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1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card

  • Sold For: $517,000
  • Year: 1914
  • Auction: 2008 spring
  • Lot #: 3
  • Auction Category: Featured

Graded VG 40 by SGC. Presented is a previously unknown example of the card many consider to be the single most important and miraculous baseball card in the world: the 1914 Babe Ruth rookie card, featuring Ruth as an unknown minor league rookie straight out of St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. To the best of our knowledge, only eleven 1914 Baltimore Ruths are known to date, including the one owned by the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore. The Babe Ruth rookie card is part of a 1914 set issued in Baltimore featuring stars of the city's two professional baseball teams, the Terrapins of the Federal League and the Orioles of the International League. Cards were issued in red-and-white and blue-and-white. The newly discovered card is the red-and-white variety. The reverse features the "At Home" and "Abroad" schedules of the Orioles team beneath the headline "Compliments of the Baltimore International League." Cards from this set were also issued with "Read the Baltimore News" printed at the top of the reverse. This newly discovered card was saved as a keepsake by a non-collecting family in Baltimore. The consignor's great-grandfather was a big Baltimore Orioles baseball fan who attended many games. He apparently kept this card because it had the schedule of Baltimore Orioles (International League) home games printed on the reverse. He gave the card (along with many others, all of which, unfortunately, were thrown out many years ago) to his ten-year-old son in 1914. The son, in turn, gave the card to his son (our consignor's father), as a memento of his grandfather. (I know, I know…all we ever got from our relatives were old family photos — never a Babe Ruth rookie card…) The grandson of the original owner kept the card stored in a fireproof box for thirty years. He then gave the card to his son. The family never thought that the card had any monetary value - it was a just a family keepsake that very little thought was given to. It was kept as an unusual sentimental link to the consignor's great-grandfather, and a reminder of the family's long history in Baltimore (they still live there). The last Babe Ruth rookie card sold at auction realized $200,000 in REA's April auction. Upon recently learning of the value of the card, they were naturally stunned, and carefully investigated how to proceed. In light of the extraordinary value of the card, the family decided to sell it at auction, and we are delighted that they have chosen REA. Condition: This is an extraordinary example. The card but has been downgraded to VG 40 by SGC largely due to a very slight hint of glue residue on the reverse. The card has a far stronger Vg-Ex, or perhaps even Excellent, appearance. Even with the slight hint of glue residue on the reverse (which is barely detectable), we grade this card a strong Vg-Ex. The front of the card has an overall Excellent appearance, with only the slightest wear to the edge of the borders, far less than is usually the case with cards from this set (which because of its flush-to-the-border design chips so easily). Upon extremely close examination, there is one tiny pinpoint of paper loss to the right of Ruth's knee and the hint of a single horizontal printer roller mark that runs through Ruth's neck. The front of the card is free of all creases. The slightest corner crease is visible upon close inspection only on the reverse in the extreme upper left corner. The four corners are strong and square. The card is extremely bright and clean, both front and back. The small area of glue residue affecting a small section of the back does not interfere with the legibility of any of the text on the reverse and has little or no impact on the stunning appearance of the card. Although it caused SGC to downgrade the card, the glue residue is the most insignificant flaw imaginable. The card has a far superior eye-appeal than a VG 40, though by the strict SGC grading standards it has been appropriately downgraded. This is an extremely attractive card and by any measure is one of the strongest in terms of overall eye-appeal of all 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie cards in existence. In fact, it has been suggested to us that this card might be the highest-graded of all 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie cards if all known examples were to be graded by SGC. Additional Background: It is fascinating to note that, according to the family, at one time they had many additional Baltimore News cards, but they were thrown out 20 years ago. They said that the cards were glued into an album (by a family member) and they couldn't get them out, and eventually they threw the album out. Whether the long discarded cards included other Ruths, or just "common players" will never be known, but fortunately the one card which survived is Babe Ruth. It is probably not a coincidence that the family happened to save Babe Ruth's card as opposed to that of a common player. Ruth's roots are in Baltimore. His connection with the city is so great that it would not be surprising that a Ruth rookie card might survive in the hands of the family of a casual local collector, and it might even be the case that, if the card wasn't Ruth, it might not have been saved. That's exactly what happened with several of the Ruth rookie cards that have surfaced over the years. REA has offered four Babe Ruth rookie cards in the past four years. To us, this is an incredible statistic, although perhaps not any more incredible than the fact that over the years we have played a role in the sale of twenty T206 Honus Wagners (out of approximately 50 to 60 examples known), a total of seven 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth cards (out of approximately eleven known, including the newly discovered example), or eight T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back cards (out of approximately fourteen examples known). There are many other similar instances. Sometimes big money brings cards out of the woodwork but the 1914 Ruth is already valuable enough to make a noncollector take notice. As its fame continues to rise and its significance continues to be even more greatly appreciated, maybe additional examples will surface that are currently not known. One thing is for sure - every new example is a very big deal. This is a miracle card in any condition. But perhaps the greatest miracle of all relating to this card is that Babe Ruth just happened to be with the Baltimore Orioles in 1914, as a complete unknown, when The Baltimore News issued this set and included him. Reserve $10,000. Estimate $200,000+. SOLD FOR $517,000.00

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