In August 2012, 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 cheap Babe Ruth cards issued during his playing days that the average collector can afford?
We believe there are several different cards 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 five of them. Click the title to see them for sale on eBay.
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 for $1,125. A PSA 4 could have been had for $586 while a PSA 3 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 online 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 , 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.
1932-33 Sanella - There are often more than two dozen Sanella Ruth cards available online at any one time, which would seem to indicate there was a quantity found at some point later than the 1930s. These were produced by a margarine maker in Germany. Nice examples can be found for under $200. It's a nice color drawing of Ruth with a great looking stadium background and while these aren't likely to soar in value, they're a great way to get into the Ruth market for a small investment.
There is little doubt that cheap Babe Ruth cards that were actually issued during his playing days will continue to grow in popularity as more collectors of vintage cards enter the marketplace or seek to expand their collections to include cards of the most famous player of all time.