Babe Ruth’s First Major League Contract with Earns a Cool Million at Centennial Auction
The first round of the Babe Ruth Centennial Auction took place on July 12, exactly 100 years to the day Ruth played in his first professional baseball game.
The Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary Auction concluded its first session this past weekend and Ruthian collectors made their mark, spending $3.6 million for the first 100 or so lots, including a cool one million dollars for the Great Bambino’s 1918 contract to play with the Boston Red Sox.
The auction, which is being held at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, Md., will continue online until the second round closes on July 18.
Babe Ruth’s 1918 contract, signing Ruth to his first Major League team—the Boston Red—realized a price of $1.02 million.
The idea to hold a player-focused auction was developed by Ken Goldin, CEO of Goldin Auctions.
“It was a magical night and especially appropriate that records were set when we honored the man who set more records than any player in baseball history,” Goldin said. “We thank the 100 bidders who attended the live auction and the thousands others who bid online. We are excited to keep the action going online for another week for collectors all across the world.”
The first session included about three dozen lots of Babe Ruth memorabilia, as well as pieces connected to several other Hall of Fame players. Bidding was spirited, with deep-pocket collectors hoping to win a prized piece of baseball history. Some of the higher profile items to garner top dollar included:
• Babe Ruth’s 1918 Boston Red Contract: The original document signing Ruth to his first Major League contract realized a price of $1.02 million;
• 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card: In spite of its condition listing as “Poor,” the card sold for $390,000. This is an exception to the rule that condition dictates value. In this case, it was rarity that was the influencing factor, as there are only 10 known examples of this card in existence;
• Babe Ruth Game-Used Bat, Circa 1916-18: A bat authenticated to have been used by Ruth in the early part of his career saw the gavel drop at $204,000;
• Babe Ruth Single Signed Baseball: One of the highest-graded, Babe Ruth autographed baseballs sold for $96,000. The official American League baseball itself received a grade from PSA (the sports collectibles leading grading and authentication company) of 8.5 on a 10-point scale. The near pristine signature was awarded the rare grade—for an item of its era—with a 9 out of possible 10;
• Babe Ruth Game Worn Pants, 1928-1932: You’ve heard the term, “big shoes to fill.” Well, the same could be said of the pair of Ruth’s game-worn, size 40 uniform pants that he used for several seasons. While it might not be one of the more prestigious of Ruthian items to own, they still commanded a price of $90,000.
This 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card realized $390,000.
This baseball is purportedly the first one hit out of Yankee Stadium. The bidding failed to reach the ball’s minimum reserve amount of $50,000, possible because Ruth hit during a press conference showcasing the new stadium and not hit in an actual game.
Babe Ruth’s game-worn uniform pants from the 1928-32 seasons, size 40s, brought $90,000.
A Babe Ruth game-used bat, circa 1916-18, was used by Ruth in the early part of his career. It realized $204,000.
One of the most highly anticipated items up for sale was the first ball Ruth purportedly hit out of Yankee Stadium. The bidding failed to reach the ball’s minimum reserve amount of $50,000. Experts believe this is due to the fact that the ball was hit at a press conference showcasing the new stadium and not hit in an actual game, that the reserve price was simply over-valued, despite also being signed by Ruth as well.
Online bidding for the auction continues through Friday, July 18, for the remaining 1,200-plus lots. You can view the entire catalog of items at Goldin Auctions.
Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.
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