A Baltimore newspaper boy sold newspapers about Baltimore cities and streetcars in 1914, probably for 1 or 2 cents each. Along the way, he collected baseball cards of Baltimore Orioles players included in that day’s newspaper.
He treasured them — especially that of George Herman Ruth, a 19-year-old pitcher for the minor league Orioles — for years, eventually passing them on to his son. This Ruth card is now one of the few still available. And soon, it will be put up for auction for the first time since it was issued 109 years ago.
It is expected to fetch at least several million dollars and could potentially compete for the title of most expensive baseball card of all time, a record currently held by a Mickey Mantle rookie card that sold for 12 .6 million dollars last year.
Archibald Davis, the 16-year-old paperboy at the time, grew up playing semi-pro baseball and later passed on the Cards. Glenn Davis, Archibald’s grandson, remembers playing with them when he was growing up in Towson in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Certainly, if we had known how valuable they would become, we would have treated them with more care,” Glenn wrote in an email to the Baltimore Sun.
After a century of ownership, including many years during which the card was on loan to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore, the Davis family sold the cards to a private collector in 2021. That collector is now selling it at auction starting Friday in what is expected to attract eye-popping bidding as one of the most expensive cards ever sold.
First of all, the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card is rare. Released in red and blue, there are only 10 in either color. For comparison, there are at least 50 copies of the T206 Honus Wagner card, one of the most iconic and valuable cards of all time.
Second, the card is Ruth’s first collectible as a baseball player, issued before he played a Major League Baseball game. At the time, he played for his hometown team and was designated as a “pitcher”, a position he first played for the Boston Red Sox before becoming an outfielder for the New York Yankees, changing baseball and becoming one of the nation’s first athletes. celebrities.
Before the two-week, online-only auction begins, the map will be on display again in Baltimore: Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum will host a presentation of the map Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m.
The card is the centerpiece of Robert Edward Auctions’ fall catalog. The auction house will begin bidding at $2.5 million, but it expects the card to fetch much more than that, likely becoming at least the second most expensive card ever sold at auction.
The Mantle rookie card, which was in mint condition and had the benefit of being sold at auction last year, is the only card to ever sell for more than $7.5 million. Brian Dwyer, president of the auction house, believes the Ruth card could reach or exceed $10 million due to its rarity and unique provenance, having spent a century with a single family. He anticipated that it might be many years before another of these 1914 cards came on sale.
“We think this has the potential to threaten the all-time record,” Dwyer told The Sun.
The Ruth card is not in perfect condition, but Ruth’s esteemed place in sports history could make it enticing to wealthy sports collectors, a hobby that has exploded in popularity – and dollars spent – in recent years. last years.
Before recent years, a card selling for millions was rare. Now it is becoming more common.
“It’s definitely rarefied air,” Dwyer said. “But if you look at all the examples of cards that went for six, seven, $12 million, none of them, in our opinion, have the significance of that Babe Ruth rookie card.”
The simple card features just Ruth’s last name on the front. When the card was issued, he was in the process of acquiring his nickname “Babe” due to his youth.
On the back, it lists the 1914 Orioles’ schedule against other International League teams, such as the Buffalo Bison, Jersey City Skeeters, and Montreal Royals (the team Jackie Robinson would join decades later before breaking up). the MLB color barrier).
The 2 5/8-inch by 3 5/8-inch red card has spent much of the last quarter century on display at the museum near Camden Yards, first loaned by the Davis family in the 1990s. The Davis Family decided to sell the card in 2021 and — despite a former relative disputing the family’s ownership, Glenn Davis said — went ahead with the sale.
The new owner, who the auction house remains anonymous, has agreed to keep the card on display at the museum until early this year.
The map is now in the hands of Robert Edward Auctions in a secure, undisclosed location — “It’s heavily fortified, we’ll put it that way,” Dwyer said — and will be until Dec. 3, when the sale The auction will end and a new buyer will own the century-old souvenir. In addition to the Ruth card, the other 14 cards collected by Archibald Davis in 1914 will be auctioned in separate lots.
The museum has one of the few other copies of the map, a blue one, on display since July (thanks to a loan from another collector) and on Wednesday, the one up for auction, a red one, will accompany it to the museum.
“We’re going to bring the Babe back to Baltimore and give collectors the opportunity to see the red and blue examples together,” Dwyer said, “so two of the known ten will be together for a two-hour period.”
Katie Dick, the museum’s director of external affairs, called it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The card must remain behind layers of high-security glass, secured by motion sensors. When you travel, the multimillion-dollar card — the same one that Glenn Davis played casually with as a kid in Towson — has its own cadre of professional guards.
“This card should have its own security details,” Dwyer said. “This card must travel with armed security. If you think about any movie you’ve seen where there are armored cars and armored guards, this one deserves that kind of protection.
Those interested in viewing the map can do so by paying the normal admission fee ($13 for adults, $11 for seniors/veterans, $7 for children) at the museum. Also on display is an exhibit featuring the late Brooks Robinson, which features one of his gloves, an early example of a batting helmet, that he wore, as well as his first contract with the 1955 Orioles.
Wednesday could be one of the card’s last public appearances for a while. But whoever with deep pockets gets to claim the card next, Glenn Davis hopes they will consider making the card available to others, as his family has done.
“We hope that the future owner will consider making them accessible to the public,” he wrote. “These are beautiful and amazing historical sporting artifacts. Something that must be valuable to those who love baseball.