Babe Ruth has long been known as the Sultan of Swat. In the modern sports card world, he’s still the King of Clout.
The Babe’s baseball cards continue to command top dollar, as evidenced most recently by the sale of some of his most iconic cards in Memory Lane’s Sets and Set Breaks Auction, which closed Dec. 5.
Five of the top eight sales featured the familiar countenance of Ruth, including three from the famous 1933 Goudey set.
In all, the auction featured one of the biggest accumulations of high-grade iconic sets, near sets and unopened boxes offered in the hobby this year and generated more than $8 million in sales.
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From the Babe’s 1916 M101-5 rookie card to high-grade examples of some of the final gum cards of his career, the Bambino commanded some of the highest prices.
The top-selling card was a PSA 8 of Ruth’s 1933 Goudey #149, which sold for $510,000. Only two other examples of the card rank higher.
Ruth’s 1933 Goudey #144, graded PSA 8, was a close second, netting $436,736.
Both cards were part of the iconic 1933 Goudey set that was among the headliners in the auction and featured three of the four Ruth cards and a Lou Gehrig card, all in high-grade. Ruth’s #181 card also sold for six figures, closing at $256,736, while the Gehrig fetched $157,906.
Ruth’s 1916 M101-5 rookie card, graded SGC 2, sold for $292,736, while a 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Ruth, graded PSA 8, attracted a host of bidders and brought $193,295.
One of the top vintage basketball cards also attracted big dollars, with a 1957-58 Topps Bill Russell rookie card (PSA 8) selling for $229,295. A rookie card of Russell’s long-time Celtics teammate Bob Cousy from the same set went for $45,007.
The auction included numerous breaks of high-grade vintage sets, giving collectors the rare chance to acquire some low pop cards from some of the hobby’s most popular issues. Among the big sellers from the Goudey set break were PSA 8 examples of Glen Hyatt ($22,476), Paul Cress ($22,476) and Andy Cohen ($24,723).
A 1952 Topps break included Red Back PSA 9s of Allie Reynolds ($48,954) and Billy Goodman ($24,723).
A 1961 Topps set featured PSA 9 examples of Mickey Mantle ($41,490) and Willie Mays ($22,747), while highlights from a 1968 set included the Super Stars card featuring Mantle and Mays (PSA 10) for $20,187 as well as a PSA 10 of Ernie Banks ($11,011).
A high-end 1970 Topps set break saw the sale of a PSA 9 Johnny Bench All-Star card for $25,313 and a Roberto Clemente for $9,166.
The unopened portion of the auction was topped by a 1999 Pokemon 1st Edition Booster box at $328,726; a 1970-71 Topps Series 2 Basketball unopened box for $96,752; a 1979-80 Topps Hockey box for $55,466; and a 1978 Topps Baseball vending case of 24 boxes for $50,420.
Rare vintage packs also saw plenty of action with a 1954 Red Man Tobacco pack with a Willie Mays selling for $33,133; a 1957-58 Topps Basketball pack (GAI 6.5) for $26,960; a 1961 Topps rack pack for $13,956; a 1960 Topps Baseball cello pack with Mantle showing (PSA 9) for $26,932; and a rare 1972 Topps Baseball 3-pack tray for $15,352.
Full results of the auction are available on Memory Lane’s website.
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