The consignors of a rare 1914 Babe Ruth baseball card from the Great Bambino’s days with the International League Baltimore Orioles sold the card for $7.2 million in a public auction that ended Sunday night. The buyer’s name and information are not publicly available.
Though the enormous sum — which includes the buyer’s premium — is the highest price ever paid for a Babe Ruth item, it falls short of the record price for a trading card, held by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card that sold for $12.6 million in 2022. It’s also just shy of the $7.25 million paid for a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner card that was sold in a private sale in 2022.
The Baltimore News, a local paper, distributed the cards in red and blue variations in 1914, Ruth’s only year with his hometown club, along with cards featuring his Orioles teammates and manager, Jack Dunn. A newspaper boy collected and preserved a set of the cards, which remained in his family for over a century. Fourteen additional cards from the set were also put up for auction but did not meet the reserve that was set and were not sold.
The Ruth card in the auction, which had been on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum on Emory Street in Baltimore since 1998, is one of only 10 copies known to exist, and is the second-highest graded version, according to Robert Edward Auctions. The museum has also had a blue variation on display since July.
The auction opened on Nov. 15 with a starting bid of $2.5 million and drew 15 bids in total. The winning $6 million bid came in just minutes before the 9 p.m. deadline for initial bids on Sunday.
Ruth was just 19 when Dunn discovered and signed the left-handed pitcher out of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. His contract was sold to the Boston Red Sox on July 9, and Ruth proceeded to play 22 major league seasons, including 15 with the New York Yankees, swatting 714 home runs in his Hall of Fame career.