Rare 1914 Babe Ruth rookie card could bring $10 million at auction

Babe Ruth put up some staggering numbers during his Hall of Fame baseball career, but one of his first trading cards may be even more mind-bending.

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One of only 10 known copies of Ruth’s first trading card will be part of Robert Edward Auctions Fall Catalog Auction, which begins Friday. And the 1914 Baltimore News card could fetch as much as $10 million, auction officials said.

The card could challenge the $12.6 million price for any piece of sports memorabilia, Forbes reported. That hefty final purchase price was for a 1952 Topps card of Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle in August 2022 by Heritage Auctions.

The Ruth rookie card is graded 3 out of 10, or very good, by Sportscard Guaranty Corp. (SGC), a collectibles grading service. The auction is scheduled to run through Dec. 3.

The red-bordered 2 5/8-inch by 3 5/8-inch card features Ruth, who was a 19-year-old rookie and a member of the Baltimore Orioles, a minor league franchise in the International League. According to Sports Collectors Daily, the card was part of a set that featured player images in the front and a team schedule on the reverse.

The cards were distributed locally as inserts in issues of the Baltimore News during the 1914 season.

The SCG grade for the Ruth rookie is the second-highest in the company’s population report, topped only by an SCG 4, Sports Collectors Daily reported. It is also the first time a Ruth card from the Baltimore News set has been publicly sold in more than a decade, and the first to appear in an auction in more than 15 years, as REA sold one of the SCG 3 cards for $517,000 in 2008.

“Simply put, the Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie card is the most significant baseball card ever produced,” Brian Dwyer, president of REA, said in a statement. “This card is the genesis of Babe Ruth, a man who transcends the game of baseball. 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 Ruth rookie that will be auctioned this week was sold to a private collector in Florida in June 2021 for $6 million.

Previously, the card had been in the possession of the same Baltimore area family for more than a century, Sports Collectors Daily reported in June 2021.

According to the Maryland Daily Record, the card’s previous owner, Geraldine Frey Davis, had a loan agreement with the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore that kept the card at the museum through March 2023. The card was first displayed at the Bambino’s birthplace in 1998.

The card will be available for viewing on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST at the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum in Baltimore, REA said in an auction news release.

The Ruth card will be part of a 4,000-lot auction, Sports Collectors Daily reported.

“This is a card that every collector dreams of owning,” Dwyer said in his statement. “And with so few examples in existence, there is almost no desire to sell these cards by the few privileged enough to own them. It is very likely to be the only example we’ll see available for purchase for years to come.”