See also : Sport Babe Ruth Sport uniform Sport cards T206 Wagner Babe Ruth cards Topps Mantle Modern sport cards Baseball jersey
Chronology : 1952 2009
Link to PSA baseball cards database.
1909 T206 WAGNER
The advertising back identifies a brand of tobacco that can be Piedmont, Sweet Caporal or 14 other varieties of cigarettes and tobacco then offered by this company. The cards were inserted in the packs.
The views are not numbered but on the back the cumulative number of the announced subjects allows to establish a chronology of the impressions : 150 subjects then 350 and 460, then 'Large Assortment' for the last runs.
The Honus Wagner card was printed in the first year but the player rejected the proposal from a delegate of the ATC. He was probably not hostile to tobacco. The hypothesis that he would have expected for a better retribution is plausible. Wagner was one of the best baseball players of all time, whose prestige almost equaled Ty Cobb.
The T206 Wagner is only known with the advertising back variants for the two most common tobacco brands of the American Tobacco Company, Sweet Caporal and Piedmont, the former being known in two tobacco plant identifications, 25 and 30. All copies indicate the series at 150 subjects which is the original edition from 1909 before it was extended. The withdrawal of the Wagner card at the time the original release is obvious but not documented at that step.
2021 SOLD for $ 6.6M by Robert Edward
It was sold for $ 6.6M on August 15, 2021 by Robert Edward, lot 1. It is illustrated in the pre sale release by Sports Collector Daily. Its SGC holder has been changed some time after the 2012 auction.
It's Wagner Wallpaper Wednesday and our Summer Auction is heating up! Bidding ends this Sunday August 15th! Head over to https://t.co/XI1djwlZVL@REAOnline #wallpaperwednesdays #honuswagnercard #t206cards #baseballcards #thehobby #Auction #tangibleassets #cardcollector pic.twitter.com/ww2qpKIydr— RobertEdwardAuctions (@REAOnline) August 11, 2021
2021 SOLD for $ 3.75M by Goldin
This well centered card with a Sweet Caporal 'Base Ball Series, 150 Subjects' back is graded Good 2 by PSA taking into account large horizontal creases, tiny smudges and round corners.
It had been collected by the consignor's father half a century ago and is fresh on the market.
1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Card
2023 SOLD for $ 7.2M by Robert Edward
Jack Dunn was arguably a good businessman : as early as July 4 he transferred George to a major league club. Ruth makes his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox on July 11.
During this short period, the local publisher Baltimore News had time to publish a baseball card of "Ruth, pitcher". The back announces the schedule from April 21 to September 26. This rudimentary monochrome print is available in two variants, red and blue. The large borders and the paper stock are not conducive for a good preservation.
Ten copies are known. A blue card is graded VG-EX 4 by PSA.
A red copy graded VG 3 by SGC with a provenance from the heirs of the original owner was sold for $ 7.2M by Robert Edward on December 3, 2023, lot 1 illustrated in the pre sale release shared by Sports Collector Digest. It had been on loan from 1998 at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore
Another red example, in poor condition, graded PR 1 by PSA, was sold for $ 450K by Robert Edward on May 18, 2013, lot 1. It is illustrated in the pre sale release shared by AuctionPublicity.
One of the world’s rarest baseball cards - the 1914 Baltimore News #BabeRuth Rookie - is coming to REA's Fall Auction beginning Nov 17. One of only 10 examples in existence, it's expected to sell for upwards of $10 million or more!https://t.co/nCyrxWAE1v #thehobby pic.twitter.com/qNOCdfuMDr— RobertEdwardAuctions (@REAOnline) November 6, 2023
1920 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
2012 SOLD for $ 4.4M by SCP
The players used two jerseys, a home jersey for the games on their field and a road jersey for trips. A jersey could be used throughout one season or more, which further increases their rarity.
Compared to the next period, documents allowing photo-matching are scarce. The experts thus pay the greatest attention to the details of making which allow an identification of the year or a range of years, rather than on the shears in the textile or on misalignments in the inscriptions.
On May 19, 2012, SCP Auctions sold for $ 4.4M a game worn jersey of Babe Ruth. A photo of the champion made in March 1920 shows him with a jersey identical as this example.
This road jersey had been exhibited for many years at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. Its New York Yankees front marking is dated circa 1920. The maker was Spalding.
In very good condition, it retains its original identification with the name of Ruth.
BABE RUTH BIRTHDAY: Today on January 6 1895 the greatest player to play the game of Baseball was born. Here is the best piece of Ruthian memorabilia sold by @SCPAuctions for $4,415,658 World record for a piece of sports memorabilia #Baberuth @baseballhall @Yankees @MLB #MLB pic.twitter.com/Z5BL5bA2DF— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) February 6, 2018
1928-1929 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
2019 SOLD for $ 5.6M by Hunt
The 'Yankees' mark on the front side enables to date the garment between 1927 and 1930. A label inside the collar is marked 'Ruth'. A number 3 has been erased at some point while leaving some traces.
The photos of Babe Ruth in 1927 show another placement of the buttons. The photo-matching orients rather towards 1928 or 1929. It is in 1929 that the Yankees began to sew a number on the jerseys to facilitate the identification of the players by the public. Ruth had received the number 3.
UPDATE: Babe Ruth NY Yankees Jersey added to Ruth Collection Live Auction at @yankeestadium. Professional model Yankees Road Jersey Worn by the #Bambino dates to the 1928-30 era with Potential to Set World Record Pricing in Excess of $4,000,000! @NewYorkYankees #SultanofSwat @MLB pic.twitter.com/0dx9NChNR4— Hunt Auctions (@HuntAuctions) April 23, 2019
1933 Goudey Ruth
2021 SOLD for $ 4.2M by Memory Lane
Goudey Gum Company is a leader in the chewing gum market. The founder of the company retires in 1932. In 1933 the new management includes silkscreen printed cards in the gum packs. The drawing executed from a photograph is simple and the colors are bright. The back includes in full format a short descriptive text beside the identification of the publisher, which was much more attractive at that place than on a postcard.
The most important series is devoted entirely to baseball players under the title of Big League Chewing Gum. Its 240 images are published by Goudey in Boston. 94 of them are renumbered and published in Montreal by World Wide Gum Company which was the Goudey branch in Canada.
The editions released in the same year include a multi-sport series of 48 cards for the Sport Kings chewing gum, 216 Indian views for the Indian chewing gum and two other series of 48 cards : Boy Scouts and Sea Raiders.
The Goudey Big League series, inserted in 1933 and 1934 in the Gum wax packs of that brand, brings a quality glow within the decadence of the 1930s trading cards, in competition with postcards. It is made of 240 positions including four Babe Ruth at position numbers 53, 144, 149, 181. Number 181 is a close-up portrait on which the leaning champion carefully observes an action out of the field of view. This picture is not included in the other series.
The star lot of the collection of the late Thomas Newman was a 1933 Goudey # 53 featuring Ruth with bat on shoulder and yellow background. It was sold for $ 4.2M by Memory Lane on July 10, 2021, lot 1. It is the only card of this position graded Mint 9 by PSA with none higher and none equal or higher by SGC.
In order for young collectors to continue buying the gum, the number 106 of the 1933 series was originally not used. The deception has been discovered. In the following year Goudey created a 1933-106 to provide it to angry fans. This card with the effigy of retired champion Napoleon Lajoie is the rarest in the series and no copy was stained by gum. A 1933-106 graded Mint 9 by PSA was sold for $ 230K by Goldin on October 1, 2016.
1952 Topps MANTLE
2022 SOLD for $ 12.6M by Heritage
At the instigation of Sy Berger, Topps makes a sensational entry into the edition of baseball cards. After a first trial in 1951, they launch in 1952 an extensive series with sharp pictures, pretty colors and a pleasantly didactic inscription on the back.
The project is ambitious and innovative. The image of the player printed in beautiful colors is accompanied by a fac simile of his autograph signature. The back side lists the statistics and feats of the player as well as his personal attributes and some laudatory comments.
The printing of the 1952 series is made in several batches including the selection of additional players. Topps wanted to keep going but their extension of the 1952 series, numbers 311 to 407, was not released on suitable time.
The unsold stock was of no further use to them and they drowned in 1960 in the Atlantic Ocean a barge loaded with the huge remains of the second part of the 1952 edition.
Mickey Mantle is that young handsome player who was iconic of the postwar American dream.
1952 had begun quite bad for him. The New York Yankees' great prospect, highlighted in early 1951 as Joe DiMaggio's designated successor, had finally made a dull season. After being downgraded to the Minor League, he returned to the Major League but suffered a severe injury to his right knee in an action with DiMaggio.
His father who was also his mentor dies on May 7, 1952 at the age of 40 of a blood disease. It was not known at the time that his illness was lead poisoning developed when mining. The young Mickey who was psychologically fragile believed in a hereditary curse. On July 8 Mickey is selected for the All-Star Game as an outfielder but left in reserve.
Mantle's omission in the first 310 players is probably due to his poor start of the season. When he becomes the first of the final 311-407, it is too late. The 1952 season is already well underway and Topps is slowing down the distribution to prepare for 1953 with suitably updated attributes.
An excellent participation at the beginning of October in the World Series launches the career of Mickey Mantle in a sustainable way. Although 1952 is not his rookie year, the rare Topps 1952-311 will become the most desirable of the modern baseball cards.
Owning a high grade 1952-311 card is currently recommended as a strong investment. The date of this edition is not so old and our grandfathers are feverishly searching into the shoeboxes of their youth. The population of PSA graded cards is growing significantly : 1,225 in December 2015, 1,392 in October 2016, and approaching 1,600 in 2019.
The top of the scale at PSA is occupied by 3 cards graded Gem Mint 10 and 6 graded Mint 9.
The dealer Alan Rosen was using the self attributed moniker Mr Mint for his business. Renowned for his offerings of high condition baseball cards, he sold a T206 Wagner for $ 76,000 in 1990. He edited with Doug Garr in 1991 an "Insider's Guide to Investing in Baseball Cards and Collectibles".
Mr Mint acquired in 1985 a collection of high number 1952 Topps cards in mint condition. He will say that his best # 311 Mantle from that set was in his opinion"the finest known example in the world".
Investment went fast. Mr Mint soon sold his # 311 for a reported $ 3,500. He reacquired it in 1991 for $ 40,000 and sold it to a demanding collector for $ 50,000 during the 1991 New York Post Card show.
The grading systems were in infancy. PSA was created in 1991 as the very first grading and authentication company. The happy collector treasured his # 311 for 31 years without grading it.
Now aged 76 and considering that all his friends have seen it, he consigned it to Heritage after reportedly refusing an offer for a $ 10M private deal. After a transfer in armored truck, it is now the one off # 311 Mantle graded MT+ 9.5 by SGC. This high grading rewards a perfect centering, sharp corners and beautiful colors. The SGC label designates it as the "finest known example".
It was sold for $ 12.6M by Heritage on August 27, 2022, lot 53014. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Three other # 311 have been graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA. Heritage comments that "graded standards have changed over the decades" and that the Rosen find would arguably win against them.
Mint 9 by SGC from the Rosen find
2023 SOLD for $ 4.5M by Heritage
This card now graded Mint 9 by SGC was sold for $ 4.5M by Heritage on August 19, 2023, lot 80026.
1958 Mickey Mantle Home Jersey
2023 SOLD for $ 4.7M by Heritage
In 1956 he was the Most Valuable Player with 52 home runs and an average of .353. He became the 12th batter in history to win the Major League Triple Crown, meaning that he was the best in the three categories : batting average, home runs and runs batted in. He was recognized by the Associated Press as the Athlete of the Year for all sports combined. He was again rewarded as American League MVP in 1957.
For that period, the photo-matching of New York Yankees jerseys is easy. The logo on the chest is composed of an N and a Y with curved branches, individually sewn by hand. Each piece is easily recognizable in the photos by the respective position of the two letters and by their positioning over the vertical stripes of the garment.
On January 23, 2020, Mile High Card sold as lot 1 for $ 650K a Spalding flannel home jersey dated 1955, on which the central bar of the N forms a narrow angle with the upper left bar of the Y. It is narrated in the pre sale article shared on January 1 by Sports Collector Daily.
This garment is matched with all of Mantle's photos in the Yankees Stadium from March 1956 to July 1956, with no prior use. The auction house estimates that Mantle achieved 17 homers with this jersey.
It is completely authentic except the large number 7 on the back which is not original. Such an alteration was a standard practice when a jersey obsoleted by a player was offered to a lower league club. It is graded A7 by MEARS.
A pinstriped home jersey got seven photo-matchings in 1958-1959 by Resolution Photomatching, starting with an award ceremony at the Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1958. Having never been modified for lower league action, this garment is fully original excepted one button. It is graded Superior/Superior-Excellent by SGC equivalent to 9.5 in numerical grading. The dark navy felt logo on the chest and the number 7 on the back are in the original position.
This piece of uniform was sold for $ 4.7M from a lower estimate of $ 4M by Heritage on August 19, 2023, lot 80094. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The NY Yankees were World Champions in 1958 but Mickey Mantle finished only on fifth position for the 1958 American League MVP award.
2009 Mike Trout Topps Superfractor
2020 SOLD for $ 3.94M by Goldin
The cards were randomly distributed by the publisher in the original packaging. Their discovery is a game akin to the lottery. In events announced in advance by specialist companies, a client opens an old box that is still sealed. When one of them gets his hands on a holy grail, the video of the event is a good marketing incentive for the operator.
The most popular cards are those of the rookies. The most promising have the whole range of variants, including the Red Refractor in five copies. At the top of this hierarchy is the 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect of Mike Trout, who will be the best baseball player of his generation.
On May 22, 2020, Goldin sold for $ 920K the 2009 Red Refractor 5/5 of Mike Trout, graded Gem Mint 9.5 by BGS with an autograph signature graded 10 by Beckett.
Can do better !
The Red Refractor, despite its limited edition, is not the top of the range. Here is the Superfractor. The player's photo is layered with a reflective pattern that provides a glitter. Several Superfractor variants of the same card can coexist but each piece is unique in its variant, and serialized 1/1.
On August 22, 2020, Goldin sold as lot 1 for $ 3.94M a Superfractor 1/1 of the rookie card of Mike Trout. It is graded Mint 9 by BGS with an autograph signature graded 10 by Beckett.