A relic from the pre-photocopier days, the glass plate negatives used to keep a permanent record of Babe Ruth’s contract for 1916 and 1917 are being offered at auction…but are they really THAT old?
Glass plate negatives revealing Babe Ruth’s 1916-17 contract with the Boston Red Sox are being offered on eBay.
The auction began last Tuesday night and bidding has topped $22,000. Questions remain, however, about claims made in the listing that the contract was the original file copy.
Ruth signed his first full Major League contract in 1916 with the Boston Red Sox . Before the days of Xerox machines, it was common practice for the teams to photograph original contracts and documents should they need to make photographic duplicates for future usage. In many cases the contracts were destroyed and non-existent and only the negative was kept on file with the league office.
However, the envelope which contains the 1916 negatives carries the stamp of New England-based photographer Arthur Kiely who was born in 1918. One Sports Collectors Daily reader theorizes that the negatives may have originated with the Ruth family, since the photographer lived just a short drive from Ruth’s daughter at one time.
Rick Steele, co-founder of Phoenix-based Select Shops, a home fashion outlet, is offering the negatives to the high bidder, with the auction slated to close May 12. In a news release, Select Shops touts the negatives as the only surviving proof of Ruth’s contract. The whereabouts of the actual contract are unknown, possibly lost to time. It’s also not known when the images were taken by the photographer.
The four pages of the contract are depicted in four photo negatives, encased in glass plates, each measuring 6.5" x 8.5". The contract bears the signatures of Ruth, team owner Joseph Lannin and American League founder and president Ban Johnson. Detailed in the contract are Ruth’s $3,500 annual salary and his ultra rare signature using his formal name, George H. Ruth, Jr. Two of the negatives are cracked at the center and are carefully taped together; the other two are in described as being in excellent condition.
The earliest known Ruth contract ever sold was the 1918 contract that once resided in the Halper collection and sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $51,750. Sotheby’s also coordinated the sale of the $1.26 Million dollar contract that sold Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees.
A Buy it Now price of $75,000 has been placed on the .