There were several different advertisers on the back of the 1916 Felix Mendelsoh cards that gave us what is considered Babe Ruth’s rookie card but those carrying the Famous & Barr department store brand are very elusive.
PSA has graded only four Famous & Barr Ruth cards; SGC only one. That sole SGC example is about to hit the auction block. Despite a low technical grade of SGC 10 (poor), the card is expected to sell for $60,000 or more when Heritage Auctions opens its June Sports Card catalog sale on June 7.
Famous & Barr (later shortened to Famous-Barr) was the result of a 1911 merger. The store in downtown St. Louis has the distinction of being the first air-conditioned department store in the United States. Located in the same city as The Sporting News, which produced and sponsored the 1916 set, it would have been a natural fit for the store to try and promote its boys clothing line by giving out trading cards. A grand total of perhaps 1,000 total cards are known to have survived to this day.
Over 700 sport card lots are featured in the auction, which is set to run through June 29.
While he’d soon morph into the game’s most feared power hitter, Ruth was better known for his pitching in 1916. He sported a 23-12 record with a 1.75 ERA but hit only three home runs that season. He’s shown as a pitcher on the Mendelsohn cards, including the Famous & Barr variation.