Babe Ruth auction breaks records: Price of historic sale documents fetch $300K

Babe Ruth with the Boston Red Sox team in 1914 and his sale document of 1919.

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An auction of Babe Ruth sale documents has exceeded expectations unveiling baseball’s enduring appeal. The Lou Gehrig high school notebook and rare historical documents about the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees are the highlights of Lelands 2023 Spring Classic Auction, which runs through April 22.

A spokesman for Lelands said that each item should “break six figures.” And it fetched $307,000.

Babe Ruth sale documents auction

The recent auction at Lelands, a renowned sports memorabilia auction house, set the stage for an extraordinary event — the sale of a collection of documents intimately linked to the iconic baseball player Babe Ruth’s historic transfer from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees.

These 103-year-old documents, providing a unique window into the transaction that unfolded over a century ago, achieved an awe-inspiring total of $307,000. Remarkably, this sum exceeded more than triple the $100,000 the Yankees initially invested in Babe Ruth’s acquisition back in 1919. In today’s currency, that amounts to a staggering $1.6 million.

Among the captivating items showcased in the auction lot were a series of correspondences exchanged between league and team officials, delving into the intricacies of the transaction itself. Furthermore, the collection featured a trove of financial documents and promissory notes related to the loans procured to facilitate this groundbreaking sale. These artifacts serve as a precious trove of information, shedding light on the behind-the-scenes operations and financial maneuvers that shaped this 103-year-old transaction.

What documents were at stake

When the Sawx sent the bigger-than-life pitcher/slugger to the Bronx Bombers in 1919, it changed the course of baseball history. The “Bambino” hit 714 home runs, which was a record at the time, and helped the Yankees win four World Series championships from 1920 to 1934.

Two of the three promissory notes that were given as part of the payment for Babe Ruth’s game-changing contract are part of the must-have documents. One $25,000 note is dated December 26, 1919, and is signed on the front and back by Jacob Ruppert, T. L. Huston, and Harry Frazee, who owned the Yankees at the time.

The nine-lot collection also has a dispatch from the Red Sox explaining why they sold Babe Ruth and a letter from the Yankees to Frazee on the day the deal was made. The Ruth documents came from Barry Halper’s collection of memorabilia, which was sold by Sotheby’s in 1999 and bought by the unknown seller that Lelands now works for. Since then, they have been in the hands of the current seller.

In 2017, Lelands sold Babe Ruth’s signed contract at an auction for $2.3 million.

Babe Ruth’s bat gets $1.85M

Recent auctions of Babe Ruth sports memorabilia also witnessed another spellbinding chapter in the baseball saga. A bat that once felt the thunderous power of Ruth’s swing fetched an astounding $1.85 million, surpassing the previous record of $1.68 million for the most expensive baseball bat ever sold. Hunt Auctions, the orchestrators of this momentous sale, revealed that the bat was originally auctioned alongside other historic bats at the Polo Grounds, an iconic stadium of yesteryears nestled in the heart of New York City.

Babe Ruth in 1921 and the Louisville Slugger baseball bat (center)that fetched $1.8 million in a 2023 April auction.

PSA/DNA photo expert Henry Yee used a photo from 1921 to prove that it was the same bat that Babe Ruth used.

Reports indicate that the bat’s recent purchaser obtained it during the initial auction as a token of appreciation for extraordinary work. It remained in their possession for several decades, quietly accumulating both value and sentiment, before resurfacing in the current auction. MLB.com’s experts highlighted the significance of this bat, explaining that its authenticity can be meticulously authenticated by comparing the distinctive grain pattern in the wood to vintage photographs of Babe Ruth gripping the bat with unwavering determination.

Dave Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, expressed his deep admiration for the recently sold bat, characterizing it as a true masterpiece within the realm of baseball memorabilia. He emphasized the enduring legacy of Babe Ruth, whose indelible mark continues to captivate and inspire countless generations of fans, transcending the boundaries of the baseball community.

Babe Ruth auctions create records

While the record-setting sale of Babe Ruth’s bat commanded well-deserved attention, it is worth noting that its price, awe-inspiring as it is, still falls short in comparison to the astronomical figures often associated with other exceptional collectibles, such as vintage, mint-condition baseball cards.

This extraordinary Babe Ruth sports memorabilia sales truly exemplify the immeasurable worth placed upon iconic sports memorabilia. They serve as a testament to the profound connection and admiration fans harbor for their beloved athletes and the cultural significance woven into the fabric of their achievements.

Hunt Auctions, a renowned player in the world of sports memorabilia, has solidified its position as a powerhouse in the market for Babe Ruth-related items. Their impressive track record includes recent notable sales, such as a Ruth jersey that fetched a staggering $5.64 million during the summer, setting a new record for the highest price ever paid for a baseball-related item. Additionally, in November 2018, a Babe Ruth baseball glove commanded an impressive $1.53 million.

Babe Ruth's 1927 glove
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In February 2021, an autographed 1933 Goudey #149 Babe Ruth baseball card was sold for a jaw-dropping $761,100, further solidifying his status as a highly sought-after icon in the memorabilia market. However, the true testament to Ruth’s enduring appeal came in September of the same year when a copy of his 1914 Babe Ruth baseball card featuring him as a member of the Orioles shattered records, fetching an astonishing $6 million. This remarkable sale surpassed the previous record held by a 1952 Mickey Mantle card, which garnered $5.2 million. The soaring value of Babe Ruth’s memorabilia attests to his enduring legacy and the unparalleled interest collectors and enthusiasts have in preserving a piece of his storied career.

In 2019, a fortunate collector secured a priceless artifact—an authentic bat used by Babe Ruth to hit his 500th home run in 1929—for a sum surpassing one million dollars. The historical significance of this bat, coupled with Ruth’s unparalleled achievement, made it a coveted treasure for passionate collectors.

Notably, Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees jersey from 1928 to 1930 became the focal point of a record-breaking sale, commanding a staggering $5.64 million. This exquisite piece of baseball history represents an era when Ruth’s larger-than-life persona dominated the sport and captured the hearts of fans worldwide.

Today, the value of a Babe Ruth baseball card has reached unprecedented heights, with prices soaring above the $1 million mark. Collectors and enthusiasts are willing to invest substantial sums to secure these rare and coveted artifacts, further solidifying the enduring legacy of the legendary baseball icon.

How much does an Aaron Judge jersey cost?

For modern Yankees fans, there’s Aaron Judge‘s “99” jersey, which he wore in Games 3 and 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros last year. Judge hit the most home runs in a season in the American League, and he was the king of home runs in a single season. A spokesman for Lelands said that the jersey could sell for up to $50,000.

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