When it comes to pre-war cards there’s rare and then there’s ‘rare.’ Consider the 1914 Baltimore News set to be in that latter category. Here’s a look at this unique set that is home to one of the most expensive baseball cards in the world.
1914 Baltimore News Set Overview
The 1914 Baltimore News set is one of the more obscure issues from the pre-war era that can be found. Collectors have heard of it because of the Babe Ruth card in it (more on that in a bit) but otherwise, it has sat in relative obscurity.
What not all collectors know is that the Babe Ruth card found in it is actually part of a set. Specifically, the Baltimore News issued this set in 1914. Even the checklisted amount isn’t entirely confirmed because the cards are so rare and it is possible that other subjects could exist. These cards are actually schedules that featured players from Baltimore’s Federal League team and their International League team. Because they were schedules, that (along with the regional nature of this issue) helps explain their rarity with most likely discarded after the season concluded.
The cards measure similarly to today’s baseball cards, checking in at approximately 2 5/8″ wide by 3 5/8″ tall. Two different types are known – those with a red tint and those with a blue tint. Poses for the players across those colors, however, do not change. Fronts include a picture of the subject, along with his name, position, and team at the bottom. Other than the monotone color on the front, the other distinguishing mark is that the cards have very thick borders. Backs of the card included a schedule for the respective team.
While any card from the set commands serious interest, it’s clearly the Babe Ruth card that grabs the most attention.
The Babe Ruth Card and Checklist
Born in Baltimore, Ruth joined the International League Baltimore Orioles, a minor league club, in 1914. He is believed to have been discovered by Jack Dunn, the manager of the team.
Ruth is pictured on his famous card standing with a glove. The card also denotes him as a pitcher, which of course, he was in the early part of his career. Like others in the set, both blue ink and red ink cards of the iconic player have been found.
In addition to Ruth’s individual card, another card in the set actually pictures him as Ruth is also spotted on the team card for the Orioles.
This card is generally viewed as Ruth’s minor league rookie card. True major league rookie card designators will point to his 1916 M101-4 and M101-5 cards, since those cards picture Ruth as a major league player. But his 1914 Baltimore News cards are undoubtedly much rarer.
In terms of the actual checklist, a fully confirmed one is not known. According to PSA, the checklist for the set includes: Neal Ball, Ensign Cottrell, Birdie Cree, Bert Daniels, Davidson, Jack Dunn, Gleichmann, Allen Russell, Ernie Shore, George Twombley, and of course Ruth along with the Orioles team card. In addition to those, however, PSA also cites others in the set not in that list, including Mickey Doolan, George Suggs, Ducky Yount, and George Zinn. That gives us as many as 16 total cards.
Most of the other names in the set will not be familiar to non-vintage collectors. However, several of them appear in other popular sets, including T206.
1914 Baltimore News Rarity and Prices
The cards, as discussed, are exceptionally rare. Even commons in the set are rarely seen. You can snare a reprint for a couple of bucks on eBay and that’s probably about as close as any of us will get to the real thing.
The population reports give a true picture of how tough the cards are. To date, PSA and SGC have graded a total of only 15 cards from the entire set. PSA lists three Ruth cards while SGC’s report details five, none rated better than a 3. Robert Edward Auctions indicated several years ago that ten Ruth cards were known to exist.
So we know the cards are nearly impossible to find but what about pricing? Unfortunately, that’s equally as elusive given the fact that the cards hardly come up for sale. A PSA 1 Ruth card sold for $450,300 in an REA auction but that was way back in 2013. REA also sold a blue-bordered version for $575,000 in 2012 and an SGC 40 example in a 2008 auction for $517,000.
Safe to say that, given the increase in sports card prices in the last five years, those numbers may not even be all that indicative of what it would sell for today.