Babe Ruth Rookie Cards

Babe Ruth is best known as a home run hitter, a true slugger of his day. What many folks don’t know about Ruth is that he started his major league career as a pitcher and a really good one! In 1916 he finished the season with a 23-12 record, with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts, both of which led the league. Those would be Cy Young worthy numbers today!

He had many successful outings and seasons as a pitcher but he was even better with the baseball bat and wanted to play everyday and eventually convinced management to play him in the outfield. Early on George earned his nickname, “The Babe” during spring training of 1914 when teammates on the minor league Baltimore Orioles began referring to him as owner Jack Dunn’s new “babe.” His other nicknames evolved out of reputation. He was also known as The Bambino and/or The Sultan of Swat, respectively.

His career started with the Boston Red Sox 1914-1919 but alleged financial woes of the Red Sox front office caused a block buster trade on January 6, 1920 that made Ruth a New York Yankee. His first year as a Yankee Ruth batted .376 with 54 home runs and 135 RBI’s. For the next 15 years the home runs kept coming, marveling baseball fans everywhere and literally becoming an American Icon, The Sultan of Swat was a Yankee until 1934 and played his final year with the Boston Braves in 1935. For years stadiums would sell out whenever the Yankees were in town, many times sold out ball parks were accompanied by crowds in the thousands that would gather outside too.

In 1979, Sports writer Tommy Holmes said, “Some 20 years ago, I stopped talking about the Babe for the simple reason that I realized that those who had never seen him didn’t believe me.”

The primary purpose of my post is to highlight his rookie cards. To learn about Babe Ruth is to learn about the most iconic sports figure in American history, it’s learning about the rocket fuel that propelled Major League Baseball to what it is today. He is a 7x World Series Champion, 12x AL Home Run Leader, 2x All-Star and the 1923 MVP. His career stat line reads: Batting Average .342 | Home Runs 714 | Hits 2,873 | RBI’s 2,214.


Photos pictured below are not Babe Ruth’s most valuable cards, nor are they the scarcest. For that you’d need to look for his: 1914 Baltimore News or the 1916 M101 and if by chance you can find one, have a seat, because the price tag will be sure to knock your socks off. The 1933 Goudey’s of Babe Ruth are more mainstream and although capture him towards the end of his career, they have been deemed by collectors and the industry as rookie cards of The Sultan of Swat.

This 240 card set measures 2-3/8″ x 2-7/8″ and was printed by gum manufacturer Goudey  Co. in 1933. This is no ordinary set. This one is regarded by serious pre-war collectors as the beginning of the modern-day baseball card era. The reason for that claim is because the 1933 Goudey’s were the first major bubblegum card set that actually included gum. They were distributed nationally, one card per pack with one stick of bubblegum. Surprisingly, cards can still be found in fairly decent condition, perhaps due to Goudey Co. using the thicker, more durable card stock.

1933 Goudey – Yellow, Card No. 53 (shop eBay)

The set and more specifically cards of Ruth are full color paintings either in partial, upper torso, batting pose or full length batting pose. Two things that the card fronts have in common; there is no mention of New York Yankee or team emblem on card fronts but it does mention the team on card back and that’s it, no NY on cap, nothing on the jersey, no ribbon or stripe indicating as such, perhaps Goudey did not have licensing. What is mentioned on card front is a brand, “Big League Chewing Gum” in big red stripe running along the bottom of each card. That’s what the purpose of these were all about, marketing, advertisements, get the word out to buy more bubblegum. Also, stamped on card front is copyright emblem on lower left side of each which reads, “G & Co. 1933.” Ruth’s full birth name including nickname in parenthesis is stamped on the upper left corner of each card. The card back gives us the card number along the top, player name and team and good player commentary, and the lower third of the card you’ll see, you guessed it, more bubblegum advertising. At the very bottom of card Goudey Co. sneaks in another brand of theirs, “Made by the originators of Indian Gum.” Card number 53 or “Yellow” is the hardest to find.

As of the date of this post low-grade copies (1-3) sell between $1,800-$4,000; mid-grade copies (3.5-5.5) sell between $5,000-$6,000; and high-end grades (6-7’s) sell in the $21,000-$35,000 range. On November 9, 2016 a PSA 8 sold for $203,150.00 respectively.

1933 Goudey – Red, Card No. 149 (shop eBay)

This variant of The Bambino is easier to find then the Yellow #53. All aspects of the card are identical to Yellow except for background color of card front (obviously) and the card number found on the card back.

As of the date of this post low-grade copies (1-3) sell between $1,100-$3,700; mid-grade copies (3.5-5.5) sell between $3,300.-$9,300; and high-end graded copies (6-7’s) sell in the $10,200-$29,400 range. On October 29, 2017 a PSA 8 sold for $120,000.00.

1933 Goudey, Card #144 (shop eBay)

Good news! This full length action pose of the Sultan of Swat is the easiest of the four to find. The reason? This particular one was double printed meaning, depending on where the card landed on the original printing plate some cards were printed again in an effort to make the most of the print run. Not sure if The Bambino is portrayed taking swings in the on deck circle or batters box. By the looks of, what I’m assuming is the outfield, on the cards background, makes it seem like he’s taking a swing from the pitcher’s mound. Whatever the case, I love it. The card backs have the same design layout except they had a bit more to say about Ruth so there seems to be a lot less room. Some of these were printed by Goudey owned World Wide Gum Co. LTD out of Montreal, Canada.

As of the date of this post low-grade copies (1-3) sell between $1,200-$3,400; mid-grade copies (3.5-5) sell between $3,600-$7,000; and high-end graded copies (6-8’s) sell in the $7,400-$62,500 range. On February 25, 2017 a PSA 8 sold for $72,000.00.

1933 Goudey – Green, Card #181 (shop eBay)

This portrait shot can be found in much better condition than the others and is not as difficult to find. Worth mentioning here is CAUTION with counterfeits. It would be best to pursue one that has been authenticated by one of the major authenticators. Today, as of the date of this post the major authenticating companies are: Professional Sports Authenticators, Sportscard Guarantee Co., or Beckett Grading Co.

As of the date of this post low-grade copies (1-3.5) sell between $1,100-$3,650; mid-grade copies (4-6.5) sell between $4,500-$6,500; and high-end graded copies (7-8’s) sell in the $19,000-$48,000 range. On June 8, 2006 a PSA 9 sold for $203,150.00 respectively.

Babe Ruth. Digital Image. Society for American Baseball Research. (accessed January 2, 2017).
Babe Ruth Stats | (accessed January 2, 2017).
Wikipedia contributors, “Babe Ruth,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 2, 2017).
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