Trading Cards

The 12 Greatest Babe Ruth Baseball Card Investments

Babe Ruth baseball cards are undoubtedly one of the top investments in the hobby.

It’s simple to see why:

Babe Ruth is the most recognized name in baseball and sports in general. Even non-baseball fans often name Babe Ruth if asked to name a famous baseball player.

Many people don’t know that “The Bambino” started pitching for the Boston Red Sox in 1914 before being traded to the New York Yankees. From 1920 to 1935, “The Sultan of Swat” cemented his legend as the greatest home run hitter in the game’s history, knocking 714 full baggers.

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Babe Ruth cards are exceedingly rare. Before owner Jack Dunn decided to sell his contract to the Boston Red Sox, Ruth was a member of the minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1914. Even a Babe Ruth minor league rookie card in poor condition, with a PSA 4, is expected to fetch millions of dollars.

Naturally, Ruth’s popularity rocketed during his time in the Big Apple, and dozens of companies issued Babe Ruth cards. 

Today, there are hundreds of different Babe Ruth cards available to collectors. This post will show you the Top 12 most significant Babe Ruth card investments. Batter up!


12. 1916 W-UNC Big Head Strip Card Babe Ruth

1916 W-UNC Big Head Strip Card Babe Ruth

  • Price: $1000 (estimated open bid)
  • Year: 1916
  • Card number: #368
  • Team: Boston Red Sox

The Babe Ruth 1919 W-UNC Big Head card is one of the rarest baseball cards in the world. Dating back to his early and somewhat rookie days with the Boston Red Sox, this card depicts a young Babe Ruth at the beginning of his career before he would transcend the sport of baseball and become the first ever internationally known Hall of Famer. 

The card has VG/EX 50 grading by SGC and is one of the few survivors of the unusual 1916-1920 ‘Big Head’ baseball card issue. The set got its name due to the colorful representation of the player with a cartoonish tinge and abnormally large heads. Therefore, this issue of Babe Ruth baseball cards has become a collectors’ item owing to its unique look and rare design and is often called one of the greatest baseball cards. 

The card has a single printed side with a blank back, measuring 1-3/8 x 2-1/2 inches. Unlike other Babe Ruth cars, the 1916 W-UNC Big Head Strip card has a matte finish with a vintage feel owing to its release between 1916 and 1920. Due to the old age of the existing 1916 W-UNC Big Head cards, authentic cards are available with slightly chipped edges. 

The baseball star was known for his pitching back in 1916. Making a name for himself as one of the fastest left-handed pitchers seen in the sport, Ruth would go on to dominate the league with the highest shutouts in his 1916 season and acquire a 1.75 ERA (earned runs on average), both of which would become league records and stand until 1978. This card is one of the best trading card investments.


11. 1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth

1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth

  • Price: $300,000 (Mint 9 PSA highest bid)
  • Year: 1932
  • Card number: #32
  • Team: New York Yankees

Often described as the last existing card in one of the most popular Babe Ruth baseball card sets, the 1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth card captures the baseball phenom in all his glory during what many would describe as his best season. This is one of the best baseball card investments today and is very expensive. 

This card features a more realistic picture of the baseball star, similar to a passport-size photograph, with a red background and white border, showing Ruth in his glory with a New York Yankees hat on. 

It owes its popularity to the unparalleled 1932 World Series performance when Ruth hit the legendary “Called Shot” against the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 after getting two balls. Babe Ruth’s next swing became a sensation because spectators claimed that the Cubs bench was taunting Ruth for missing the first two balls. The crowd went ballistic when Ruth finally took the shot and seemingly made the ball disappear.


10. 1926 W512 (hand-cut strip card) Babe Ruth Baseball Card #6

1926 W512 (hand-cut strip card) Babe Ruth Baseball Card

  • Price: $2000 
  • Year: 1926
  • Card number: #6
  • Team: New York Yankees

Another Entry in the coveted Strip Card issue, the 1926 W512 Babe Ruth baseball card is as authentic and intimate as cards get due to the hand-cut feature. The card sports brittle edges that show past handling and grant a more ‘raw’ feel for baseball enthusiasts. 

The W512 1926 edition has an ivory background with a front shot of Babe Ruth’s face on a faded blue backdrop. The card proudly shows off a smiling Ruth and appeals to loyal baseball fans if they know the backstory behind arguably, the greatest Babe Ruth baseball card.

Following some health problems, Babe Ruth made a highly successful comeback in 1926 when he scored 47 home runs and granted the Yankees a 10-game point lead. Baseball fans were delighted at this return to form and rejoiced with the famous ‘Babe comes home’ slogan, making this card a lucrative investment opportunity.


9. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (#144)

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #144

  • Price: $528,000 (Mint 9 condition) 
  • Year: 1933
  • Card number: #144
  • Team: New York Yankees

The 1933 Goudey set is another sought-after trading card investment option. The #144 cards in this set feature Ruth towards the end of his career, where the athlete had established himself as the undisputed top hitter in baseball, or as his fans lovingly called him, ‘The Sultan of Swat.’ The #144 in the Goudey set represents a prime Babe Ruth swinging on the field. Ruth has his classic New York Yankee uniform with his full name printed on the top left corner with a white border. 

Unlike the earlier ivory-based cards, this card shows the full color and is a classic testament to Ruth’s transformation into a batting genius from the fast pitcher he was known as in his early days. 

The Goudey set was popular like everything else associated with the baseball star but isn’t the most expensive or rare collection of Babe Ruth cards, with many versions available in lesser authenticity (although only 4 of the #144 Mint 9 cards exist). It was by the early 1930s that Ruth had set up Major League records and cemented his legacy as the greatest baseball player of his time, with 34 home runs and a league-leading 114 walks in his 1933 season. Lesser quality variants of the #144 are available for as low as $3,499.


8. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (#53)

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53

  • Price: $4.2 million (only one Mint 9 in the world) 
  • Year: 1933
  • Card number: #53
  • Team: New York Yankees

The #53 is another variant of the #144 in the renowned 1933 Goudey set. This card has a red-orange wash and shows Ruth swinging in all his glory. A more up-close version of the full-body #144 card, the #53 card, shows a determined Ruth seemingly waiting for the pitcher. The icon is wearing the Yankee uniform with a yellow background and white border.

This card is another popular entry and a lucrative investment option due to its rarity. Multiple entries were released in the 1933 Goudey series as variants of the same iconic Babe Ruth pose and celebrated the seasoned veteran doing what he did best. Versions of the #53 card with lower grading and authenticity are available for as little as $3,960.


7. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (#181)

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth

  • Price: $1.2 million (Mint 9 grade) 
  • Year: 1933
  • Card number: #181
  • Team: New York Yankees

Part of the ultra-popular Goudey series of 1933, the #181 card features one of the most realistic images of Babe Ruth due to its focus on the star’s face. The front of the card shows Ruth looking off into the distance while clutching his bat with lines written in his praise on the back of the card. The #181 is another timeless piece, with the most genuine versions costing a fortune. PSA grade 2 versions of the #181 card cost as little as $11,000.

The card has a soft green background and shows a tanned Ruth wearing his New York Yankees uniform.

Fans would take the look of determination on Ruth’s face as a sign of some legendary feat the champ was about to accomplish, an omen that he would make history. Ruth would do just that by becoming the first player in baseball history to score a home run in the 1933 All-Star game and staying productive when some speculated that the legend was near his decline. 


6. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth (#149)

  • Price: $510,000 (Mint 8 grade) 
  • Year: 1933
  • Card number: #149
  • Team: New York Yankees

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth 149

The #149 and #53 cards in the 1933 Goudey series are remarkably similar. They both show the Sultan of Swat in the same pose, where he appears to have laser focus in anticipation of the ball. The #149 card, however, has a red background and an overall redder hue to all the colors on the card.

Mint 9 and 10 versions of this card do not exist, leading to a lower price than other popular entries from the 1933 Goudey Series. The worst grading has versions of the #149 available for $3,500.


5. 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Babe Ruth (#2)

1933 Goudey Sport Kings Babe Ruth

  • Price: $193,000 (Mint 8 grade) 
  • Year: 1933
  • Card number: #2
  • Team: New York Yankees

Described by many as the most excellent Babe Ruth baseball card, the #3 card from the 1933 Goudey set shows the Sultan of Swat with a triumphant smile on his face and cuts off at his torso. This card is comparable to the #149 card in the 1933 Goudey baseball set when discussing procurement hassles and authenticity. The faded yellow background with a sharp Ruth makes for a great-looking card, while small black figures are shown on the bottom playing baseball.

The card is a priceless investment opportunity and stays true to Babe Ruth’s batting prowess in the 1930s. Like the card’s name, Ruth is his era’s unanimous ‘king’, with a .301 batting score and league-high walks in the 1933 season. Ruth would dominate the season and have a dramatic climax with the Boston Red Sox, his old team.


4. 1922 E120 American Caramel Babe Ruth

1922 E120 American Caramel Babe Ruth

  • Price: $44,000-60,000 (estimate for Mint 8 grade) 
  • Year: 1922
  • Series: 1922 E120 Caramel
  • Team: New York Yankees

The 1922 E120 American Caramel Babe Ruth baseball card shows the champion in his younger days holding a ball. The ivory card has an oval-shaped image of Ruth in the center with an intricately designed frame around him. 

The card measures 2″ by 3-1/2″ and is part of the 24-card E120 set. 1922 was Babe Ruth’s second year with the New York Yankees, and this was when the young player established himself as a hard-hitting player instead of the pitcher he was always known as. Ruth immediately broke league batting records while landing the second-highest contract ever given to a ballplayer. Ruth was also declared the undisputed Yankees team captain in 1922 with his 

It was also a year of controversy as Ruth was suspended for a misdemeanor and replaced as team captain. Despite the short season, the legendary player managed a .315 batting average and 35 home runs. 


3.  1915 M101-5 Sporting News Babe Ruth Baseball Card (Rookie) #151

1915 M101-5 Sporting News Babe Ruth Baseball Card

  • Price: $15,275 (Pr 1 grade)
  • Year: 1915
  • Card number: #151
  • Team: Boston Red Sox

One of the earliest Babe Ruth baseball cards, 1915 M101-5, depicts a young Ruth in the early stages of his career. The rookie can be seen wearing the Red Sox uniform and pitching with his left hand. The card has a greyscale print and white border.

One of the most challenging cards to procure, the 1915 M101-5 Babe Ruth card is as timeless. The Sultan of Swat is captured in a rare moment before he would redefine the sport of baseball and transcend his status as a simple pitcher.

Ruth began his 1915 season as a respected substitute pitcher. The Red Sox claimed they had better left-handed pitchers and kept Ruth as a stowaway. Eventually, Ruth got his chance to perform in March 1915 against the New York Yankees. Although Ruth did not do anything extraordinary as a pitcher, he shocked the spectators with a phenomenal home run at a time when home runs were rare. Many would say that that was when the crowd saw the twenty-year-old Ruth, who would become the greatest baseball player of all time.   


2. 1948 Leaf Babe Ruth Baseball Card #3

1948 Leaf Babe Ruth Baseball Card

  • Price: $84,000 (Mint 9 grade) 
  • Year: 1948
  • Card number: #3
  • Team: Boston Red Sox

The 1948 Leaf Babe Ruth card came out shortly before the Sultan of Swat’s death. The card depicts Ruth’s face with his signature blue Yankees hat and has a red background. Another contender for the spot of the greatest Babe Ruth baseball card, the #3 Leaf card is highly coveted, and for a good reason.

Babe Ruth made his last public appearance at Yankee stadium in 1948. It was a saddening sight as the once mighty slugger was drained by cancer and needed the assistance of a baseball bat to stay upright. The champion would soon pass away, leaving behind the 1948 Leaf Babe Ruth #3 card as his last major card. 

After breaking almost every batting record in baseball history, the #3 card celebrated the legendary baseball player’s accomplishments. Although not the most popular Babe Ruth baseball card, it is still a fantastic idea for profitable investments.


1. 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Minor League Rookie Card

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Minor League Rookie Card

  • Price: $6 million (only 10 copies available worldwide) 
  • Year: 1914
  • Set: 1914 Baltimore News Card
  • Team: Baltimore Orioles

The 1914 Baltimore Babe Ruth card is, without a doubt, the most excellent Babe Ruth baseball card in the world. The rare and exceedingly valuable card shows a 19-year-old Ruth as a pitcher in his hometown team, the Boston Orioles.

The card is also highly regarded because it is the first ever Babe Ruth baseball card printed and has since become a timeless collectors’ piece. A top long-term investment if you can get your hands on one


Investment Outlook

There is no doubt that unique cards issued during Ruth’s long career will continue to grow in popularity as more classic card collectors enter the market and seasoned collectors seek to broaden their collections to include cards of the most famous player of all time, Babe Ruth.

By Jay Speakman

Teacher, traveler, semi-pro body surfer, decent cook.

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