In an extraordinary event in the sports memorabilia world, a rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth baseball card was sold for an astounding $7.2 million, positioning it as the third most valuable sports card ever sold. This card, which received a grade of 3 (VG) from SGC, gained widespread attention and saw fifteen bids placed, with the final bid taking place on the auction’s closing day.
Measuring 2 5/8″ by 3 5/8″, the card features a 19-year-old Babe Ruth as a member of Baltimore’s minor league team. Originally distributed with the newspaper, the card was part of a set that displayed player images on the front and a team schedule on the back. Despite falling short of the estimated $10 million, the final sale price remains significant, and the buyer’s identity 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 over 15 years. Brian Dwyer, the President of Robert Edward Auctions (REA), believes that this could potentially be the only example of this card 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 path to this monumental sale has been long. In June 2021, a private collector in Florida acquired the card 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 sale, the card remained in the possession of a Baltimore area family for over a century. It was on display 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 only a highlight for the card itself but also for REA and the entire sports memorabilia collecting hobby. Brian Dwyer emphasized the significance of this event, stating that it was a “watershed moment” for the Baltimore News Babe Ruth card, for REA, and for the hobby. He expressed pride in bringing this incredibly significant card to auction, potentially for the only time in many years to come.
In addition to the Ruth card, the auction featured fourteen other cards from the same set. These included a card of Jack Dunn, the man credited with discovering Ruth. However, these cards did not meet their reserve prices.
The Babe Ruth card now stands as one of 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 showcased other notable items, such as a 1933 R319 Goudey #149 Ruth graded PSA 8, which 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, as they celebrated their 30th anniversary. A remarkable total of 93,151 bids were placed by a record number of bidders, resulting in over $22.1 million in sales. This achievement underscores the enduring appeal of sports memorabilia and highlights the significant value that collectors attach to items associated with legendary figures like Babe Ruth. The sale of the rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card not only showcases its rarity and historical significance but also demonstrates the passion and investment that collectors have in preserving and valuing sports history.