Spending $199,750 on a baseball card in 2007 turned out to be a very good investment for one east coast collector. Robert Edward Auctions, which sold a 1914 Baltimore Sun Babe Ruth 'rookie card' for that price in its annual auction, has brokered a deal between that original buyer and a new collector/investor. The selling price this time for the PSA (Good) example was $575,000 according to the company.
The transaction, which took place last week, pushed the unique promotional card of the Babe in his minor league Baltimore Orioles uniform to new heights. REA sold an SGC 40 (VG) example in 2008 for $517,000. The card was issued two years before Ruth first appeared on a card as a big league player in the 1916 M-101-4/5 set.
The buyer of the Baltimore Sun Ruth card sold last week was a west coast collector/investor, according to REA president Rob Lifson. The card's owner wasn't looking to sell it but nearly tripling his money in three years was a difficult return to pass up and he agreed to let the auction house help complete the deal.
“We have quite a few very big collectors who want this card but it just doesn't turn up and with so few examples having sold, it is very difficult to even think about how to approach buying the card other than to wait for it to come to auction,” Lifson explained. “But patience has not been rewarded lately. The buyer of this card just decided to take the bull by the horns and be aggressive. His stategy worked. I know this is going to sound crazy to some but I think he was lucky, which is really saying something considering that of course he paid a strong price compared to the last sale of this very card. But knowing how great the card is and knowing how few exist, I think he did well, and while he knows he paid a premium price today, I think he'll look back and think he got a great deal. That's how it is sometimes when collectors buy the very best items.”
While around 75 T206 Honus Wagner cards are believed to exist, the 1914 Baltimore Sun Ruth, which represents the dawn of the icon’s pro baseball career, is significantly rarer with as few as ten known examples. It was part of a set that was given out, presumably as a newspaper promotion.
The last sale of a 1914 Ruth at auction was a PSA PR-FR 1 example offered by REA in 2009 which realized $152,750. Another of the surviving Ruth cards, on loan from its owner, is on display at the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, just up the street from where this year's National Sports Collectors Convention was held.
“I've always picked the 1914 Babe Ruth rookie as one of the most miraculous and greatest treasures in all of card collecting," Lifson stated. "I've also always picked it as one of the most undervalued or to be more accurate, at least as a strong candidate for increased interest and therefore potential appreciation in the future. I still do. I have no doubt the 1914 Babe Ruth rookie will someday be a million dollar card. I don't know if it will be within a few years or long after I am retired. It may just depend on when the next nice 1914 Ruth rookie comes up.”