Lou Gehrig, known affectionately by fans as “The Iron Horse,” was one of the most popular professional baseball players of all time. Gehrig’s collectibles are extremely rare and desired by New York Yankees collectors for two reasons: He played in an era in which very few baseball cards were printed; and his tragic death at age 37 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that now bears his name, makes his autograph very uncommon.

Gehrig enjoyed an absolutely remarkable 17-year career with the New York Yankees. Though his contributions were often unappreciated because of the presence of teammate Babe Ruth, Gehrig's consistency and power made him one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Indeed, he got his nickname because he appeared in 2,130 consecutive games from 1925 to 1939 (he only stopped because of his debilitating disease), a record that stood until 1995, when it was broken by Cal Ripken, Jr.

The New York native made his Yankees debut in 1923. By the middle of the decade, Gehrig was considered the best first baseman in the league. Despite his success and fame, Gehrig didn't get his own mainstream baseball card until 1932, although this was largely due to the weak baseball-card market after World War I.

By the time U.S. Caramel released a Lou Gehrig card in ’32, Gehrig was at the top of his game. And even though the U.S. Caramel card is Gehrig's first, it is by no means his most popular, in part because it's difficult to find in high-grade due to toning problems and poor print quality.

Three Gehrig cards were published in 1933, one by DeLong and two by Goudey, which produced its first set that year. The DeLong card, which depicts a giant Gehrig finishing his sweet left-handed swing while standing on top of a miniature baseball field, is considered by many to be Gehrig’s most difficult card to find, and because of its very narrow borders, the card suffers from poor centering. The two Goudey cards, in comparison, are not quite as rare. Consequently, they are underrated by many collectors.

Lou Gehrig baseball cards reached their high point in 1934. That was the year Goudey released a set known to many collectors as the “Lou Gehrig set” because it featured the words “Lou Gehrig says…” on the front of each card, with a Gehrig quote on the back. Other players would have done well to listen to what Gehrig was saying as he had an amazing ’34 season, hitting .363 with 49 home runs and 165 runs batted in en route to winning the American League Triple Crown.

Gehrig was featured on two cards in that Goudey set, and they are largely considered his most popular cards, with #37 being the more popular of the two. It shows a close-up of Ge...

Through the first half of the 1938 season, Gehrig continued to produce for the Yankees and was well on his way to being the greatest player ever. Then, suddenly, Gehrig began to struggle. His difficulties carried into the 1939 season as well. It turns out that Gehrig’s problems were due to ALS, now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

On May 2, 1939, Gehrig took himself out of the lineup for the first time in 2,130 games. One of the most famous and collected photographs of Gehrig comes from that day in Detroit. It is a picture of Gehrig in the dugout, tears in his eyes as the fans applaud him for his streak. Shortly after that event, Gehrig informed Yankees’ manager, Joe McCarthy, that he was quitting baseball because he was no longer helping the team.

On June 19, Dr. Charles Mayo diagnosed Gehrig with ALS. He formally retired two days later. On July 4, the Yankees held Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, during which Gehrig uttered his famous line, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Pictures and statues of that emotional day are treasured by Yankees collectors.

By the end of the year, Gehrig had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a special election—the usual waiting period after retirement was waived for the sickly Iron Horse. Less than two years later, on June 2, 1941, Gehrig died.

During Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, the Yankees retired Gehrig’s #4, making him the first major-league player ever to have his number retired. Not surprisingly, game-worn Gehrig jerseys are highly collectible today, though they are maddeningly difficult to come by. Autographed Gehrig jerseys are even more desirable.

Despite the premature end to his career, Gehrig left baseball with some astronomical statistics. He was a career .340 hitter with 493 home runs, which placed him third all-time when he retired. He still holds the record for most career grand slams, 23.

Gehrig’s enduring popularity, which is reflected in the high prices for his collectibles, was reinforced in 1999 when he was the leading vote recipient for ESPN’s All-Century baseball team. To earn that distinction, Gehrig beat out teammate Babe Ruth. Photographs of Gehrig and Ruth together are very collectible, as are items autographed by both players or the entire Yankees team from the 1920s through the 1930s. Hall of Fame busts are also highly prized.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Iconic 1939 Original Photo Babe Ruth Hugs Lou Gehrig - The Famous Image !1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig #160 Sgc 20!! Beautiful Card!!1926 Original Photo The Finest Yankees Team Photo W/ Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig #160 Psa 31927 Vintage Photo Lou Gehrig Yankees Hail Young Gehrig The New Home Run King !Superb 1930's Original Photo Lou Gehrig With Bat - The Yankees Captain !1928 New York Yankees Team Signed Baseball Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig1933 Goudey 92 Lou Gehrig Rc1931 Original Photo Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig Yankees With Jackie MitchellIncredible 1930's Original Negative Lou Gehrig Yankees Batting By George BurkeImportant 1938 Original Photo Lou Gehrig At Bat Exploding From The Box !1930's Original Negative Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Batting By George BurkeLou Gehrig Statue- Esco 1993 Chalkware- Sculpture- New York Yankees1930 Original Photo Lou Gehrig New York Yankees W/ Mother2013 Topps Triple Threads Book 14 Piece Jersey Bat Mattingly Jeter Gehrig 7/181930's Associated Press Photo Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Batting1939 Original Photo Babe Ruth & The 1927 Yankees To Honor Lou Gehrig CaptainLou Gehrig 2001 Leaf Certified = Fabric Of The Game Jersey - Sp - Yankees - Fg-1Famous Sluggers Of 1930 Baseball Book W/ Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig On Cover *4900871928 Wire Photo New York Yankees With Ruth & Gehrig - World Series Champions1948 Swell Sports Thrills-#14 Lou Gehrig,new York Yankees Hof, Sgc 60/5 StunningExceptional 1936 Original Photo Lou Gehrig New York Yankees PortraitLou Gehrig 2002 The Danbury Mint Statue Figurine 8" New York Yankees Hof1931 Original Photo Lou Gehrig New York Yankees W/ Hockey Stick On Ice !2 Hr Sgc Lou Gehrig 6-10 7 Rbi 8-20-1933 Ny Yankees Ticket Stub WhitesoxRare 1929 Original Photo Lou Gehrig New York Yankees As A Stock Broker Banker !1936 Louisville Slugger Famous Sluggers Baseball Yearbook - Lou Gehrig Mel OttSuperb 1937 Original Photo New York Yankees Team W/ Lou Gehrig & Joe DimaggioTopps Bunt 2014 Lou Gehrig Die-cut Signature Card1970 Bobby Murcer 4 Straight Hrs Ties Lou Gehrig Record Game Used Ticket StubLot (15) 1970 's Topps Star W/ Carew Aparicio Gehrig Griffey Psa 8 Nm-mt1934 Goudey Baseball Card Wax Wrapper Lou Gehrig New York YankeesLou Gehrig Vintage New York Yankees Photo Framed To 13x15 Deceased Hof2007 Sp Legendary Cuts Lou Gehrig Reel History 1/1 New York Yankees1928 Baseball Magazine Bound All 12 Issues Babe Ruth-lou Gehrig-jim Bottomley &Mcfarlane Cooperstown Collection Series 6 - Lou Gehrig New York Yankees2010 Topps Chrome Wrapper Redemption Refractor #223 Lou Gehrig Bgs 10 Pristine1939 Original Photo Lou Gehrig 1st Breaks His Bad News To Joe Mccarthy YankeesVintage Lou Gehrig And Babe Ruth Golden Era Nodders ($1,000) Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig Original 1973 Old & Vintage Mint & RareLou Gehrig Ny Yankees Limited-edition Bobblehead Collectible #2 Sga 7/2/141937 Original Photo Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Shaving For Movie Role1976 Topps Star Lot Of (9) W/ Gehrig Griffey Phillips Foster Psa 9 Mint1962 Topps Lou Gehrig And Babe Ruth Special #140 Yankees Set Break ~ Psa 8 Nm-mt1962 Topps Set Break #140 Babe Ruth/lou Gehrig Ex-exmint F30638 Gg310 1984 Renata Galasso Baseball Collector Series Sets - Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle($500) Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig 1973 Vintage Smithsonian Lot Diamonds Graded 10Sweet Spot Joe Dimaggio Amd Lou Gehrig 47/502012 National Treasures League Leaders Paul Waner Lou Gehrig Dual Bat 07/25($300) Lou Gehrig & Dimaggio 1979 Black & White Old & Vintage Graded1939 Original Photo Lou Gehrig Yankees New York City Parole Commission Nypd !1930's Original Photo Babe Dahlgren With Bat Yankees Replaced Lou Gehrig5 1973 Topps Baseball # 472 Lou Gehrig All-time Grand Slam Leader Cards2014 Topps Bunt Marathon Lot Of 4. Rivera, Gehrig, Valenzuela And HendersonLou Gehrig_new York Yankees_sketch Card Print_5/241961 Topps #405 Lou Gehrig Benched Yankees (vg/ex) *4984872013 Topps Archives Lou Gehrig Gallery Of Heroes Card # Gh-lg(87) Un-used/used Ticket Stubs. Lou Gehrig/vintage Stamps Included. No ReserveVintage Lou Gehrig Louisville Slugger 40 Miniature Souvenir Bat 16" Vgc 1962 Topps ~ Gehrig And Ruth # 140 ~ Psa 5 ~ Set Break ~