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Like the world famous T206 Honus Wagner and 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball cards, the infamous 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie card is a veritable American icon, a symbol not just of the cherished pastime the card itself sought to represent, but a vestige of something else entirely, of a time when baseball and other picture cards dominated the imaginations of both children and more than a few adults across the depression-ravaged country, the downtrodden who were instructed to "chomp away" their blues as they collected as many of these enchanting and immensely colorful cards as they possibly could. Indeed, for countless fans of the game throughout the 1930s, this activity would supplant newspapers and even radios as the next best thing to actually seeing retired and veteran superstars like Larry Lajoie and Babe Ruth and up-and-comers like Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in person. Identified by Joe Orlando in his book The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby as "one of the hobby's ultimate rarities and most recognizable images," the 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie is as steeped in hobby and historical lore as any card ever produced. Riding the success of his 1932 and 1933 Indian Chewing Gum, in 1933 Enos Goudey switched production to what would become one of the most famous baseball card sets of all time, Big League Chewing Gum, a supposedly 240-card illustrated issue depicting baseball's best players in the richest and wildest colors imaginable, placing the set, as Dave Jamieson writes in his recent book, Mint Condition, "among the most artfully designed and collectible baseball cards ever produced." What collectors need constantly bear in mind, however, is the fact the Great Depression essentially coincided with the production of Big League Chewing Gum, making for an "odd time," Jamieson writes," to sink $50,000 into cardboard. As the Depression gripped the country and baseball endured its toughest season in decades, Jamieson continues, "Goudey's one-cent gum-and-baseball-card packs provided a link to the game at a time when a trip to the ballpark was too great an expense for many." From 1932 to 1933, as the Depression set in, Goudey's sales multiplied from $335,000 to $1.47 million, famously earning him the moniker of the "Penny Gum King" from William Wrigley, who may very well have called him something else entirely were he privy to some of the tactics employed by Goudey to create customer loyalty. Although slated as a 240-card set, not one person in 1933, no matter how many hundreds or even thousands of penny packs he purchased, was able to complete the set, since card #106 Napoleon Lajoie was never intended to exist. As Dave Jamieson further explains, "Goudey excluded the Lajoie card knowing that the average boy would buy pack after pack of gum in a futile attempt to find it... To all appearance, Goudey exploited the child's quest for completion as well as anyone could have." And so the reason this 1933 Goudey example of that missing card #106 bears the design of Goudey's 1934 product is, not surprisingly, because the company didn't act until 1934 to correct the foul play on card #106, printing a limited quantity and then mailing a card to any collector that had formally complained in writing. Unfortunately, most of today's hobbyists believe that the cards came paper-clipped to a note or advertisement of some sort, leaving strong indentations that diminish most of the MINT seeming cards to grades of EX/MT or even lower. Offered in this lot is a prominent PSA 8 NM/MT example that somehow managed to escape the scourges of the clip, so much so, in fact, that it would perhaps contend for a grade of MINT were its self-evident centering just a fraction more astute. Corners are sound but not perfect, rating between NM/MT and NM/MT+, while the edges show only some characteristic NM/MT roughness on the reverse top, with strong NM/MT+ to MINT features elsewhere. Inspecting the interior, we are enchanted by the impressive saturation of the lime green hue of the backdrop, and we are even more enthralled to find a noticeably sharp image of the very highest order. In fact, some tolerable and characteristic microdots of print dust on the obverse appear to be the only print qualities that may, or may not, be tolerated on an example graded MINT overall; it's somewhat difficult to say, so domineering and high-grade are the colors and other print components of the card. Just take a look at the back: bold as bold can possibly be, and nearly immaculate, to boot! A centerpiece in any museum-grade collection, this long-cherished example is one of only 7 examples to ever make NM/MT 8 from PSA and hails from our break-up of the fifth finest 1933 Goudey PSA Set Registry ever assembled--card #106 is indeed included on that Registry--and comes with our very sincerest recommendation. If the lingering Great Recession still has you down these days, then perhaps it's time to chomp away your blues with a winning bid on this elusive Goudey masterpiece.
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