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1916 M101-5 Sporting News #151 Babe Ruth Rookie Card (Famous & Barr Ad on Back)
Starting Bid - $4,000.00, Sold For - $15,080.00
Graded VG 40 by SGC. Exceptional example of Babe Ruth's rookie card, universally regarded as one of card collecting's most recognizable and highly prized baseball card rarities. To many, this is the ultimate rookie card. When this card was issued, Babe Ruth was a pitcher, and years away from establishing himself as the game's greatest slugger. Previously it was believed that M101-5 was issued in 1915, and M101-4 was issued in 1916. Recent research regarding the exact date of issue of the M101-4 and M101-5 sets confirms with certainty that both sets were actually issued in 1916, with the M101-5 set being the earlier of the two printings. The Famous & Barr advertising on the reverse defines this card with great likelihood to be an M101-5, as opposed to an M101-4, as virtually all Famous & Barr backs are M101-5s. The M101-4 and M101-5 The Sporting News sets, as they are commonly referred to by collectors, were issued with blank backs, and also with a number of different advertisements on their reverses. Card #151 Ruth is one of only thirty card numbers (#1-7, 65-71, 141-153, and 198-200) in the M101-5 and M101-4 sets which have the exact same pose and exact same card number in both 200-card sets. Most M101-4s have blank backs. There is no way to tell the difference between a blank-backed M101-4 and a blank-backed M101-5 card #151 Babe Ruth, both of which have the same pose and card number. Because of this, all blank-backed M101-4 #151 Ruths have always been accepted as M101-5 because there is no way to distinguish the two printings. Cards with advertising backs, however, in some cases give greater certainty as to whether they are M101-4 or M101-5. All cards with The Sporting News printed advertising backs, for example, are the M101-4 issue, as no M101-5s are known to exist with the The Sporting News advertising back. The St. Louis-based Famous & Barr Company was one of several regional advertisers to issue both the M101-4 and M101-5 series cards, and almost all Famous & Barr examples known are M101-5s. All M101-4 and M101-5 Ruths with backs which are identical in both printings, including blank-backed examples which comprise the majority of all M101-4s and M101-5s, have traditionally been given the benefit of the doubt (by collectors and grading services) that they are from the earlier M101-5 series. The more accurate dating information regarding the M101-4 and M101-5 sets will very likely make this distinction less of an issue in the future, as it is now known with certainty that M101-4 and M101-5 both date from 1916. In our opinion both the M101-4 and M101-5 issues are really different printings of the same set, and #151 Ruth qualifies as Ruth's rookie card from either printing. That said, a #151 Ruth rookie with a Famous & Barr back has a far greater chance of being an earlier issue M101-5 Ruth rookie compared to almost any other back-style, especially compared to the majority of examples which are blank-backed and which are really M101-4s. Several other advertising backs (though Ruth is not necessarily known with all backs) share this distinction, making these few special examples the elite of M101-4 and M101-5 Ruth rookie cards. The value of the Ruth rookie cards has continued to escalate in recent years (last year a blank-backed PSA 8 example sold at auction for $109,638). The 1914 Baltimore News card of Ruth featuring him as a minor leaguer, of course, predates the M101-5. While SGC has graded this card Vg, we think it would have been very reasonable to assign a grade of Vg-Ex. This is a very attractive card. All four corners have only light, even wear with just the slightest rounding. Both the front and back of the card are crisp and perfectly clean. It is very well centered (especially for this card which is often plagued by serious centering problems), centered just slightly to the left (60/40), with a crisp, flawless image of a slender Ruth in his pitching follow-through. There is some minor surface creasing at the right center of the card, bisecting Ruth's leg. The creasing is very fine and is only on the surface; it does not go all the way through to the back of the card. The reverse has the "Famous and Barr Co." printed advertisement (which is off-center towards the top border). This is a magnificent mid-grade example, with tremendous eye-appeal, of one of the most significant of all baseball cards. Reserve $4,000. Estimate $8,000/$12,000. SOLD FOR $15,080.00
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