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    

2015 Panini Immaculate Colletion Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig Patch 3/3 #2 (pwcc)Really Old Antique Baseball With Signature Gehrig??2014 Classics Lou Gehrig Joe Dimaggio Quad Jersey Bat #5/5 YankeesVintage Original Type 1 Photo The 1927 Yankees Team Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig + 5 Hof1934 Goudey 61 Lou Gehrig Psa 2Cal Ripken Jr. 2131 Game Used Signed Baseball W/ Umpires Iron Man Gehrig Jsa Coa1933 Goudey Baseball #92 Lou Gehrig Sgc 10 Poor (1)) Hof YankeesTriple Threads Yankees Berra Gehrig Jeter Bat Jersey Patch Book 3/9 1/1 Break2014 National Treasures Lou Gehrig Gu Bat Relic 8/25 Hof Yankees2015 Panini Immaculate Williams Musial Clemente Gehrig /10 Game Worn Patch Bat 12006 Legendary Cuts Guaranteed Cut Auto Signature Hot Pack Ruth Mantle Gehrig?2015 Panini Immaculate Quad Gu Hof Ted Williams Clemente Lou Gehrig Musial 3/101969-70 Bazooka Panels #7 Complete Box Bvg 8 Nm-mt Ty Cobb Lou Gehrig2005 Legendary Cuts Guaranteed Cut Auto Signature Hot Pack Ruth Mantle Gehrig?2007 Legendary Cuts Guaranteed Cut Auto Signature Hot Pack Ruth Mantle Gehrig?1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig New York Yankees #92 Baseball Card No Reserve Auction1961 Fleer Baseball Cards Card Partial Set Run Lot Ruth Gehrig Hornsby Foxx Cobb1960 Fleer Lou Gehrig #28 Sgc 7.5/86 Nrmt+ (pwcc)26 1973 Topps Hof-stars Lot Ex+ Rose B Robby Palmer Carlton Gehrig Bench Hunter1960's New York Yankees Old Timer's Pennant - Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig Joe DimaggioLou Gehrig Signed Baseball Bat2004 Ud Yankee Legends Timeless Teams Booklet Ruth Gehrig Mantle Dimaggio #4/5 2006 Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig Hartland Baseball Figurine - New York Yankees2012 Topps New York Yankees Retired Numbers Patch Lot X*4*mantle*gehrig*maris*1935 Goudey Gum Premium New York Yankee Team Photo Lou Gehrig,bill DickeyOn The Record Lou Gehrig Authentic Game Worn Jersey Baseball CardSporting Life "t-size Pirate Cigarette Series"- Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees~lou Gehrig New York Yankees! Little League Pin Pins Baseball2015 Panini Etched In Cooperstown Sapphire Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig 6/101969 New York Yankees Old Timer's Pennant - B Ruth,l Gehrig,j Dimaggio,m Mantle1960 Fleer Mid-hi Grd Nr Complete Set Gehrig Cobb Lajoie Mathewson Bender (pwcc)2015 Immaculate Accolades Lou Gehrig Bat #10/25 Rare!!!2015 Topps Triple Threads Lou Gehrig Black Parallel Base Sp /50 Ny Yankees1972 Kellogg's All Time Greats Atg Complete Set Ruth Gehrig Cobb All Psa 9!Mcfarlane Mlb Cooperstown Collection Lou Gehrig Series*8*new York Yankees*sealed1953 Brown & Bigelow Playing Cards Lou Gehrig 10 Of Spades Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)9/12/1936 Yankees V Tigers Ticket Stub Joe D Rookie - Gehrig Streak & 2 Hit Game($500) Lou Gehrig Original Red 1973 Vintage Card Graded 10 "pristine" Yankees($300) Dimaggio, Foxx, & Lou Gehrig 1979 Old & Vintage Black & White Graded 9 1960 Fleer #28 Lou Gehrig Baseball Card, No Reserve!5/21/1939 Yankees Stub - Dickey Hr - Lou Gehrig Out Indefinitely (als) *psa Auth1953 Brown & Bigelow Playing Cards Lou Gehrig 6 Of Spades Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig New York Yankees #37 Baseball CardLou Gehrig 219/230 2004 Ud Sweet Spot Classic Patch 1933 All Star GameLou Gehrig #8 Sketch Card Limited 4/9 Edward Vela Signed1961 Topps Lou Gehrig Benched After 2,130 Games #405 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Really Old Antique Baseball With Signature Gehrig??1973 Topps Baseball #472 All Time Grand Slam Leaders Lou Gehrig Near Mint+ Dr Jim Stamps Us Lou Gehrig Iron Horse Fdc Artmaster Baseball Cover 19891935 Reach Official American League Baseball Guide Fantastic Lou Gehrig CoverSeagram's 7 Crown Whiskey Advertising Mirrors Ty Cobb & Lou Gehrig Baseball MlbBabe Ruth & Lou Gehrig Sketch Card Hand Signed By Artist David Lee - Serial 2/10Topps 40-card Lot G-vg Boyer Pepitone Gehrig Hornsby Pascual Bouton Yaz 1965 Hi#Lou Gehrig Legendary Flannel Topps Bunt Digital Card 10 1984 Renata Galasso Baseball Collector Series Sets - Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle1962 Topps Gehrig And Ruth #140 Nrmt Set Break2015 Topps Tribute Lou Gehrig Refractor Parallel #/502015 Panini Diamond Kings 53 Card Mini Sp Lot No Dupes Ruth Gehrig Ryan Rookies2015 Topps Triple Threads Lou Gehrig Gold Version Card #'d/99 - YankeesHobby Box 2015 Panini Cooperstown Baseball Gehrig? Cobb? Ruth ? Autos Per Box