3 AND 2 BASEBALL CARDS

The tradition of baseball cards being inserted into packs of cigarettes and chewing gum started in the late 19th century as a marketing gimmick by tobacco companies to attract new customers. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the modern baseball card began to take shape. In 1931, the American Tobacco Company began inserting packs of cards featuring current major league players into their cigarette brands. These early cards are known as “tobacco era” cards.

In 1933, the Goudey Gum Company began including baseball cards in packs of gum. These colorful cards featured vibrant artwork and photos on the front with player stats and information on the back. The 1933 Goudey set is one of the most popular and valuable sets from the early 20th century. In 1934 and 1935, Goudey produced cards with a unique size and printing format – the now iconic “3 and 2” size and style.

The 1934 and 1935 Goudey baseball cards were printed with dimensions of approximately 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches, giving them the nickname “3 and 2” size. This was smaller than the standard size cards produced before and after by most other companies. The cards also had a distinctive blue border on the front with a white or gray border on the back. Within the borders were black and white photos or artwork of the players.

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Why Goudey chose to produce cards in this unique smaller size and format in 1934 and 1935 is unknown. Some speculate it was done to cut costs and fit more cards into each pack of gum. The distinctive look and rarity of these sets has made the 3 and 2 cards highly coveted by collectors today. Only about 300-400 of the estimated 600 total cards produced in the two sets are known to still exist in high grade condition.

The 1934 set had 109 cards featuring players from the American and National Leagues. Some of the stars featured included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Dizzy Dean. The 1935 set was slightly smaller with 101 cards but also included stars of the era like Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and Bill Terry. Both sets had multiple players per team shown, with batting and fielding stats on the backs. The photo quality and production was an improvement over earlier tobacco era issues.

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While production of the 3 and 2 size cards was short-lived, collectors today consider them some of the most iconic vintage baseball cards ever made. Their small size makes them stand out in collections. The vibrant colors, photos, and distinctive borders also give them a very retro, nostalgic feel. Perhaps most importantly, their extreme scarcity has made high grade examples of these cards highly valuable. A 1934 Goudey card of Lou Gehrig in near mint condition could be worth over $50,000. A perfect gem mint Babe Ruth from 1934 might bring six figures at auction.

Even common players featured in the 1934 and 1935 3 and 2 sets command big prices today for high quality specimens. Simply owning any card from these sets in good condition is a major accomplishment for most collectors. The small print runs and the fact they were designed to be given out as promotions over 80 years ago means the vast majority have not survived intact until today. Condition is absolutely critical to their value. Any creases, bends, or wear bring prices down dramatically.

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While the 3 and 2 cards were produced for just two short years in the 1930s, their distinctive size, colorful design, and incredible rarity have made them legendary in the world of baseball memorabilia collecting. Today they represent the early evolution of the modern baseball card and remain hugely popular with both casual fans and advanced collectors. Even in the internet age where information and images of these classic cards are widely available, there is nothing quite like owning an original 1934 or 1935 Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, or Jimmie Foxx in your collection. They are truly some of the most iconic pieces of American popular culture memorabilia ever made.

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