1943 was a pivotal year for baseball cards as it marked several notable changes from previous years. The wartime paper shortages greatly impacted production, leading to far fewer cards being printed compared to the late 1930s. Goudey and Topps were the only two companies to produce cards that year, and sets were significantly scaled back in size with no team or player photos. Understanding the rarity and value of 1943 cards requires examining the sets and notable cards from that year.
The most famous 1943 set is the Goudey set, which had only 75 total cards compared to over 200 in previous Goudey issues. The design featured colorful patriotic borders and player stats on the front with no photos. On the back was a small black and white image and additional stats. This simplicity was a direct result of paper rationing during World War 2. The Goudey set is also notable as being the final high quality issue produced by the company before they exited the baseball card market.
Condition and centering are critical in determining Goudey 1943 value since the thin cardboard stock was prone to damage even when new. Common cards in poor condition may sell for under $10 while the same cards in near mint to mint condition can reach $100-200. The true keys to high value are the short print and star player cards. Short prints like Enos Slaughter and Phil Rizzuto in top grades can sell for $500-1000. The true crown jewels though are the legends of the era in their rookie cards from 1943 Goudey – Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Bob Feller. Near mint examples of these rookie cards routinely sell at auction for $5000-10000.
The other 1943 set was produced by Bowman Gum, later renamed Topps, as they gained the rights to produce baseball cards that year. Their set had only 21 total cards compared to over 100 in previous years. Like Goudey, photos were omitted for simplicity. The cardboard stock was of much lower quality and the designs were not as finely detailed. As a result, Topps 1943 cards are considerably more common in any grade than their Goudey counterparts. Even so, the legendary rookie cards of Musial, Feller, and Williams also appear in the Topps set and can reach $1000-2000 in top condition.
While not true sets, there were also several promotional issues released in 1943 due to the paper shortages. Red Man produced an unlicensed 25 card tobacco insert set with similar design to Goudey but even thinner cardboard. Pinnacle also did a 16 card baseball related cigarette premium issue. Both of these sets can contain the same star rookies as the Goudey and Topps issues. They are considerably more plentiful in any grade and common players may only be worth $5-10 even in mint condition.
When valuing 1943 baseball cards, there are several factors to consider beyond just condition and player. The huge difference in production numbers between Goudey and Topps make the former significantly rarer in high grades. The lack of photos also means centering is more important, as poor centering looks very noticeable on the simple designs. Rarity of certain players also impacts value, as the short prints from Goudey command higher prices. And of course, the rookie cards of all-time greats like Williams, Musial, and Feller will always hold premium value regardless of set due to their historical significance. Understanding these key differences is essential for accurately pricing the iconic 1943 issues that were baseball’s response to a world at war.