When it comes to valuable baseball cards, few top the early cards of Babe Ruth. But while the cards from the playing days of Ruth are often expensive, there’s great value to be found in some of his post-war vintage cards.
Some of those cards are found in Topps’ 1962 Topps set. Issued nearly three decades after Ruth’s major league career had ended, this vintage subset gives collectors the chance to score some more affordable, yet older, cards of the famous slugger.
About the 1962 Topps Babe Ruth Subset
Topps continued its dominance of the baseball card market into the 1960s. In 1962, they issued a 598-card set with a wood grain background. That design feature, of course, is one that would be used in other sets, including Topps’ 1987 set issued 25 years later.
The set includes your usual selection of current stars, including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Lou Brock, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and many more. But also found in the set was a special ten-card subset that honored the legendary Babe Ruth.
The Ruth subset is found consecutively through cards numbered 135 through 144. The subset dubbed ‘Babe Ruth Special’ includes the full spectrum of Ruth’s career starting from his time as a young boy all the way through his major league years. The first card in the set, dubbed ‘Babe as a Boy’ features Ruth on an early baseball team. The last one shows an older Ruth making a farewell speech. In between, collectors are treated to Ruth’s career with highlights including signing with the New York Yankees, to hitting 60 home runs, to his later years as a player.
Like many subset cards, these have a slightly different design than the base cards found in the set. The same wood grain border is used for them. But the bottom includes a yellow box with a caption for the pictures and a red book with the ‘Babe Ruth Special’ name is found off to the side. Backs, of course, do not have the statistical tables that were used for current players. Instead, a long narrative discussing the picture or a modified statistical back is included.
Checklist and Variations
#135 Babe As A Boy – Ruth with his St. Mary’s baseball team
#136 Babe Joins Yanks – Ruth formally joining his New York Yankees team
#137 Babe and Mgr. Huggins – Ruth with Hall of Famer Miller Huggins, the Yankees’ manager
#138 The Famous Slugger – Success of Ruth and his Yankees team
#139 Babe Hits 60 – Ruth’s achievement of hitting 60 home runs in one season
#140 Gehrig and Ruth – Ruth pictured with Hall of Fame teammate Lou Gehrig
#141 Twilight Years – A look at Ruth’s final time as a player
#142 Coaching for the Dodgers – A record of Ruth’s hitting statistics
#143 Greatest Sports Hero – A record of Ruth’s pitching statistics
#144 Farewell Speech – Records set by Ruth
One card not included is a card of Ruth with the Boston Red Sox. While he ultimately would achieve fame with the Yankees, a picture of him with his first team would have been a desirable one. It is also interesting what Topps did with the backs of the final three cards. Instead of giving a description of the picture on the front, they included an assortment of statistics and achievements for Ruth.
Finally, a variation exists on card No. 139, which highlights Ruth’s 60 home runs. One card shows Ruth standing in dirt with grass in the background. The other card has Ruth standing entirely on the grass with no dirt shown. The card with only grass also has a barely visible foul pole to the left. The variation without the dirt is significantly rarer. Another note for card No. 139 is that card number is also shared with pitcher Hal Reniff. And to muddy the water further, Reniff himself has two variations of No. 139 — a pitching card and a portrait card. Thus, there are a total of four different No. 139 cards in the set.
Additional ‘green tint’ variations are known for the cards, too, as they are for other cards in the rest of the set. These cards are also rarer and sell for a premium.
Rarity and Pricing
Overall, the standard Ruth cards are not too rare. In decent condition, the cards generally start around $10. However, finding them for even less in raw condition is quite common.
Even cards in high-grade condition can be found for as little as $25 or so. The ‘No Dirt’ variation for Card No. 139 can sell for a bit more at times but is often priced along the lines of the more populous card with the dirt. And while the green tint cards are rarer, too, they often do not sell for much of a premium. You can see 1962 Topps Babe Ruth cards on eBay here.