1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth - Rookie Card

Sold For: $152,750

Auction Year: 2009 spring

Lot: 3

Item Year: 1914

Category: Prewar Baseball Cards (1900-1941)

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Graded PR-FR 1 by PSA. Presented is one of only ten known examples of the card many consider to be the single most important and miraculous baseball card in the world: the 1914 Babe Ruth rookie card, featuring Ruth as an unknown minor league rookie straight out of St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. This is a previously known example. To the best of our knowledge, only ten 1914 Baltimore Ruths in total are known to exist, one of which is owned by the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore. The Babe Ruth rookie card is part of a 1914 set issued in Baltimore featuring stars of the city's two professional baseball teams, the Terrapins of the Federal League and the Orioles of the International League. Cards were issued in red-and-white and blue-and-white. This Babe Ruth Baltimore News example is the red-and-white variety. The reverse features the "At Home" and "Abroad" schedules of the Orioles team beneath the headline "Compliments of the Baltimore International League." Cards from this set were also issued with "Read the Baltimore News" printed at the top of the reverse.

Value: This offered example first entered the collecting world in 2006. Before this card was consigned to REA's May 2006 auction, it had been passed down for three generations in the Baltimore-area family of its original owner. It appeared as Lot #1 in REA's May 2006 sale, selling for $150,800. It has been consigned to this auction directly from the buyer at that sale. Since 2006, two Baltimore News Ruths have been discovered and each has been sold by REA: In 2007 a Good condition example sold for $200,000; in 2008, a Very Good condition example sold for a record $517,000. Both were record prices for any card ever sold at auction (including the T206 Wagner) in the given grade at that time. When the offered card was first sold in 2006, the $150,800 price realized at that time was also greater than the auction record price of any T206 Wagner in the same grade. Since that sale in 2006, several T206 Wagner cards in the lowest grade (one PSA PR-FR 1 example, one SGC PR 10, and one BVG PR 1) have been offered at auction, each time selling for a new record price ($192,000 for the PSA PR-FR 1, $227,000 for the SGC PR 10 example, and, most recently, a new record $317,250 for the BVG PR 1 Beckett Wagner sold in May 2008 at REA). The offered 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie may exceed its previous sale price; it may sell for less; but one thing is certain: it will be sold! The reserve is set at a modest percentage of its previous sale, and the selling price will be determined by the market (as is always the case at REA).

Rarity: REA has had the privilege of being involved in the sale or auction of five of these examples over the years. When we first auctioned an example in 2005, at that time we could account for eight known examples. The sale of that card put the 1914 Ruth rookie - a dream card that many were not even aware existed - at or near the top of the short list of most valuable baseball cards in the world. It was easy to see why. The combination of rarity and significance of the 1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News rookie card is hard not to appreciate. In the years since, in the wake of all the publicity the Ruth rookie has received, a total of three additional examples (including the offered card) have surfaced, all from original-owner noncollecting families. We had thought this brought the total known population to eleven; however, in communicating with collectors over the past several years about the exact number of cards known, we have found that one card which at one time existed apparently no longer exists. The owner, a collector with whom we had lost touch with when he moved years ago, finally called us out of the blue. When we asked him if he still had his 1914 Baltimore News Ruth rookie, we got a much unexpected response: no, because he lost it. He had kept it in his office at work, and to this day he does not know if it was stolen or thrown out. It has been missing for many years, and every once in a while to this day he still finds himself looking for it. He even asked us to keep an eye out for it if we should happen to see it. We know what the card looks like, so if it does cross our desk we'll be able to identify it. But it doesn't sound like this card is likely to ever show up. It was probably thrown out by accident. So, the total population of 1914 Baltimore News Ruth rookie cards known to exist has, incredibly, actually decreased by one, and currently stands at ten once again.

Condition: This is a very pleasing low-grade example. The card has numerous creases, primarily in the lower portion of the card, and corner wear, but is still a very striking card with tremendous eye-appeal. The technically low grade will keep the price down, of course, but also makes the card an even more significant collecting opportunity, since many collectors appreciate the hobby's most important cards in all grades. In fact, in recent years it has become routine for T206 Wagners graded PSA 1 to sell for a minimum of $100,000. Approximately sixty T206 Honus Wagners are known to exist compared with only ten 1914 Babe Ruth rookie cards.

Robert Edward Auctions' president Robert Lifson has long picked the 1914 Baltimore News of Ruth as the greatest baseball card of all time, and has for many years expressed the opinion that the 1914 Ruth may someday exceed the value of the T206 Wagner to become the most valuable card in the world. That trend has been in motion for years, even as both cards have escalated in value over the years. The first 1914 Baltimore Ruth to ever appear at auction (the card was previously unknown) sold in the late 1980s for $6,600 to legendary collector Jim Copeland. That card was sold with the rest of his collection at the famous Copeland auction in 1991, where it realized $18,700. Barry Halper's example sold at the famous Barry Halper auction in 1999 for $79,500. The Robert Edward Auctions' sale at $243,000 in 2005 more than tripled that record; and the REA sale in 2008 at $517,000 more than doubled that record. Because of its far greater rarity, the 1914 Babe Ruth rookie is a card that hits the market far less frequently than the T206 Wagner. Very few cards transcend the world of card collecting and whose great significance can so easily be appreciated by collectors and noncollectors alike. The 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card is one of the few, and its great significance and rarity defines it as one of the collecting world's greatest treasures. Reserve $50,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $152,750

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