In terms of hobby lore, it was a hard story to beat.
Avid collectors of one of the hobby’s most iconic cards jumped on the chance to bid on a 1916 M101-4 Babe Ruth rookie card that had been found inside a very old piano. The auction closed in the wee hours of Friday morning with a final price of $130,054 including the buyer’s premium.
Goodwin & Co. Auctions sold the card, which was rated 2.5 by Beckett Grading. A group of other low-grade cards from the same series found with the Ruth sold in the auction for $4,419.
Part of one of the hobby’s most popular pre-War sets, they were pulled from the inside of the piano that had been purchased for $25 at a Maryland family’s estate sale in the 1990s. Owner Ellen Kelly had held onto the cards since then but recently decided to sell the collection. She told Sports Collectors Daily the piano had belonged to her Aunt Nora, who she said was notorious for throwing things away and that a relative may have stored the cards in the piano for safekeeping nearly a century ago.
Twenty-three bids were entered for the Ruth card, which crossed the six-figure mark just prior to the auction’s late night close.
“We thought $60,000 to $75,000 was a fair estimate for this card. We are thrilled to see a six-figure final sale price. The buyer has asked to remain anonymous and we are respecting their request,” said Steve Bloedow, Director of Auctions for Beckett, which oversees Goodwin sales. “This blank back version presents much nicer than the BVG 2.5 grade it received at first glance, but has a print line running across his chest accounts for the Good+ grade.”
“We are honored that Beckett was chosen to grade such a historical and interesting collection of cards,” said Jeromy Murray, Vice President Beckett Grading/Authentication. “Mix in the backstory of where the cards were found, only adds to the excitement this auction has generated inside and outside the collectible world.”
Other items sold in the auction included the hobby’s highest graded 1933 Goudey Jimmie Foxx. The SGC 8.5 example soared to $24,866. A 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle graded PSA 7 went for $13,682; a PSA 8.5 1956 Mantle reached $12,438 and a 1934 Tour of Japan baseball signed by Ruth, Foxx, Lou Gehrig and 15 others sold for $8,567.