What can be said about the “Sultan of Swat”, or the “Great Bambino” other than Babe Ruth stands as the pinnacle in the industry? The greatest superstar in sports history, Ruth's home run prowess was written about all over the world and his legacy of championships with the New York Yankees didn't hurt either. His outgoing personality, the stories shared by those who remembered him and his relatively early death have made Ruth larger than live, more than 100 years after his debut. Collecting and investing in Babe Ruth baseball cads and memorabilia is extremely popular and while some items are out of reach for many, enough quality Ruth material is out there that there is generally something within reach.
Babe Ruth: Most Collectible Player Ever?
Every baseball card collector has dreamed of adding an authentic Babe Ruth baseball card and autograph into his or her collection. Many of those same hobbyists have graduated from collecting to investing. While the focus has changed from simple enjoyment to return-on-investment, buyers still attempt to acquire cards that will both generate a return, and provide personal enrichment, while holding onto investments.
Ruth is at the center of this dual theme. There are those who collect Ruth only. There are Yankee collectors who have him as their focal point and there are collectors who chase pre-World War II Hall of Famers.
Even someone who isn't really a sports fan knows Babe Ruth and that recognition factor should never be downplayed. Ruth is among a select few athletes for whom demand crosses all generations.
Investment Quality of Babe Ruth Memorabilia
The result of such broad interest in Ruth has generated significant investment demand across all grades and issues of the player. It is a common site for low-grade cards to sell for generous premiums, to estimated value at auction while high-grade Ruths are in demand from serious collectors and investors who have seen them rise exponentially over the years.
No vintage baseball card investment portfolio is complete or balanced, without some representation from Babe Ruth. It is important for the investor to understand that high-grade Ruth cards can easily sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
However, authenticated Ruth cards and autographs can be found on eBay in a variety of conditions, with low grade examples often popular with collectors and investors who aren't blessed with a large bankroll.
Few are alive today who remember him playing, yet interest has never been higher and sports icons who transcend the game into national consciousness are what advisors point to when asked to name the best athletes to invest in. Click the title of each to see what's available on eBay or learn more about them.
1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News- Issued by the News during Ruth's minor league days in the city, this is the holy grail of Ruth cards with fewer than a dozen known examples. It has skyrocketed in price over the last few years, surpassing even the T206 Wagner in collector and investor demand. A 'poor' Ruth sold in 2013 for $450,300. One collector who purchased a Ruth card several years ago sold it in 2012 for more than $325,000---more than double what he had paid three years earlier.
1916 M101-4 Babe Ruth- The first card issued once Babe arrived in the big leagues, this one has developed a very strong following. The backs contained room for a sponsor ad but the biggest and most common distributor was The Sporting News. A VG example sold for $44,812.50 in November 2014.
1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53 – Quite possibly Ruth's most popular card. It is a lithograph action portrait of him swinging. Cards of any grade are difficult to obtain. However, cards graded at PSA 4 or lower can be obtained for under $6,000. It's one of four Ruth cards in the 1933 Goudey set.
1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #149 – One of four Ruth cards issued in the 1933 Goudey set, this one features a red background with Ruth taking a swing. It seems to be the hardest one of the four to locate, especially in high grade but about 20 examples are usually available. A '7' will run close to $25,000 but you can still own a VG-EX 4 for around $5,000.
1920-21 W516 Babe Ruth- These unnumbered strip cards, W516-1 and W516-2 were among the first Ruth cards issues after his trade to the Yankees from Boston. Ruth is still shown as a pitcher on these crude 'strip cards' that were given out with candy purchases. Still attainable for average collectors, a few thousand dollars will get you a respected example--at least right now.
1927 New York Caramels Babe Ruth #6 – This card represents another stage in the transition from traditional tobacco cards to modern day issues. Although the card has similar dimensions to earlier tobacco cards, the image on the front is an actual photograph, versus a lithograph. Because of the photography employed, this card is in tremendous demand. Only a handful of the cards have even been graded, making acquisition of the card difficult in any grade.
1949 Leaf Babe Ruth #4 – This card has significant importance to the hobby. Instead of a strong and invincible player, as featured on earlier cards, this card shows an older, more human figure. It is also the first card produced after his death in 1948 and was likely created to honor baseball's greatest player ever as the rest of the set consisted of current players and coaches. Unlike earlier cards, this one is more affordably priced. Cards graded 6 or lower can easily be purchased under $2,500, with higher grades still available for less than $5,000.
There are lower cost graded Babe Ruth cards to buy if you'd like to dip a toe in the market without a large outlay. These, too, are generally great to own.
Babe Ruth Autographs
Babe Ruth autographs are just as highly sought after, as his baseball cards. Signed checks run $5,000-$7,000; sometimes more. High-end signatures, especially single signed baseballs, frequently surpass $10,000 or more. Ruth signed a lot of autographs during his life but still not enough to satisfy demand from today's perfect storm of fans, collectors and investors. Checks, because of their nature, are among the safest Ruth investments and do often sell on eBay.
There are, of course, many other Ruth cards to collect from the 1920s through the mid-1930s and other items such as vintage photographs and memorabilia.A game-worn 1920-era Ruth Yankees road jersey sold for over $4.4 million in 2012 and tops the list of the most expensive Ruth memorabilia ever sold.
It should be noted that modern era cards produced with a cut signature and/or relic from Ruth's career are also very valuable and highly collected. While advanced collectors may not understand it, selling prices for these pieces, usually 1/1, prove the demand is strong and there's no disputing that they are beautifully done in most cases. One ore more are typically on the real-time list of the 'most watched' Babe Ruth cards on eBay, which is directly below.