Saturday, May 18, 2013

Goudey sales figures offer limited insight

Those who have been following this blog for the past two weeks have seen the results of my cursory study of baseball card bubblegum sales as reported in a 1965 decision by the Federal Trade Commission on allegations of anti-trust violations by Topps.

If you haven't already done so, I urge you to read the posting of May 12, wherein I presented the background of the FTC document and some caveats concerning its application to the hobby today.

In laying out the history of baseball cards sold with bubblegum, the FTC examiner in the Topps case dug up -- lord only knows where -- sales figures from the Goudey Gum Co. for the years 1933-1942.

The numbers presented in the FTC report were already 20-30 years old, and they were categorized in a manner differing from the Topps and Bowman reports. Still, they offer insights into baseball card sales -- and by extension baseball card production -- during Goudey's years in that market.

Notice that the Goudey sales chart has only three columns.

Total Sales are presumed to be company's gross wholesale receipts. I'm not sure what other "non-card" products, if any, Goudey may have offered in that era, but they may have had other confectionery items on the shelves besides bubblegum. 

Let's assume that the "Gum Alone" column presents sales of Goudey gum that was sold without accompanying baseball or non-sports cards.

That leaves the column titled "Baseball Packs." This column raises several questions. Foremost among them is what the sales reported in that column actually comprised, because in some of those years Goudey didn't offer its line of Big League Gum cards traditionally sold with bubblegum.

In 1939, for instance, Goudey's only baseball products were the premium photos (designated in the American Card catalog as R303-A and R303-B) that were distributed at candy store counters as wrapper redemptions. Goudey had no baseball products at all in 1940 or in 1942, yet sales are reported for Baseball Packs in all those years.

And, in the years when Goudey offered both baseball cards and premiums -- 1935-1937 -- do the Baseball Packs figures include only the standard baseball card bubblegum packs, or were the sales of gum that included premium redemptions rolled in? And how were sales of the flip-book movies Thum Movies and Big League Baseball Movies accounted for? Those novelty products were not packaged with bubblegum.

Similarly, are the Canadian sales of World Wide Gum bubblegum baseball cards included in the Baseball Packs column, the Total Sales column, or not all all?

Also unmentioned in the FTC decision was Goudey's sales of non-sports bubblegum cards throughout that span. It has long been accepted within the hobby that Goudey's Indian Chewing Gum and Horrors of War far outsold its baseball cards. If we subtract the Baseball Packs and Gum Alone columns from the Total Sales column, it is reasonable to assume that the remainder represented non-sports sales for that year? 

My eye was drawn to the Baseball Packs column because it seems to offer a reasonably clear picture of relative sales (and thus, production numbers) among the years that Goudey marketed its Big League Gum baseball cards.

Using 1933 as the base year, when Big League Gum was Goudey's only baseball card product, it can be seen that sales dropped by more than half in 1934. This was probably the result of the deepening of the Depression, and the fact that Goudey's card set dropped from 240 player cards in 1933 to just 96 cards in 1934.

In 1935, baseball card sales were again nearly halved, perhaps reflecting contemporary dissatisfaction with the 4-on-1 concept and puzzle backs, as opposed to the traditional format on a single player on front and a stats-heavy biography on back. 

For 1936, when Goudey issued a game-back card set of just 25 player cards -- in black-and-white no less -- sales in the category declined another 18 percent. In 1937, Goudey dropped player pictures entirely with its Knot Hole Game set and "Baseball Packs" sales plummeted to $36,000, a decline of more than 60 percent.

When Goudey returned to the use of baseball player pictures with its set known to today's collectors as Heads Up, sales more than doubled, even though only 24 players were included in the series. 

Before presenting the Goudey sales chart, let me summarize the baseball and non-sports bubblegum cards that were issued each year.

baseball -- Big League Gum, R309-1 wrapper redemption premiums
non-sport -- Indian, Sea Raiders, World War, Soldier Boys, Boy Scouts
(where Goudey accounted for sales of its multi-sport Sport Kings cards is unknown)

baseball -- Big League Gum, R309-1 wrapper redemption premiums
non-sport -- Indian, World War

baseball -- Big League Gum (4-on-1), R309-2 premiums
non-sport -- Indian, G-Men and Heroes of the Law, Mickey Mouse, Film Funnies

baseball -- Big League Gum (game cards), "Wide Pen" premiums
non-sport -- Indian, G-Men and Heroes of the Law

baseball -- Knot Hole Game, Thum Movies, Wide Pen premiums
non-sport -- Indian, Wild West

baseball -- Big League Gum (Heads Up), Big League Baseball Movies
non-sport -- Indian, Auto License Plates, Action Gum

baseball -- R303-A, R303-B premiums
non-sport -- Indian, World in Arms, War News

baseball -- none
non-sport -- Indian, Superman, Lone Ranger

baseball -- Big League Gum
non-sport -- War Gum


baseball -- none
non-sport -- War Gum

All of this provides interesting food for thought, analysis and speculation. You're welcome to share your findings by emailing me at scbcguy(at)yahoo(dot)com.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments, criticism, additional information, questions, etc., are welcome . . . as long as they are germane to the original topic. All comments are moderated before they are allowed to appear and spam comments are deleted before they ever appear. No "Anonymous User" comments are allowed.