Sports Collectors Daily

Vintage Babe Ruth Cards Within Reach

In August 2012, Robert Edward Auctions announced it had sold a 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card for $575,000 to a private collector.  Ruth cards have steadily increased in value over time with some of his earliest and highest graded examples showing explosive growth.  The Babe is still the king of vintage cardboard, but are there any cheap Babe Ruth cards issued during his playing days that the average collector can afford?

We believe there are several different cards that might pique the interest of those looking to add to their collection of oldies but goodies or those looking for a trickle down investment possibility.

Here are six of them. Click the title to see them for sale on eBay.

1935 Goudey 4-in-1

No, it’s not an individual Ruth card, per se, but it represents an important time in his career and it’s from a well-known maker of cards.  Goudey Gum had produced several Ruths in 1933 and ’34.  In ’35, they tried the four-in-one concept that has the Babe sharing space with Rabbit Maranville and two other players of the era.

It’s much less expensive than its earlier Goudey brethren.  You can buy a graded ‘4’ or VG-EX example, for less than $1,000 right now but if you can afford a better one, by all means go for it.

1920 W516

Ruth appears on several ‘strip’ cards issued with candy.  Many of the images are cartoonish and deserve to not sell for that much.  However, there are a couple that are pretty solid representations of the big man’s game.  The 1920 W516 actually comes in a couple of variations–one shows him throwing lefty–and the other is a reverse imiage that mistakenly shows him as a righty.   Most are simply graded ‘Authentic’ because of the poor cutting done by young hands back then but this one, too, is usually available for around $1,000.

1931 W517

Image is everything and it’s hard to beat this Babe.  A solid sideline shot of a serious Babe, it’s a great looking card.  He also has a throwing version in this issue.  Either card is worth owning–or maybe both, especially considering the price.

1934 Goudey R309-1

How many kids sent in their Goudey wrappers to acquire one of the four cards in the R309-1 premium set?  Not nearly as many as pulled the regular Goudey cards from packs, that’s for sure.

This Ruth card was meant to stand up, but if you can find one that still has the flat easel and was never bent, you’ve got a great card.  Even one that shows a little age is worth owning, though.  This one will cost you a little more but it’s vastly underrated– an iconic shot of the Babe taking a cut.  It’s oversized, so it’ll show off great in your hobby room.

1932-33 Sanella 

There are often more than two dozen Sanella Ruth cards available online at any one time, which would seem to indicate there was a quantity found at some point later than the 1930s.  These were produced by a margarine maker in Germany.  Nice examples can be found for under $250.  It’s a nice color drawing of Ruth with a great looking stadium background and while these aren’t likely to soar in value, they’re a great way to get into the Ruth market for a small investment.

1932 Bulgaria Sport 

One of the cheapest cards dating to Ruth’s playing career is also one of the more interesting.  The European issue shows Ruth standing in uniform next to another sports icon from the era, German boxer Max Schmeling.  It’s a compelling image and among the lowest priced original Ruth cards you can own, even in a respectable grade.

There is little doubt that cheap Babe Ruth cards that were actually issued during his playing days will continue to grow in popularity as more collectors of vintage cards enter the marketplace or seek to expand their collections to include cards of the most famous player of all time.