You had to be up in the wee hours of Sunday morning to finally see the cyber hammer fall, but when the dust finally settled at Robert Edward Auctions, a mid-grade Babe Ruth “rookie card” dating from his days with the minor league Baltimore Orioles cost one collector over 1/2 million dollars.
The card, graded SGC 40 (VG), generated 59 bids and reached a final bid of $440,000. Tacking on REA’s 17.5% buyer’s premium, the realized price settled at $517,000.
The Ruth card had been an heirloom passed down through generations of a Baltimore family. Not realizing it’s monetary value, it was kept as a sentimental link to the consignor’s great-grandfather. Upon learning of REA’s 2007 sale of the last Ruth Baltimore News card for $200,000, they decided to sell it.
The annual REA sale generated proceeds of $9.07 million according to company president Rob Lifson.
An Atlanta man needing money and looking around his house for items to liquidate, discovered a stash of T206 tobacco cards early this year. Amazingly, the group included a Honus Wagner–the first new Wagner to surface in the sports collecting hobby for years. The man sent them to Beckett, which graded the group and consigned them to REA for the original owner. The grade received a ‘1’ from Beckett’s Vintage Grading service, but even in poor condition, it brought $317,250 in REA’s auction.
Another Wagner, this one also graded poor by SGC, sold to an internet bidder in Friday night’s auction by Heritage Galleries for $227,050, which included a 19.5% buyer’s premium. It’s the first time two Wagner cards were offered in successive days via two different auction houses.
The Ruth rookie card wasn’t the only Bambino rarity in REA’s sale, however. The company touted the consignment of a rare 1933 R306 Buttercream Ruth card and bidders didn’t disappoint, pushing the final price to $111,625.
Among the other highlights in the auction was an 1889 Burke Ale poster featuring 19th century baseball stars Cap Anson and Buck Ewing enjoying a cold beverage. Believed to be the first baseball-related poster of its kind, the unique advertising piece generated heavy interest as well, and sold for $188,000.
A near set of T206 cards (520 of 524) brought $176,250 while an 1887 Kalamazoo Bats card of John Ward was nailed down with a realized price of $141,000.
Other highlights from the auction included:
- Babe Ruth side-written pro model bat ($91,000)
- 1914 Cracker Jack master set of 145 cards ($88,125)
- 1938 Babe Ruth Brooklyn Dodgers coach’s cap ($70,500)
- 1962-65 Jim Brown game used Browns jersey ($70,500)
- T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb tobacco ad back SGC 20 ($64,625)
- 1984-85 Michael Jordan rookie year uniform ($49,937)