DENVER, Colo. – The highest graded example of Babe Ruth’s 1921 E121 American Caramel baseball card – one of only 68 cards known across all three E121 Ruth variations – is up for bid in Small Traditions’ Summer Classic Auction, online at http://smalltraditions.com/catalog.aspx and ending Sept. 1st. It’s an online-only auction. Phone bids can be submitted at 303-832-1975.
The card, graded PSA NM 7, is easily the headliner of the more than 1,300 lots in the auction (1,200 of which are baseball cards). Rare and highly collectible cards for stars such as Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Satchell Paige, Al Kaline, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Tiger Woods, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, Tom Glavine, Peyton Manning, and others are also in the sale.
But the Ruth card, understandably, is generating all the buzz. It shows the Bambino in a Boston uniform, having just thrown a ball. Underneath his photo it reads, “R.F. – New York Americans”. The name “Babe” is in quotes (one of the variations). In 2017, a version of the card without quotes graded PSA 5 sold for $43,200. Last year, a version with the quotes like the card being auctioned by Small Traditions (but graded lower at PSA 6) fetched $115,626.
The E121 American Caramel Ruth card is rare in any condition, but especially so in top grades (like PSA NM 7). Of the 68 total E121 Ruth cards on record at PSA, 38 are of the “Babe” variety (with quotes). Of those 38, the card in the sale is the single highest graded. The next best copies beneath it are a pair in the EX-MT 6 grade. One is the card that auctioned for $115,626 last year.
Nearly 30 of the 38 “Babe” in quotes cards known to PSA are graded PSA 3 VG or lower, and that’s not unusual for early Ruth cards. What is unusual is a copy graded PSA 7. Only one other copy from the other two 1921 E121 variations has ever graded PSA 7, and just one other copy from four identically designed 1917 Ruth issues has ever graded PSA 7, with none higher.
No 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie card has ever come close to a PSA 7 grade, while his 1916 rookie cards report just one PSA 7 on record for each of the Globe Clothing and Herpolsheimer backs, one PSA 7 for the M101-4 Sporting News back, along with one PSA 8 and another two PSA 7s of the blank variety, then another three PSA 7s and three PSA 8s for the M101-5 Sporting News.
In short, these 15 early Babe Ruth cards graded PSA 7 NM or higher are the most coveted Ruth cards in the hobby, and some of the most valuable baseball cards in existence. The card being offered carries a modest $25,000 minimum bid (already exceeded), but Small Traditions owner Dave Thorn said he expects the final price will be “between $100,000 and $200,000, perhaps even more.”
The card ranks among the top-five most significant Babe Ruth cards in the hobby for three reasons. They are:
- Ruth’s 1921 season, his second with the Yankees, was by most accounts, the best of his 22-year career and arguably the most impressive season by any Major League baseball player ever. His numbers were off the charts – 177 runs scored, 168 RBIs, 59 home runs – which helped the Yankees to their first-ever AL pennant championship.
- The front design of E121 is identical to a handful of very rare issues from 1917. Along with the offered E121 issue of 1921, all five of these important early Ruth issues show the same obverse design, which very closely models the design of Ruth’s 1916 rookie card, with Ruth in a throwing or pitching pose and in a Boston Red Sox uniform.
- 1921 marked the year that Babe Ruth really became the legend and perhaps most famous person on the planet. This was accomplished with the help of a “ghost writer”, Christy Walsh, who essentially became the first sports agent ever and helped promote his biggest client’s exploits in newspaper accounts that were read worldwide.
The Tom Glavine card in the sale is an exceedingly rare 1988 Topps Cloth Experimental rookie card from 1988, the only one on record with PSA. The card is graded PSA 10 Gem Mint Pop 1 and has a minimum bid of $1,000. The Ichiro Suzuki card is a 1993 Hyougo Ginkou rookie card and is regarded as Ichiro’s rarest rookie card. Few collectors even know of the card’s existence. It was part of an annual Fan Appreciation Day at Green Stadium Kobe, in Japan. It was personally handed out to fans by Ichiro himself. It carries a minimum bid of $500.
Cards with relatively high minimum bids include a 1998 Peyton Manning Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket Autograph #87 card, graded highly at PSA 10 Gem Mint Pop 6 and signed by Manning (MB: $10,000); and a gorgeous 1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle rookie card, graded PSA 6 EX-MT and boasting a pristine image registration. The minimum bid is $5,000.
Non-baseball card standouts include a 1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana rookie card, graded PSA 10 Gem Mint (MB: $2,500); a 1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice rookie card, graded PSA 10 Gem Mint (MB: $2,500); a 2001 Upper Deck Players Ink Tiger Woods rookie card, graded BGS 9.5 Gem Mint, serial numbered 12/25 (MB: $2,500); and a 1997 Skybox Z-Force Super Rave #172 Tracy McGrady rookie card graded PSA Gem Mint Pop 5, serial numbered 15/50 (MB: $2,500).
Also up for bid is a 2001 Studio Masterstrokes Artist’s Proof Autographed Albert Pujols rookie card, graded BGS 9.5 Gem Mint Pop 2, serial numbered 18/25 (MB: $2,500); a 1949 Bowman #50 Jackie Robinson card, graded PSA 8 NM-MT (MB: $2,500); a 1949 Bowman #224 Leroy “Satchell” Paige card, graded PSA 8 NM-MT (MB: $2,500); a 1954 Topps #210 Al Kaline rookie card, graded PSA 8.5 NM-MT+ (MB: $2,500); and an actual World Series game ticket from Game 3 1932, the game with Babe Ruth’s famous “called shot”, graded PSA 3 VG Pop 11 (MB: $1,000).
The auction also features Part 2 of The Cardbull Collection (Inserts and Rookies). The Cardbull Collection had included PSA 9 graded copies of nearly every one of Hank Aaron’s standard Topps issues. Part 1, which featured the Aaron cards, was held by Small Traditions on May 5th.
Small Traditions has streamlined its website (www.smalltraditions) with some exciting new features. These include a new store with listings mirrored on eBay; new auction pages with optimized formats; a new homepage testimonials section; a new streamlined consignment submission process; and new 10-day accelerated consignor payouts. See website for details.
Small Traditions is always seeking quality cards for future auctions. To inquire about consigning a single card or an entire collection, call 303-832-1975; or, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn how you can grade and auction your cards without any cost or obligation. To learn more about Small Traditions and the auction ending Saturday, Sept. 1st visit www.smalltraditions.com.
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