are all found within the issue's first ten numbers! Following in rapid order are Paul Waner, Frank Frisch, Carl Hubbell, Lefty Grove and others. Lesser stars take over midway through the set's lineup, but the rookie card of Hank Greenberg (#62) and a high-numbered keepsake of KiKi Cuyler (#90) merit special mention.
Unlike its 1933 series, Goudey's 1934 issue avoided multiple portrayals of the same player. Only Lou Gehrig (#s 37 and 61) is afforded more than one card. The majority of enthusiasts, if questioned, would indicate he deserved the distinction and, in any case, both of Gehrig's cards display attributes of beauty that place the pieces among the most attractive and cherished of all 1930s gum cards
Omissions? The most glaring shortcoming in 1934 Goudey would seem to be the absence of Babe Ruth, who was, at the time, toiling in his last year with Gehrig's Yankees. The set's noteworthy lack of a Ruth card is a mysterious circumstance. Perhaps, 1934 was seen as Gehrig's turn to shine, and Walsh didn't want the Iron Horse to share the spotlight with another larger-than-life client. Since the Babe was featured in Goudey's 1934 Premium issue (known today as R309-1, and consisting of just four subjects presented in an eye-catching 5 ½" by 8 13/16" format), it's possible that this large piece was regarded as Ruth's 1934 Goudey card. Regardless, the treatment given to the majority of the sport's most important contemporary figures is sufficiently special that even the Bambino is barely missed.
Key Features and Rarities - The 1934 Goudey set's "High Number" series (including #s 73-96, and, to a lesser extent, #s 49-72) are much tougher than the foregoing entries. Owing to the concentration of stars among the lower numbers, however, this situation might not have caused too much consternation during the time of 1934 Goudey's original distribution. (The same can't be said for modern collectors, many of whom encounter monumental frustration in attempting to assemble the "Highs!") The set was produced on four 24-card press sheets; on one of these, the famous 1933 Goudey #106 Napoleon Lajoie - complete with its 1933-style reverse -shares space with 23 "Lou Gehrig says..." and "Chuck Klein says..." cards for 1934.
Bottom Line - The 1934 release seemed to herald more great things for Goudey's future, with the abridged nature of the 96-card set acting as the only possible cause for alarm to those who noticed it. Indisputably a treasured issue that merits "all-time" accolades, 1934 Goudey receives the highest marks for its artwork, content and overall substance ... it would be quite a few years before the hobby saw another production that could have been described even remotely as its equal! .