How much would you be willing to spend on a 109-year-old Babe Ruth card? If your answer isn’t around $10 million, you’re not in the right ballpark.
The consignors of a 1914 Babe Ruth card, which was distributed by a local newspaper, the Baltimore News, when Ruth was a 19-year-old on the International League Orioles, are holding a public auction for the card, which has been on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore since 1998.
Only 10 copies of the Ruth card are known to exist. Since July, another copy has been on display at the museum alongside the one up for auction.
The opening bid was $2.5 million and bidding is now up to $4.75 million. The auctioneers, Robert Edward Auctions, are hoping the card’s price tag will break the record for the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia currently held by a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card that sold for $12.6 million in 2022.
“There are some people that think that this could challenge that,” said Brian Dwyer, president of Robert Edward Auctions.
Thousands of baseball fans have seen the card in person at Ruth’s old home on Emory Street, where the Hall of Famer was born 1895. Ruth spent the first seven years of his life there before he was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys for his “incorrigible” behavior. It was there that Brother Matthias, one of the school’s baseball coaches, mentored Ruth.
Jack Dunn, then manager of the Orioles, discovered Ruth in 1914, and took such a liking to the 19-year-old that teammates teasingly gave Ruth the nickname “Babe.”
Dunn’s card is also up for auction, along with those of 12 other members of the 1914 Orioles. The set was collected and preserved by a newspaper boy and has remained in his family for more than a century. Cards from the Baltimore News set were printed in red and blue variations, and measure approximately 2 5/8 inches by 3 5/8 inches. The reverse side has the Orioles’ schedule for 1914.
The auctioneers are holding a private reception for prospective bidders at the museum on Wednesday, Nov. 15, before bringing the card to New York City for another event on Nov. 29. Bidding for the card closes on Dec. 3.