Obscure Pre-War Babe Ruth cards? There are a lot of them.
Babe Ruth has plenty of popular baseball cards, primarily from the late 1910s through the 1930s. The height of his popularity hit in the 1920s but even with his career winding down in the 1930s, Ruth still was featured on plenty of cards.
But some of the Babe’s cards are pretty obscure. Not only are they difficult to find but they are usually a bit pricey when you do see them. There are many others besides these, but here are some of Ruth’s less common cards.
When most pre-war collectors hear of C.A. Briggs, they immediately think of the more well-known E97 Briggs set. However, what many don’t know is that the company created a multi-sport issue in the 1930s.
Despite the fact that the set is more recent, the cards are infinitely harder to find. You just rarely see the subjects for sale.
The cards feature subjects on the front with red backgrounds. No. 24 is a baseball card and features Ruth, likely swatting one of his 714 career home runs.
Only a total of six of the Ruth cards have been graded by PSA and SGC and PSA has only graded two total cards in the set. Any of the cards are rare and not easily found. This is not only one of Ruth’s tougher issues to find from the 1930s, but his entire career.
1939 African Tobacco World of Sport
Despite the fact that Ruth had not been playing major league baseball for several years, he was featured in this 1939 set called the African Tobacco World of Sport.
Ruth’s name lived on for quite a while even after his playing days had ended and even today, he remains the most famous player in the history of the sport. So featuring him in a set a few years after his career over was hardly something out of place.
This set includes 100 cards featuring various sports and athletes and Ruth is here representing baseball. As he is in most cases, he is the headliner here for this little-known international set from South Africa.
Ruth’s card features the iconic slugger in a black and white photo. Fronts of the cards were plain with only an image and no name. Backs of the cards have text in both English and Afrikaans languages.
Others in the set include famous American athletes Joe Louis and Jesse Owens.
1930s Sociedade Card
I wrote about this card from a really obscure set, believed to be from the 1930s. The full name of the set is the Sociedade Industrial dos Tobacos de Angola set. The set is believed to feature various sports from around the world and a pair of baseball cards, including one for Babe Ruth, were featured for North America.
This card features a skinny Ruth as a pitcher but, inexplicably, throwing what appears to be a Rugby ball. The picture is baffling on several fronts and a second card in the set, one featuring Grover Alexander as a batter, only adds to the confusion.
Good luck finding this card. Only a single copy is widely known to exist and most collectors have not even heard of this international issue to begin with.
In addition to this card, Ruth is also found in a less rare 1928 set produced by the same company. He has at least four cards in that set.
1935 Whitman Party Stunts
This is actually one of Ruth’s cheaper cards. Part of that is because it only very generically features Ruth. The card is part of a party game where players are to mimic the motions on the card and one instructs participants to copy Babe Ruth’s swing.
The card is small and features a poor depiction of Ruth or, more likely, a participant in the game that is to be copying Ruth. The orange and green colors on the card might be confusing but those are the colors used on all of the cards in the set.
For some unknown reason, the card is often graded as a 1924 Rook game card. That, however, is in accurate as it belongs to the 1935 Whitman Party Stunts issue. Also featured in the set is a Ty Cobb card. On Cobb’s, participants are to perform a slide, mimicking the Hall of Famer.
Because of the whole misidentification fiasco, the card can sometimes be a little difficult to locate.
Few details are know about this strange set but it is believed to be an Italian issue from 1928 produced by ‘T. Contiero.’
The set seems like it features famous actors and actresses and Ruth is featured on a card in it. Ruth’s card pictures him with actor Harold Lloyd as the pair appeared in a movie called ‘Speedy.’
The black-bordered card is a little different as many of Ruth’s cards from that time were printed in black and white. He is shown with Lloyd as the men are holding a baseball bat and Ruth is in plain clothes.
Ruth’s card, roughly translated from Italian, reads, ‘Harold Lloyd and baseball champion Babe Ruth.’ The card is printed in color and has a black border. It is also No. 18 in the set, though a checklist of the rare issue is not known.
Ruth and Lloyd are featured on other baseball cards and collectibles for the movie but this might be the one that is least known and the most difficult to find.
1932 Abdulla Cigarettes
Ruth was the subject of several international cards during his career and the 1932 Abdulla Cigarettes issue was one of those.
This set from Germany features a total of 200 cards. Ruth’s card in the set is clearly the biggest target for most collectors and is the most expensive one.
Ruth’s card is near the end of the set at card No. 196. On it, he is featured with his bat in the Yankees uniform with his name and the word ‘Amerika’ at the bottom. The set included various subjects, including boxers and others.
Like other international issues, this card has begun making its way to the U.S. more with the invention of the internet and websites such as eBay. It is getting a little easier to find here but still a pretty scarce card. To date, PSA and SGC have only graded about 30 of them combined.
The card features font with black ink and moderate-sized borders.