On Tuesday, Robert Edward Auctions announced it had sold a 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card for $575,000 to a private collector. Ruth cards have steadily increased in value over time with some of his earliest and highest graded examples showing explosive growth. The Babe is still the king of vintage cardboard, but are there any vintage Babe Ruth cards issued during his playing days that the average collector can afford?
We found several recent eBay sales that might pique the interest of those looking to add to their collection of oldies but goodies or those looking for a trickle down investment possibility.
Here are four of them:
1935 Goudey 4-in-1: No, it's not an individual Ruth card, per se, but it represents an important time in his career and it's from a well-known maker of cards. Goudey Gum had produced several Ruths in 1933 and '34. In '35, they tried the four-in-one concept that has the Babe sharing space with Rabbit Maranville and two other players of the era.
It's much less expensive than its earlier Goudey brethren. A PSA 6 sold via eBay on August 6 for $1,125. A PSA 4 could have been had for $586 on the same day while a PSA 3 sold this summer looks like a tremendous bargain at $421. By contrast, the various Ruth cards issued with the '33 Goudey set in the same PSA 3 grade, usually sell for $1500-2500.
1920 W516: Ruth appears on several 'strip' cards issued with candy. Many of the images are cartoonish and deserve to not sell for that much. However, there are a couple that are pretty solid representations of the big man's game. The 1920 W516 shows him in a throwing motion and an SGC 40 example sold on Wednesday for just $555. That's a pretty nice card for the money.
1931 W517: Image is everything and it's hard to beat this Babe. A solid sideline shot of a serious Babe, it's a great looking card. He also has a throwing version in this issue. An SGC 60 example of the portrait card sold for $715 on July 1, perhaps in part due to a poor scan. It's not unreasonable to think the buyer is pretty pleased with that purchase. Generally these bring $1,000 and up in respectable form but quite a few are out there and prices are sometimes reasonable. Either card is worth owning--or maybe both.
1934 Goudey R309-1: How many kids sent in their Goudey wrappers to acquire one of the four cards in the R309-1 premium set? Not nearly as many as pulled the regular Goudey cards from packs, that's for sure.
This Ruth card was meant to stand up, but if you can find one that still has the flat easel and was never bent, you've got a great card. Even one that shows a little age is worth owning, though. This is simply a terrific shot of the Babe taking a cut. It's oversized, so it'll show off great in your hobby room. Another example of vintage Babe Ruth cards continuing to grow in popularity.