August 2018 Summer Classic Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 9/1/2018

The single highest graded example of "Babe" Ruth's 1921 E121 American Caramel card has surfaced. Only 68 total examples encompassing all three E121 Ruth variations can be counted in PSA's population report, and precious few of those have traded hands over the last several decades. Most recently, a PSA 5 example of the Babe Ruth version (no quotation marks around Babe) fetched $43,200 in a 2017 Heritage auction, and a PSA 6 example of the "Babe" Ruth version, like the copy offered here, fetched $115,626 in a 2017 Memory Lane auction.

The card ranks among the top-five most significant Babe Ruth cards in the hobby for three important reasons. First and foremost, The Babe's 1921 season, his second with the Yankees, was by most accounts the best of his 22-year career and arguably the most impressive season by any Major League Baseball player, ever. His stat line is otherworldly: 177 runs, 204 hits, 44 doubles, 16 triples, 59 home runs, 168 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 145 walks, a .512 OBP and 1.359 OPS, not to mention two wins from the mound. His 177 runs scored in 1921 are tied for the second-most in baseball history, behind Billy Hamilton's record 198 established in 1894, and alongside Tom Brown's 177 in 1891. To put this into perspective, only one other 20th century player, Lou Gehrig, ever scored over 160 runs. Furthermore, the last two players to score at least 150 runs were Ted Williams with 150 in 1949 and Jeff Bagwell with 152 in the year 2000. Moreover, Ruth's 168 RBI in 1921 would turn out to be his career high—a number still tied for ninth most in a single season—and his 59 home runs out-paced the team totals for five of the other seven teams in the American League. In fact, Ruth's utter dominance of the junior circuit in 1921 propelled the Yanks to the franchise's first pennant. The success of that stellar season made the Yankees—and not the Giants, with whom the team shared the Polo Grounds—the most popular team in New York, thus laying the foundation for the construction of Yankee Stadium in 1923, nicknamed "The House that Ruth Built."

Second, the front design of E121 is identical to a handful of extremely scarce issues from 1917, including the E135 Collins-McCarthy, D350-2 Standard Biscuit, D328 Weil Baking Co., and H801-8 Boston Store. Along with the offered E121 issue of 1921, all five of these important early Ruth issues show the same obverse design with The Babe in a throwing/pitching pose in his Boston uniform. A huge part of what gives these cards their charm is the obvious fact that their classic design is very closely modeled after the iconic Babe Ruth rookie card from 1916, which can be found with as many as twenty potential different back advertisements, some so rare that copies graded PSA 1 and PSA 2 can fetch over six-figures at auction, others so rare that we're not even sure they actually exist. After these various M101-5 and M101-4 Sporting News and other ad back rookie cards from 1916, plus the aforementioned quartet from 1917, and of course the fabled 1914 Baltimore News Orioles Babe Ruth minor league rookie card, the important point to understand here is that the 1921 E121 American Caramel is generally regarded as the next most significant Babe Ruth issue from the checklist of over 180 different Ruth cards produced during his playing career.

The third and final and perhaps most unsung reason why the 1921 E121 Ruth card has become such a coveted American treasure is that 1921 marked the year that Babe Ruth really became the legend, Babe Ruth. In 1921, an aspiring writer and entrepreneur named Christy Walsh signed Ruth to a simple contract allowing him and his team of writers to compose and sell stories on Ruth's behalf to newspapers across the country. In the process of pioneering the field of public relations, Walsh invented and perfected the art of "ghost writing," and he became Ruth's close confidant, partner, and friend. In short, he became the first sports agent in American history, catapulting his first client into international and immortal fame, making Babe Ruth the most famous person on the planet.

Important Note Regarding Scarcity: The E121 American Caramel Babe Ruth card is scarce in any condition, but particularly so in top grades. Of the 68 total E121 Ruths on record at PSA, 38 of those consist of the offered "Babe" Ruth variety, and the offered copy is the single highest graded of those 38, the lone PSA 7 NM specimen with none graded higher. The next best copies beneath it are a pair in the EX-MT 6 grade, one of which sold for $115,626 last year, followed by another three copies in the EX 5 grade and another 3 copies in the VG-EX 4 grade. Precisely 27 of the 38 copies known to PSA are graded PSA 3 VG or lower, which is not unusual for early Ruth cards. What is unusual is a copy graded PSA 7. Only one other copy from the other two 1921 E121 variations has ever graded PSA 7, and only one other copy from the four identically designed 1917 issues has ever graded PSA 7, with none higher. No 1914 Baltimore News card has ever come close to PSA 7, while the 1916 rookie cards report just one PSA 7 on record for each the Globe Clothing and the Herpolsheimer Co. backs, one PSA 7 for the M101-4 Sporting News back along with one PSA 8 and another two PSA 7s of the blank back variety, and then another three PSA 7s and three PSA 8s for the M101-5 Sporting News. In short, these fifteen early Babe Ruth cards graded PSA 7 NM or higher are the most coveted Babe Ruth cards in the hobby and some of the most valuable baseball cards in existence, and the offered E121 is one of them.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $25,000
Final prices include buyers premium: $89,175
Number Bids: 21
Auction closed on Saturday, September 1, 2018.
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