The 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth cards have been on absolute fire of late, with the Lou Gehrig cards (there are two) from the same set not too far behind.
I often get inspiration for new counterfeit resource guides from the questions coming in to me. And I’ve had a lot of requests for help of late in authenticating Goudey Ruth cards, with many of them ending up being outright fakes.
So, in yet another attempt to help fellow collectors avoid getting scammed, this guide is all you need to know in distinguishing a fake Goudey Ruth or Gehrig from the real deal. To note, the Goudeys can be among the toughest to distinguish in the hobby due to some better than average reprints.
Also, one quick point too. I’m not going to get every authentication question right. Especially when dealing with only photos. Sometimes, just the wrong angle or the wrong light can make a card look questionable from a photo. So, all of this to say, buy a loupe and read this article!
And…one last thing I need to get off my chest. Often times the game of authentication (especially when not done in person) is a game of weighing the red flags. For example, if a raw card is selling for only a small discount versus a graded copy, and there is even one small concern, forget about it. Why take the risk? And if you are dealing with the same question from a seller on eBay with questionable feedback…move on!
Of course, once again, if you have any questions on a Goudey Ruth or Gehrig you might have, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
There are different nuances between the various fake Ruth and Gehrig cards, so I will walk through each one individually. However let me first start off with just a few notes. When dealing with non-authentic Goudey cards, there are usually some well-known examples that will try to be sold as the real deal.
The most common are from the Renata Galasso reprint set from 1984 in which the word 'reprint' is written on the bottom back of the card. Here's a #53 Ruth Galasso reprint. I've circled on the back where the Galasso text is.
Note that some of the Galasso reprints have the word 'Reprint 1984' on the bottom of the card. Some scammers will try to age these old reprint cards, while also trying to scuff or remove the reprint text from the back of the card.
Note there was also another reprint set from Charlie Brooks in the 1970's based on some of my research, yet the text on the back of the cards is black, whereas it should be a dark forest like green. There are no markings on those cards indicating that it is a reprint.
There was also a Dover Reprint set produced in the 1970's but is of a poorer quality and typically a lot easier to spot. It does say 'Dover Reprint' on the back of the card.
Aside from the known reprints, there are other counterfeit cards, which are either aged reprints, or just poorly designed photocopies of the original card. We will examine those more in detail. Some end up in fake or really bad third party grading holders.
Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey #144
This is the most common of the Goudey Ruth counterfeits and thankfully there are a few easy signs to help distinguish.
First let's take a look at the front and back of an authentic Goudey #144 Ruth:
Now here is a common counterfeit version of the #144 card. I've circled the areas where there is a significant difference versus the real thing:
Review Of Key Identifiers on an Authentic #144 Goudey Ruth
#1: On authentic #144, there should be a space to the left of the 'G' in George. You can see on this fake, the G is hitting the left white border.
#2: There also should be a space between the top of Ruth's hat and the top white border. As shown there is no space on the fake #144.
#3: This is a common area to check and isn't always foolproof, but on this variation of the card, where the print is lighter, there is less color and overall detail on the roof.
#4: The grass---compare the authentic to the fake and you'll notice that the grass is missing the appropriate green color and detail. This is a good spot to take your loupe and you would likely notice a difference in detailed print there in the grass.
#5: The red rectangular box on the bottom of the card will overlap into the white borders on the authentic Goudey #144. On the common fakes, the red border is in line with the edges. See below for the real example.
Now here's a look at the back of this same counterfeit:
You can just see on the fake above that there is a significant lack of clarity in the print. You can especially key in on some of the letters with holes, such as 'a' and 'o' which have very poor print quality on the fake. If you looked at this under a loupe there would be a lot of fuzziness whereas the authentic Ruth would show solid green colors. I've provided a look at the back of the authentic #144 again for comparison.
Another common red flag, is the lack of an ink bleed on the back of the card, which often shows through some of the red from the front. Now this is not always going to be a fool proof method and we can see on the authentic card above that there is no ink bleed on the back of the card. Here is what that would look like:
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There is another common fake #144 Ruth that I've seen popping up quite a bit that is a bit different. This one is shown below. Now this Ruth actually fulfills some of the criteria that I outlined above for a real #144 Ruth. There is a gap at the top of his head, there is a space to the left of the G, there is more color and clarity.
But there are some notable issues here. First, the print is too dark. We can just look at the text at the top of the card and compare it to the real deal.
Here's the real text:
And then we see how dark and bold it is on the fake card below. In addition, check out the red nameplate at the bottom front of the card. There is no indent on the left hand side. Also the borders, especially near the corners looks like they have been recently trimmed and the corners are way too white.
The print of the back of the card is also too dark and not as crisp on the original. A loupe to examine the text would be a big help.
I'm also starting to see a lot of fake autographed Goudey Ruth's being advertised as authentic. If you see an autographed Ruth Goudey card on eBay (or elsewhere) that has not been authenticated, it is guaranteed to be a fake.
Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey #53 & #149
To start, here are authentic Goudey Ruth's #53 and #149
So there is one noticeable difference between these two cards.
Can you spot it?
Getting back to that red rectangular box on the bottom of the card that contains text 'Big League Chewing Gum'.
On the #53 Ruth, the red box is indented on the left (similar to #144) and overlapping on the right (also similar to #144).
In addition, see the white spacing between the red box and the bottom of the Ruth image. See below:
Now here's a look at the #149. Can you see the difference?
The left hand side of the box actually overlaps into the white border as does the right hand side.
Now in examining the known fakes, the ones that usually seem to trip people up are the aged reprints, such as this one below:
The box alignment is good, but you can just see those little wrinkles all over the card as a sure sign that this card was soaked in something to age it artificially.
Here's another fake #53 that I came across on eBay. The seller actually sold this for $1900 and it is now relisted--since the buyer probably received the card, freaked out and returned it.
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So, you might be looking at the card above and wondering what's wrong? It's a pretty good fake, although you will see the funky peeling on the borders, which looks completely unnatural. The peeling at that bottom right corner actually unveils the newer white paper. **(side note--You could also take a black light to this card to show that it will most definitely fluoresce due to the newer paper)
BUT, let's say you couldn't figure that all out. Here's what you MUST be doing in order to try and piece together the scammer puzzle. PLEASE, closely examine the seller's past listings, past feedback and other current listings.
I did this and found that not only did this seller have this Goudey Ruth for sale but two other legendary cards, including another fake Goudey! And they all have the same signature forced corner wear and border manipulation.
As Joe Biden might say---"C'mon man!"
Here's what the seller had to say:"I have inherited this lot of 3 cards. I have no indication that it is not the real deal based on appearance, and previous owner. As far as I know this card has never been graded. I do not want to wait the expected 12-16 weeks to get card graded-just want my initial costs back"
Ok let's play detective here for a second. He/she inherited these cards. Doesn't want to wait the 12-16 weeks to grade over $10K worth of cards. And since they inherited these cards (at zero cost), they need to get their 'initial costs back'? Dos that make any sense? Nope.
Note here is also a #53 in a fake holder. Seeing a lot more of these popup.
As far as the #149 Goudey Ruth is concerned, here is one that might fool most people:. Unfortunately the image isn't all that clear, but you can see the white bleeding through on the top left corner and the sort of consistent 'spotchiness' all over the card, with the intentions to make this card look dirty.
But, again, we can also examine the listing description, which is basically echoing what many of the scammers will try to say:
"I acquired this card (among thousands of others) recently through a storage auction sale. The previous owner had hundreds of boxes of cards, mostly vintage and some modern. A few cards were graded, but most were not. I do not know the history or authenticity of the card with 100% certainty."
Yeah yah yeah, sure you don't know it's authentic....just like the other fake cards you are selling (see below), including two 52 Topps Mantles.
Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey #181
Here's an authentic #181 Goudey Ruth.
Here is an example of one of the more common fake #181 Ruth cards. This one could trick many collectors and many of these have sold for multiple thousands on eBay to unwitting buyers. The colors are close, albeit a bit bold, but the real tell comes down to the back of the card itself.
Note the dark strikes of the text compared to the original above which has smooth, yet bold print. More of a darker forest green versus the normal green on the regular card. Plus the text is not very consistently printed, as you can see some missing strokes and lack of clarity. Not the corner edges are also very consistent with artificial aging.
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Lou Gehrig 1933 Goudey Cards #92, #160
Let's first take a look at the two Gehrig cards in the Goudey set. These are authentic copies of #92 and #160 of Lou Gehrig.
Now here is an authentic #160 Gehrig card. Note there are subtle differences between the two. Gehrig #92 tends to have whiter borders and a darker blue background.
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Similar to the Ruth Goudey cards, there are some of the same identifiers that can help in spotting a fake Lou Gehrig Goudey card. We've provided a quick guide here on some of the common identifiers:
Review Of Key Identifiers on Authentic 1933 Gehrig Cards
1. There should always be a small space at the top of Gehrig's head between his hat and the top border.
2. There is a little bit of the bat, more of a yellowish hue that hangs into the top border.
3. The brown infield dirt overflows into the left border.
4. Similar to all of the Goudey Ruth's the bottom red border is not perfectly square with the side borders.
So here's a common fake Gehrig that meets none of the above criteria. This would be classified as an 'aged reprint' and has the common wrinkles associated with such. Note that this card also sold for over $200 on eBay!
Authenticating PRO TIP!
If you are dead set on buying a raw Goudey Ruth or Gehrig, do yourself a favor and buy a few Goudey commons to get a feel for the paper, the texture and the print. Examine the real card with a loupe to see the defining print characteristics. Then when you have the big dollar cards in your hand, you can quickly evaluate to see if what you purchased is indeed authentic.
Here's another counterfeit which DOES meet all the criteria as outlined above. Note this one also sold for over $400 on eBay.
But the telltale sign here is the spider wrinkling which again indicates that a scammer has soaked the card to age it artificially.
The back also shows us that this paper is likely the wrong stock and that the print looks way too dark/bold.
I really hope this guide will help just a few people avoid the counterfeit cards that continue to infiltrate our hobby.
I would be happy to help you authenticate your cards. Also if you come across any good fakes, let me know and I'll be happy to add them to this resource guide.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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