1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Cards: Overvalued Or Good Investment?

The 1933 Babe Ruth Goudey cards (note there are four of them) have been among the hottest vintage cards in recent years.  Given the significant price increase for the cards, many collectors wonder if Ruth’s Goudey cards are still worthy of an investment?

Ruth’s 1933 Goudey cards (despite the significant price increases) remain one of the best longer-term investments for vintage collectors.  The four cards are not cheap by any means, but if you have the funding, Ruth’s Goudey cards should continue to appreciate over the next several years.

In this guide, we take a closer look at the four Goudey Ruth cards and provide collectors with more information on the current values, scarcity, and the ultimate investment potential. 

four-ruth-goudey-1933

The four Babe Ruth cards from the 1933 Goudey Gum set.

What Are Differences Between The Goudey Babe Ruth Cards?

As evidence of just how popular “The Babe” was at the time, the 1933 Goudey (R319) set actually features four cards of Babe Ruth (#53, #144, #149, #181).

Two of the cards are basically identical (#53, #149) with the only difference being the background color: card #53 has a yellow background and card #149 has a red background. 

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53

Current Value (PSA 6 - Excellent Condition: $30,000

goudey-ruth-53

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #149

Current Value (PSA 6 - Excellent Condition: $30,000

goudey-ruth-149

Card #144 (aka 'Full Body Ruth") uses the same illustration as the #53 and #149 cards yet shows Ruth in a full batting pose. 

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #144

Current Value (PSA 6 - Excellent Condition: $30,000

goudey-ruth-144

The fourth Goudey Ruth card (#181) features Ruth in a serious pose, while holding his bat, likely getting ready to enter the batter's box.  This is my favorite Goudey Ruth card: the contrast of the green background and Ruth's detailed likeness make for a gorgeous baseball card.  Oh and maybe you noticed that Ruth's face is a part of our logo! 


1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #181

Current Value (PSA 6 - Excellent Condition: $30,000

ruth-goudey-1933

Note that some of the backs of the 1933 Goudey Ruth cards do have different biographical text. Here's the back of card #53, which shares an identical back to card #149.

goudey-ruth-53-back
ruth-139-goudey-back

The text on the Ruth card #144 is completely different yet discusses some of the same facts in more detail--notably that the Red Sox paid 'less than $3000' for Ruth in 1914, but sold him for $125,000 six years later.

goudey-ruth-144-back

Card #181 also changes things up, again saying mostly all of the same facts, but in a different way.   The text for "George Herman (Babe) Ruth" is also larger on cards #144 and #181.  It should also be note that these Goudey cards were issued near the tail end of Ruth's playing career, so the four cards in a way are almost a sort of tribute. 

goudey-ruth-181-back

How Much Are The 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Cards Worth?

From a value perspective, all of the Goudey Ruth cards carry significant value in high grade condition, but because of the scarcity, #53 (yellow background) is the most valuable Ruth card in the set. While there have been no recent PSA 9 sales of the #53 Ruth,  PSA estimates a value of $600K.

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Values

Card #

PSA Pop

PSA 1 (Poor)

PSA 3 (VG)

PSA 5 (Ex)

PSA 7 (NM)

PSA 9 (Mint)

#144

1380

$2,111

$4,808

$8,835

$31,700

$530,000

#181

1120

$2,048

$6,200

$9,487

$27,600

$530,000

#149

1100

$2,339

$5,306

$12,600

$29,400

$550,000

#53

985

$2,573

$7,576

$15,533

$37,200

$650,000

There have been more recent PSA 9 sales of the other three Ruth cards.  In January of 2019, a PSA 9 (Mint) of Ruth's #144 '"Full Body Ruth" sold at Heritage Auctions for $528,000.   At the same auction, the green background Ruth #181 sold for $456,000.  A bit of a surprise given that the #181 card is actually scarcer than the 'Full Body Ruth".

For collectors looking to buy a 1933 Goudey Ruth, the costs are all going to depend on the condition desired.  If willing to accept an altered card (graded as Auth by PSA) these can run anywhere from $1000 to $2000.  Poor (PSA 1) copies of Goudey Ruth cards range from $2000 to $2500 dependent on the card from the set.  

Whatever the grade, the #53 card (yellow background) will always sell at a premium versus the other cards in the set.  Based on our research, the #53 Goudey Ruth sells for an average premium of between 20% to 50% dependent on the grade. 

How Scarce Are The 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Cards?

According to PSA, #53 (yellow background) is the hardest to come across, followed by #149 (red background).  Card #144 (aka ‘Full Body Ruth’) was double printed by Goudey and is the most widely available of the four cards based on PSA data.

We've also examined the population reports of Beckett and SGC to get a complete picture of the total graded population on all four Goudey Ruth cards.  SGC and Beckett (BVG or Beckett Vintage Grading) actually show the #149 card (red background) as rarer as opposed to what the PSA data tells us. 

The conclusion is that the #53 card is still the rarest, but when including all third part graded data, we can see that the red background card (#149) is actually nearly as scarce.  Thus, it's a question worth asking--is the yellow background card worth the approximate 20%+ premium versus the red background card when it only has a total of 46 less graded copies?

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Scarcity

Card #

PSA Pop

SGC Pop

BVG Pop

Total Pop

#144

1380

541

107

2028

#181

1120

477

79

1676

#149

1100

423

73

1596

#53

985

466

99

1550


Are The Goudey Ruth Cards Overvalued Or A Good Investment?

As we've discussed, the Ruth Goudey cards can get quite expensive, dependent on the overall condition of the card.  Yet, I encourage all vintage collectors to consider Ruth's playing day cards as one of the better longer term investments in the hobby

Even as baseball as a sport has declined in popularity with today's generation, there are some baseball cards that should forever remain in high demand.  If there is one player that should continue to see an appreciation in value, it's Babe Ruth.  

And as for the Goudey Ruth cards, these cards are among the most iconic cards in the hobby.  The cards are not necessarily rare, but at a total population of around 2000 or less for each, these cards are still fairly scarce. 

I look at the astronomical rise of more modern cards (such as Jordan's rookie) with multiples more of an existing population, and the Goudey Ruth's still look like an underappreciated asset. 

My recommendation for anyone looking to buy the card: pick the Goudey Ruth that you like the best, determine a budget and then try to get the best deal possible.

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