Rare 1921 Frederick Foto Babe Ruth Card Up for Auction

The fall event at Robert Edward Auctions is set to conclude on December 3, yet an uncommon piece of baseball history featuring Babe Ruth has emerged as a highlight well before the final gavel. This isn’t about the well-documented 1914 Baltimore News card, but rather a scarce 1921 Frederick Foto card depicting the legendary baseball figure.

As of Sunday evening, competitive early bids have propelled the card’s value to $110,000. The card, one of just six known to exist from the past century, holds a grade of 2 from SGC, indicating its rare vintage condition. This particular card has seen a notable increase in value over the years, with REA having brokered its sale for $42,000 back in 2015—a fraction of its current bid.

What sets the Frederick Foto card apart, even more, is its obscurity when compared to the already scarce Baltimore News card. The 1921 series, which included both major and minor league players, is shrouded in such mystery that a complete checklist remains unconfirmed. The cards in the series aren’t numbered, adding to the challenge of determining a full set, though it’s estimated to comprise over 100 cards.

The Frederick Foto Service of Sacramento, California is credited with issuing these cards, which unfortunately, were not the epitome of quality production. Player photographs were simply glued onto cardboard, displaying the player’s name, team, and the Frederick Foto brand on the front. The reverse side of these cards is blank. Their size is generally in line with tobacco cards from the era, though inconsistencies are common, likely due to crude production techniques or subsequent trimming. These variations often result in cards with disproportionately large white borders.

The exact dating of the series has been a topic of debate among collectors, with 1921 being the widely accepted year of issue, though some disagree on the precise timing.

The card of Babe Ruth from this series is particularly noteworthy, not only because it features him with the ‘N.Y.’ insignia of the Yankees but also intriguingly depicts him in a Red Sox uniform, the team he played for before his iconic tenure with the Yankees beginning in 1920. This detail adds to its rarity as one of the earliest cards showing Ruth associated with the Yankees.

A unique attribute of this card is the photograph itself; REA has recognized that this specific image of Ruth does not appear on any other card, nor can it be found in any other type of media—a singular representation of the baseball legend.

The auction for this rare slice of baseball memorabilia will wrap up on December 3, and it is already shaping up to be a noteworthy event for collectors and historians alike. Collectors are eagerly competing to own this scarce piece of baseball history, as evidenced by the impressive early bids. With its unique image of Babe Ruth and its elusive status as one of the few known surviving examples of the 1921 Frederick Foto card, it is no surprise that this auction is generating excitement. As the bidding continues, the final price for this rare and significant baseball card remains to be seen.


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