The enduring popularity of Babe Ruth, more than sixty years after his death, explains why Babe Ruth baseball cards continue to be sought after by collectors. In a 1993 Associated Press poll, Babe Ruth tied with Muhammad Ali as the most recognized American athlete. Not bad for a professional baseball player whose playing career ended in 1935.
Although the Honus Wagner T206 is the most valuable sports card ever (one of these cards was sold at auction for $ 2.8 million in 2007) Babe Ruth cards run a close second. The most valuable is undoubtedly Ruth’s 1914 rookie card, because of its scarcity: only ten are still known to exist. The card is part of a set printed by the Baltimore Sun and also featured other members of Ruth’s team at the time, the Orioles.
Ruth’s growing fame in subsequent years meant he was featured in most national and regional baseball card sets issued from 1914 to 1929. Since the majority of Babe Ruth baseball cards during this period covered his run with the New York Yankees, the cards most prized by collectors are those which show Ruth in a Red Sox uniform. Ruth only played for the Sox for six seasons, and thus there are only a handful of cards, dating from the years 1917 to 1920, which feature this period of his career.
The later years of Ruth’s career in the thirties also marked the increasing popularity of baseball card collecting as a hobby, and thus the Babe was featured prominently in most sets. The most notable card set during this period was the 1933 set issued by Goudey, a chewing gum company which was the first to include baseball cards with its packs of gum. This set proved so popular that it would be reprinted frequently in subsequent years.
Of course, Babe Ruth baseball cards would continue to be produced even after the end of the Babe’s career, and even to the present day. But the baseball cards issued during Ruth’s career will continue to be the most prized, since they commemorate a legendary athlete at the height of his playing prowess.