In a remarkable event in the world of sports memorabilia, a rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth baseball card was sold for an astounding $7.2 million late Sunday night. This significant sale positioned the card as the third most valuable sports card ever sold. The card, which received a grade of 3 (VG) from SGC, garnered widespread attention across the nation, with fifteen bids placed, including one on the auction’s final day.
The card measures 2 5/8″ by 3 5/8″ and depicts a 19-year-old Babe Ruth as a member of Baltimore’s minor league team. It was originally part of a set that featured player images on the front and a team schedule on the back, believed to have been distributed with the newspaper. Despite the high anticipation, the final sale price fell short of the estimated $10 million, and the identity of the buyer remains undisclosed.
This sale marked the first time in over a decade that such a card had been offered, and it was the highest-rated copy to appear in an auction in more than 15 years. Brian Dwyer, the President of Robert Edward Auctions (REA), expressed his belief that this could very well be the only example of this card to be available for purchase for many years to come.
The card holds the distinction of being the highest-graded example on the SGC Population Report and is considered the second-best example in the hobby, surpassed only by a single PSA 4 graded card.
The card’s journey to this monumental sale has been a long one. In June 2021, it was acquired by a private collector in Florida for $6 million, along with a small ownership stake in the card being sold to users of the Collectable fractional shares platform. However, these shares were liquidated earlier this year.
Before this recent decade’s sale, the card had remained in the possession of a Baltimore area family for over a century. It was displayed at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum from 1998 until earlier this year, adding to its historical significance.
The auction of this Babe Ruth card was not just a high point for the card itself, but also for REA and the entire sports memorabilia collecting hobby. Brian Dwyer highlighted the significance of this event, stating, “This auction was a watershed moment for the Baltimore News Babe Ruth card, for REA, and for the hobby. We are thrilled to see Babe Ruth stake his spot in the top three all-time with this record-setting result, and we are proud to have brought this incredibly significant card to auction for what may be the only time for many years to come.”
In this historic offering, the Ruth card was not the only item of note. Fourteen other cards from the same set were also offered, including one of Jack Dunn, the man credited with discovering Ruth. However, these cards did not meet their reserve prices.
The Babe Ruth card now ranks among the most expensive sports cards ever sold, trailing only behind the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle SGC 9.5, which sold for $12.6 million, and a T206 Honus Wagner card, which fetched $7.25 million.
The auction also featured several other notable items, including a 1933 R319 Goudey #149 Ruth graded PSA 8 that sold for $396,000. Additionally, one of the only six known copies of the 1921 Frederick Foto Babe Ruth (SGC 2) sold for $168,000. Other top sellers included a PSA 7 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card at $246,000, a 1955 Bowman Mantle PSA 9 also at $246,000, a 1997-1998 Skybox Metal Universe Championship Precious Metal Gems Basketball #23 Michael Jordan #14/50 BGS NM-MT+ 8.5 valued at $240,000, and a 2013 Tom Brady game-used Patriots jersey photomatched to four games, which sold for $264,000.
This auction was a record-breaker for REA, celebrating its 30th anniversary. A total of 93,151 bids were placed by a record number of bidders, generating over $22.1 million in sales. This remarkable achievement not only underscores the enduring appeal of sports memorabilia but also highlights the significant value attached to items associated with legendary figures like Babe Ruth. The sale of this rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card is not just a testament to the card’s rarity and historical significance but also a reflection of the deep passion and investment collectors have in preserving and valuing sports history.