Despite parts of his career being over 100 years old, Babe Ruth continues to be one of the biggest names in sports, specifically in the world of baseball memorabilia. In 2012, Ruth made history nearly 70 years after his death when his jersey sold for $4.4 million at auction. This record stood for seven years, as another Ruth jersey just sold for a staggering $5.6 million, shattering his old record by over $1 million.
Babe Ruth’s prized history
The jersey was worn in the ’20s, during the prime of Ruth’s career. Before TV coverage and the internet, the outfielder became a legendary figure. He broke his own records for most of a decade, eventually setting the 60-home-run benchmark, which stood for several decades. Ruth’s memorabilia hold seven of the top 12 most expensive pieces of baseball items ever sold.
While baseball cards may not be as hot as they once were, pieces of MLB history are still sacred to fans. The jersey, bought by an unnamed buyer in 2019, does not bear the signature Yankee pinstripes. It’s known to be from a game between 1927 and 1930. And its previous owner is unknown, too.
Barry Bonds $752,000 asterisk
Despite a cloud hanging over the ’90s and early 2000s, collectors jumped at the chance to collect a piece of history after Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s home-run record. Fashion icon Marc Ecko paid $752,000 and won it. As a way to both honor the ball’s history and poke fun at its reputation, Ecko let voters decide the ball’s fate.
About 10 million voted between giving the ball to Cooperstown, giving it to Cooperstown with an asterisk on it, and sending into space. 47% of voters decided that while there may be an asterisk, history should be preserved, and an asterisked ball was donated.
Don Larsen’s $756,000 perfect ball
While a perfect game is rare in any context, only one player has had a perfect game during a World Series. This player was Don Larsen. Initially, the pitcher kept the ball for nostalgia’s sake, as the perfect game was the only legacy of an otherwise forgettable career. But when Larsen’s grandkids wanted to go to college, he decided to sell it.
Expected to go for as much as $2 million in 2012, the ball only netted $756,000. This still made it a top-10 piece of MLB history as far as value goes. Larsen’s grandchildren were able to pay for school.
Honus Wagner’s $2.1 million card
Honus Wagner’s 1909 tobacco card is one of the most famed pieces of baseball history. Recalled shortly after they were printed, the cards are extremely rare. When one went up for auction, it netted $2.1 million from an anonymous buyer over 100 years after the card was printed.
Mark McGwire’s $3 million ball
Phil Ozersky was a lucky fan in 1999 when he caught Mark McGwire‘s 70th home run of the season. Although it has been tainted over findings of PED use, it was a huge deal. The comic book creator and toy producer Todd McFarlane paid $3 million to add the prized possession to his collection.