October/November 2021 Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 11/12/2021

In 1927, Babe Ruth led the "Murderer's Row" Yankees with a major-league record of 60 home runs, edging out the Philadelphia Athletics to win the home run crown. Yes, the Philadelphia Athletics .... the entire team! The Babe hit more home runs than every other team in the American League in 1927. While most of Ruth's records have been eclipsed over the 85+ years since he last stepped on the diamond, he will always be the first player to hit 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 home runs in a season. And had he not made a transition to the outfield when joining the pinstripers, he likely would have been one of the greatest hurlers in baseball history. Posting an overall 80-41 record with a 2.09 ERA at just 23 years old, it's conceivable that we'd be celebrating Ruth as a 300-game winner instead of one of only three players, and the first in history to top 700 home runs. Even at this early stage in his career, it was becoming apparent that Ruth was as adept in the batter's box as he was on the mound, adding a .299 batting average and 20 homers over 678 at-bats. The Red Sox had a decision to make and began transitioning Ruth to the outfield in 1918, cutting his starts on the mound in half and giving him more opportunities at the plate. Ruth proved that he could be dominant at both by posting a 13-7 record with a 2.22 ERA while also batting .300 and leading the American League in home runs despite having just 317 at-bats. In 1919, Ruth's time on the mound was scaled back even more but he still posted a 9-5 record. More importantly, his 432 at-bats yielded 29 homers, 113 RBI, and 103 runs scored, all-league leaders. Following his infamous move to New York in December of 1919, Yankees manager Miller Huggins put an end to George Herman Ruth's pitching career, making him a full-time outfielder that would destroy records on an annual basis and change the course of baseball history forever. Since Ruth's tenure, other athletes in various sports have dominated their era; Chamberlain, Orr, Gretzky, and Jordan to name a few, but no one in history has so completely captivated the American audience both as an athlete and a cult of personality than George Herman "Babe" Ruth. Had he made his debut a few years earlier, he might have surpassed even the legendary Honus Wagner card as the darling of the T206 white border collection. But Babe came onto the scene at a time when there were no widely distributed issues, his "rookie card" being introduced as part of Felix Mendelson's independent creation that is cataloged as M101-4. Numbered in alphabetical sequence and displaying superior photo quality compared to other regional issues of the day, the Chicago-based printer sold his blank-backed product to various businesses to add their own advertising on the reverse and distribute them as business cards. In all, Mendelson found 18 clients promoting department stores, bakeries, clothing stores, and breweries among other trades, but his most significant client was the Sporting News, a weekly publication founded in 1886. Taking out an ad in the April 6, 1916 edition with an offer to sell full sheets, it was only a few months later that The Sporting News began offering the cards with their own company information on the reverse. With The Sporting News firmly entrenched as Mendelsohn's premier customer, blank-backed versions of the cards like the featured piece have become customarily referred to as Sporting News issues. While the relative scarcity of the 201-card issue is already a daunting obstacle for collectors, the appearance of Babe Ruth as a relative unknown was not nearly as desirable to collectors compared to established superstars like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Joe Jackson, and Walter Johnson. Has Ruth not led the American League with a 1.75 ERA and 9 shutouts while posting a 23-12 record, he would have been considered a "common" to just about anyone outside of the New England area. As it stands, there are several subjects from the M101-4 Sporting News series that have a higher PSA population than the Babe Ruth rookie card. Arguably the most single important baseball card ever produced since the first Peck & Snyder card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, the featured item would be at home in a museum or on exhibit at Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame just as easily as it will be in the collection of the highest bidder. Only 6 blank-backed examples of Babe Ruth's rookie card designated M101-4 have made their way to the grading room at PSA headquarters and this PSA 7 specimen is matched by just one other at the NM level with none graded higher, according to the population report. Any advanced hobbyist who has made it their mission to secure a Babe Ruth rookie card for their collection knows of the two almost obligatory pitfalls plaguing the issue; poor centering and unsightly print lines, which is why this example has vaulted to the upper echelon of the PSA grading scale. The M101-4 Ruth is almost always heavily shifted toward one endpoint but the featured specimen offers superior framing for the issue, slightly positioned a few degrees toward the right side but well within parameters for the grade. Even more significant is the absence of the two horizontal print lines that appear on the large majority of other known specimens, which is why most examples fail to venture above a VG/EX to EX assessment. The series is also lauded for overall image quality that is superior to any contemporary but can vary greatly from one example to another, often corrupted by a conspicuous dose of "black snow" in the backdrop and on the Babe's uniform that reduces the regal stature of the card. But as expected of such a high-profile card with an advanced grade, the sharpness and focus of the young, lanky legend are superb and largely devoid of that complication, enhanced by an unadulterated layer of reflective gloss. Of course, a NM grade for such a card can't be achieved without corners and edges that aren't equally up to the task, and we're happy to report that this example not only meets but exceeds the qualifications for the grade, appearing closer to NM+ or even NM/MT specifications as outlined in the PSA guidelines with little more than a speck of light enamel loss that is visible under high magnification but looks virtually undetectable to the naked eye. Well-respected grader Mike Baker agrees, giving the card a "gold diamond" status that indicates it's of the highest quality of known examples in the marketplace for the grade. Over the past few years, we've seen a 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autographs sell for $5.2M, a 2018 Luka Doncic Panini National Treasures 1 of 1 Logoman Autograph net $4.6M, and a 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor Autograph fetch just short of $4M. With all due respect to LeBron, Luka, and Trout, amazing players that are likely destined to the Hall of Fame, they aren't Babe Ruth. With the prices realized on that trio of cards, where does that put a century-old rookie card of the most dominant athlete in human history which ranks as one of the finest examples in existence? Cost notwithstanding, if I have the opportunity to own any one of them, I'm going for the Babe Ruth rookie card every time. It's Babe Ruth! Taking all of this into consideration, and adding that there have even been more T206 Honus Wagner cards sold in the past two years than there have been Ruth rookie cards, and given that an example with this level of superiority hasn't been up for auction in many years, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for the enthusiast who wants a collection-defining piece that stands as one of the pinnacle pieces in the over 150 years of baseball card production!

1916 M101-4 Sporting News #151 Babe Ruth Blank Back PSA 7 NM MBA Gold
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $400,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $2,400,000.00
Number Bids:43
Competitive in-house shipping is not available for this lot.
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