By Amar Shah
Nancy Anderson laid the cards next to her father for the last time.
"I said, 'Thank you for saving them,'" Nancy recalls, choking up. "He told me before he died, 'Whatever you do, make sure that you keep these baseball cards with you. You can sell them. But just make sure that you keep them and don't throw them out. They're valuable. They're worth lots of money.' And I had no idea they were worth what they were. So, I never got rid of them."
Nancy heeded her father's advice as she laid out his expansive collection of 1933 and 1934 Goudey cards.
Her father, Robert, was born in 1921 in Chicago, just two years after the Black Sox scandal. He was also a White Sox fan. His dad, Nancy's grandfather, was a steeplechase rider. According to Nancy, Robert moved more than 15 times to places like Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He was a die-hard baseball fan, and the best way to make friends was through collecting.
"My dad had to make new friends," Nancy says. "And baseball cards were probably something that kids could talk about and trade."
Founded by Enos Gordon Goudey, the Goudey Gum Company produced two back-to-back sets upon their entrance onto the trading-card scene: a 240-card set in 1933 (though one card - the Napoleon Lajoie - was an early redemption card of sorts and was actually produced in 1934 for collectors to mail away to the company in order to receive it) and 96 cards in 1934. They featured legends such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. Robert bought and traded them as a boy.
"When you're a kid, you probably don't pay as much attention to their quality," Nancy said. "So some of the cards were obviously a little worn. I think their grading suffered a bit because of that. But they're authentic."
As a child of the Depression, Robert saved everything. It was when Nancy was older that she saw the cards.
"They were tucked away until I became an adult," she said. "And then he started showing me the cards, and I didn't think much of them because I'm not into baseball; I'm more of a basketball girl. But for him, it was like reliving his childhood. So he was really proud of the cards."
Though she wasn't a collector, Nancy was a graphic designer, and the Goudey set is known for its aesthetic appeal and distinctive style.
"They're really unique," Nancy said. "They're very colorful. The illustrations are bold; they're not photographs by any means. That's what I loved about them as a graphic designer. The typeface they used is very much from that Art Deco era. So I really enjoyed looking at them."
Nancy said her dad had the cards appraised 15 years ago.
"And that's when he told me they're valuable," Nancy said. "Don't throw them out. They're worth money."
Her father told her that she had something special if she ever wanted to sell them.
Nancy discussed selling the cards with her son and her mother.
"She was very happy," Nancy recalls. “She said, ‘Oh, that's wonderful. I hope you get a lot of money for them. Dad really enjoyed the cards. And you know, he's gone. There's not much you can do with them other than take them out and look at them.’”
For Nancy, it was time to let go. In June, Nancy consigned her dad's collection to REA. That included a 1933 Goudey partial set with 154 different of the 240 cards and a smaller group of twenty 1934 Goudeys. The highlights of the collection included three Babe Ruths, with the highest sale among them being the 1933 #149 Ruth graded PSA 2 selling for $14,400, as well as three Lou Gehrigs and several other Hall of Famers.
"So I made that choice," Nancy said. "And that was a little bit of him that left me, so that was a little sad. But it was like his swan song. He gave me extra money to pay for whatever I needed or to put away for my retirement. And it was just really nice to let them go to someone who values them more than I do."
Her dad wouldn't want it any other way.
Amar Shah is a multiple Emmy-winning writer and producer who has written for ESPN.com, NFL.com, The Wall Street Journal, The Orlando Sentinel, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Slam Magazine and The Washington Post. In the 90s, Amar was a teen sports reporter and got to hang out with the Chicago Bulls during their golden era. He even landed on the cover for Sports Illustrated for Kids with Shaquille O’Neal. His debut novel "The Hoop Con" comes out on February 6, 2024 with Scholastic. You can preorder here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hoop-con-amar-shah/1143287376?ean=9781338840315