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Anonymous collector buys rare Babe Ruth Red Sox rookie card for $110,000

An anonymous buyer bought a rare Babe Ruth rookie card for $110,000 Thursday, officials said.RR Auction

An anonymous buyer bought a rare Babe Ruth card from an auction Thursday for $110,000 that depicts the rookie pitching for the Boston Red Sox, officials said.

The card, which was printed in 1916, shows Ruth in a Red Sox jersey, according to RR Auction, the Boston auction house that sold the card. The back side of the card features an ad for Herpolsheimer Co., a “boy’s fashion shop” in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“What makes this 1916 baseball card spectacular is it’s Babe Ruth’s professional baseball rookie card, and it shows him as a pitcher for the Red Sox. I think so many of us forget Babe Ruth wasn’t just the greatest home run hitter in history, but he was also the greatest left-handed pitcher in Boston Red Sox history,” said Bobby Livingston, a spokesman for RR Auction.


Ruth was picked up by the Red Sox in 1914, but 1916 was the first year that his card was printed. Baseball cards were not printed every year in the early 1900s as they are today, Livingston said.

Before coming to the Red Sox, Ruth played for the Baltimore Orioles, which was a minor-league team at the time. Therefore, the 1916 card is considered Ruth’s professional baseball rookie card, Livingston said.

The buyer was a collector from Northern California, the auction house said.

The card, with Ruth on the front and a Herpolsheimer ad on the back, is one of only four known to the Professional Sports Authenticator, a sports card authentication company. The Herpolsheimer ad is one of the “rarest reverses possible,” the auction house said.

Advertisers, including Herpolsheimer in Michigan, gave away baseball cards with ads on the back to encourage people to patronize their businesses, Livingston said.

The Red Sox sold Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920, where he became one of the most famous home run hitters in MLB history.


Globe correspondent Maria Lovato contributed to this report. Alyssa Lukpat can be reached at alyssa.lukpat@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaLukpat.