Babe Ruth Rookie Card Up For Sale

[University of Washington, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

It might be one of the rarest pieces of sports memorabilia in history, and now it’s going up for grabs. One of the ten known rookie cards of Babe Ruth will soon be hitting the auction block. 

The Great Bambino’s rookie card is “the most significant baseball card ever produced,” Brian Dwyer, the auction house president selling the item told Smithsonian Magazine.

“This card is the genesis of Babe Ruth, a man who transcends the game of baseball,” he added. “This card is not only one of the most elusive pieces of sports memorabilia, it’s one of the rarest collectibles in American history.”

The magazine writes that the history of the card started with Archibald Davis, “who acquired it at age 16 while delivering copies of the newspaper in 1914, reports the Baltimore Sun’s Hayes Gardner. Eventually, Davis passed his card collection down to subsequent generations of the family.

The Davis family kept the card for more than a century and, starting in 1998, lent it to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore.”

The card was sold in 2021 to a private collector who’s now looking to make a pretty penny flipping it.

It was in 1914, however, as a baby-faced 19-year-old for his hometown Baltimore Orioles of the International League, that Babe Ruth appeared for the first time on a trading card, his future triumphs, records, accolades, and the iconic legend he would become still on the horizon, yet to be revealed. A set of cards produced by the Baltimore News featured members of the two Baltimore teams – the Orioles and their Federal League neighbor, the Terrapins. Ruth, tall and lanky, glove on hand and dressed in his team’s overcoat, looks into the distance, labeled simply as “Ruth – pitcher” below his image. On the fields of Baltimore a star was born, and with the Baltimore News card, Ruth’s collectible legacy was cemented with one of the most elusive and valuable baseball cards ever produced, writes Robert Edwards Auction House.

A mere ten examples, in any condition, are known to exist of this prized Baltimore News Babe Ruth. REA is privileged to present this card, the second-finest confirmed example and the highest graded to appear at public auction in more than fifteen years. Nearly a decade has passed since any example of this incredibly rare and perpetually significant rookie card of Babe Ruth has been made available for sale publicly. Authenticated and encapsulated VG 3 by SGC, a lone peer exists at this level, with one higher. Seven examples grade lesser, including five of which have been evaluated at the most modest level of the grading scale.

The offered example also carries with it the remarkable provenance of remaining in the same Baltimore-area family for more than 100 years and serving as the resident example housed at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum from 1998 until this year. Originally collected by a newspaper boy for the Baltimore News in its year of issue, the card was dutifully kept and preserved alongside fourteen additional examples from this set, each of which is available in this auction, highlighted by team manager, Jack Dunn – the man credited with discovering Babe Ruth.

Everything about Babe Ruth is larger than life, so it’s fitting that his rookie card produced by the Baltimore News is a larger style card with a high production value for the time. Issued in both red and blue variations, the red-and-white image of Ruth is framed by a red border on the offered example, which measures approximately 2-5/8 x 3-5/8 inches. The reverse has home and abroad schedules for the Baltimore team during its 1914 campaign. This card is the highest-graded example on the SGC Population Report as well as the second highest-graded example in the hobby, with only a single PSA VG-EX 4 higher.

This is the first time in a decade that Ruth rookie card has even been available for purchase by the public, at least, a very limited part of the public.

The card officially will officially go up for bidding November 17. Robert Edwards Auctions predicts the century-old collector’s item could fetch $10 million, but assessors said it could could exceed $12 million, making it the most expensive trading card in history. 

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