Babe Ruth retired from MLB in 1935, but he’s still considered one of the greatest players in league history. It’s been 85 years since he played, so baseball cards and other Ruth memorabilia are hard to find nowadays. In the world of collectibles, this also means they’re valuable.
Ruth-related memorabilia may be some of the most valuable in all of sports. One of the most expensive items ever sold was a Ruth rookie card. You won’t believe how much someone paid for it.
Babe Ruth, one of the best ever
Ruth is one of the most prolific hitters in MLB history. For decades, he held the career home-run record with 714, until Hank Aaron broke his record in 1974. In addition to his 714 homers, Ruth had 2,214 RBI to go along with a .342 average.
Those stats are impressive by themselves, but even more so considering Ruth was a two-way player — for part of his career, at least. He pitched in 163 games over 10 seasons, including 147 starts. Ruth compiled a 94-46 record on the mound. He posted a 2.28 ERA with 488 strikeouts.
In an era when starting pitchers went deeper into games, Ruth threw 107 complete games and 17 shutouts. He was the American League MVP in 1923 and won seven World Series titles with the Red Sox and Yankees.
The valuable Babe Ruth rookie card
The 1916 M101-4 Ruth rookie card was one of more than 80 vintage cards uncovered in a piano bought at a 1992 estate sale. The buyer purchased the piano for just $25.
For decades, the Ruth rookie was an afterthought among cards of that era in the collectors market. The famous Honus Wagner card considered the holy grail of early 20th-century baseball cards.
The Ruth card was surprisingly valuable when it was put up for auction in 1929. Estimates pegged a value for the card between $40,000 and $45,000. The bidding went beyond expectations, though, with the card selling for more than double the estimates. The winning bid for the card ended up being $108,378.
That is a massive amount of money for a baseball card, but it’s not the most expensive rookie card ever. That honor lies with a 1948 Stan Musial Bowman rookie card, which went for $$360,000 in a 2017 auction. Among non-rookie cards, there are cards that have sold for seven figures.
Other valuable Ruth memorabilia
If you think spending over $100,000 on a Babe Ruth baseball card is a lot of money, you haven’t seen anything. A catcher’s mitt Ruth used in school sold for $341,600 at an auction, and Ruth jerseys are worth multiples of that. A Ruth jersey set a record last year when it sold for $5.64 million — the most expensive item of sports memorabilia ever.
The game-worn jersey is from the late 1920s, when he was in his offensive prime. The prior record for sports memorabilia was $4.4 million — the price paid for another Ruth jersey in 2012. Other Ruth cards have sold for more than the rookie card. Here are some of the most valuable Ruth cards ever sold:
- The 1914 Baltimore News card is the first card featuring Ruth, which makes it the most valuable. It’s sold for as much as $450,300.
- A 1921 Frederick Foto card is unique in that is lists Ruth as being on the Yankees, but the photo shows him in a Red Sox uniform. The card sold for almost $45,000 in 2013.
- The 1921 American Caramel Series card, which listed Ruth’s team as the New York Americans, sold for nearly $20,000 in 2013.
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