It Doesn’t Have to be Real. It Just Has to be Authentic.

And yes, there is a difference. Unfortunately. This fact rears its ugly head in the world of sports memorabilia and autograph collecting too often. Most recently, the subject came up within hobby circles after the sale of an alleged World Series ring awarded to Babe Ruth for the New York Yankees championship in 1927.

babe ruth ring

This is supposedly Babe Ruth’s personal ring from the 1927 World Series Championship. The question of authenticity comes into play when looking at the actual engraving.

Most baseball historians and experts agree that the 1927 New York Yankees, is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest baseball team of all time. With a potent batting line-up nicknamed, “Murder’s Row,” their opponent in the series, the Pittsburgh Pirates had no chance of winning and were swept in four straight games.

As a result, any memorabilia related to that team is always in high demand and can sell for astronomical sums of money. So, when Leland’s auction company announced that they had been consigned the ring awarded to Ruth from that year, it made national news. Leland’s President and founder, Josh Evans, appeared on multiple TV networks touting the item’s sale.

When news later broke that the consignor was in fact Hollywood bad boy and noted baseball memorabilia collector, Charlie Sheen, the story garnered even more attention. Leland’s had previously sold the ring to Sheen in the 1990’s after acquiring it from another noted collector, Barry Halper. In recent years, questions of authenticity related to some of the items in Halper’s collection have been raised.

The questions surfaced once again with the alleged Ruth World Series ring. Leland’s reported that Halper had originally acquired the ring from Ruth’s daughter, Dorothy.  The auction company advertised in the item’s description that the “G. H. Ruth” engraving inside the ring “perfectly matches the few other original player rings” of 1927 Yankee players.  

However, upon close examination, the engraving on the alleged Ruth ring appears to greatly contrast other genuine 1927 player rings. Thus, the controversy. The issue of the ring’s authenticity was first brought to light in a Deadspin article written by noted hobby protagonist, Pete Nash back in 2011. An excerpt from that article, states,

In 1988, the Babe’s daughter, Dorothy Ruth Pirone, wrote the following in her book, “My Dad, The Babe”:

“Through the years, various priceless heirlooms of Babe’s have vanished, the most upsetting of which was the disappearance of most of his World Series rings. Unfortunately, incidents of that nature have caused me to be much more guarded around strangers.”

Pirone clearly stated she never had the rings in her possession and that, to the best of her knowledge, they had gone missing. Her daughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, tells me: “She had not seen the rings since her father died in 1948. She was looking for them and Claire Ruth [Babe’s second wife] later told her, the year before she died, that they were in a safe-deposit box.”

As you can see, the question of provenance is already suspect based on these statements alone, let alone the physical evidence.

The New York Yankees 1927 World Series Championship rings were designed by the esteemed jeweler, Dieges & Clust.  The ring is undoubtedly one created for the Yankees in 1927. The question of authenticity comes into play when looking at the actual engraving.

It is clearly evident in looking at the “G.H. Ruth” engraving, that it certainly differs from other genuine rings which have been sold at auction over the past few decades. As examples (see photos below), the rings of manager Miller J. Huggins and utility player Mike Gazella clearly illustrate the differences, particularly with regards to the capital “H” and “G” in their rings when compared to the same letters in Ruth’s alleged ring.

 

 

H G Ring

As you can see in the picture above, the lettering of those capital letters differs greatly from the same letters in the Ruth ring.

As you can see in the picture above, the lettering of those capital letters differs greatly from the same letters in the Ruth ring.

In addition, as the below photo shows, other player issued rings from that year clearly show a period mark behind each capital initial. However, they are conspicuously absent in the Ruth sample.

ring photo 2

Other player issued rings from that year clearly show a period mark behind each capital initial. However, they are conspicuously absent in the Ruth sample.

Ruth’s own granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, recently voiced her opinions regarding the visible differences in the engraving saying “You’d have to be blind to not see that Sheen’s ring was engraved by someone else. It isn’t even close to the real ones I was shown that belonged to my grandfather’s teammates.”

As mentioned previously, memorabilia items related to that revered Yankees team of 1927 can sell for astronomical sums. Combine that with items alleged to have belonged to Babe Ruth and you have record breaking potential. When the gavel dropped on this World Series ring, the realized price was $2,093,926.80. A pretty nice payday for Sheen who reportedly paid less than $250,000 for the ring nearly 20 years ago. You can view the ring, its official description and authenticating documents here on the Leland’s website. Decide for yourself. Did the buyer get a treasure or a forgery?


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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