Collectibles

Babe Ruth rookie card found in $25 piano sells for $108,378

Babe Ruth rookie card found in...
This 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card shows Ruth as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox
This 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card shows Ruth as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox
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Front and back of the 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card
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Front and back of the 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card
1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card
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1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card
This 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card shows Ruth as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox
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This 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card shows Ruth as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox

The nature of rare finds is that they often turn up in the most unlikely places. After all, if they were sitting in obvious places they wouldn't be such rare finds would they? Such is the case with this 1916 rookie card (#151) for baseball great Babe Ruth which was sold at auction on April 26 for US$108,378 by Goodwin & Co.

The card, now known as the "Piano Babe Ruth" was found, along with over a hundred others, in an old player piano which had been bought for $25.

Front and back of the 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card
Front and back of the 1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card

Ellen Kelly, of Westernport, Maryland, purchased the piano at her family's estate sale in 1992. The piano had belonged her Aunt Nora and Kelly believes the cards were hidden in the piano by her father or possibly an uncle, and that's where the cards stayed, under the pedal, which had always stuck.

That was until Kelly decided to get the piano fixed shortly after she'd brought it home. A friend came over to help repair it and discovered the stack of cards within the pedal mechanism, over 70 years after they'd been hidden away.

Kelly, now 65, kept the cards in a safe deposit box until the recent ill-health of her brother caused her to look into selling them.

The card shows Ruth as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox, not as a batter for the New York Yankees, the role he's most famous for, which earned him the nickname 'The Sultan of Swat." Still, Babe Ruth was a master at both aspects of the game. Something many have forgotten.

1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card
1916 (M101-4) Babe Ruth blank back card

Beckett Collectibles graded the card at 2.5 (out of 10) and an estimate was made of $60,000 to $75,000. The other cards discovered in the piano were also put up for auction at the sale. All were from the 1915/16 editions of The Sporting News and represent approximately half of the published series.

Source: Goodwin & Co

1 comment
Graham Clayton
That is an amazing find! Who were some of the players featured on the other cards?