A Popular Babe Ruth Image Was Used Over and Over (and Over) on Baseball Cards
A specific pose of Babe Ruth was used time and again on baseball cards and collectibles
As the headliner for the sport of baseball in the pre-war era, Babe Ruth appeared on his fair share of baseball cards and memorabilia. Interestingly enough, a particular pose of Ruth was used repeatedly on baseball cards and collectibles over the years. Notably, it was used on items that were found in the 1930s.
The picture shown here is a popular one of the Hall of Famer and Yankees legend, to be sure. It features Ruth’s iconic swing with a large advertising sign and a stadium grandstand behind him. Ruth is in the follow through of what could be a home run blast as his eyes are fixated to an apparent long fly ball.
It’s really a great photo of Ruth and it’s easy to see why it would be used so often. That said, it’s still kind of interesting to see it appear in so many places.
Here are several of the places you’ll find it. I’ve also seen it on a 1920s game card set but couldn’t find an image of it. And given its widespread usage, finding it used on other cards and pieces of memorabilia wouldn’t surprise me at all.
1932 Astra and Sanella Margarine
Easily the most common place where this photo is seen is on the 1932 Astra and Sanella Margarine cards.
Interestingly, these are German issues distributed by margarine companies. Baseball is not a highlight of the multi-sport set, but Ruth is included, as was a Japanese catcher with a mysterious identity.
These cards are among Ruth’s most affordable ones from his playing days. More specifically, the Sanella ones are the easiest to find. Both the Sanella and Astra cards used the same images with the only real difference being the presence of their sponsor names on the back. But the Astra cards are much tougher to find.
The term ‘card’ is probably too loose of a definition. These are really more like miniature pictures that were glued into a special photo album created by the distributor.
While the Astra cards are rarer, there generally has not been too much of a difference in price point for them. Saavy sellers, though, will ask more for them. The Sanella cards start at around $150 in low-grade condition.
1933 C.A. Briggs
While the Sanella cards are pretty easy to find, the 1933 C.A. Briggs card of Ruth certainly is not.
These unique cards are extremely difficult to track down. They have a basic design with a bright red background and yellow imagery but few collectors could probably even tell you what they are. The Ruth is part of a set of 31 cards issued by candy company, C.A. Briggs.
The set is such a difficult one that a complete checklist is not even known for it. Part of that is due to a redemption prize offered for a complete set of them. Likely, C.A. Briggs shortprinted at least one card to keep too many redemptions from occurring.
As you can see, the Ruth card utilizes the same exact pose in the picture with the printer only coloring in his uniform with the yellow, which was used on other pictures in the set as well.
This is a tough card that typically will sell for a lot of money when you can even find it. A PSA 3 sold for a whopping $2,280 in an REA auction in 2018.
1930s Walter Koehl Checkers Game
The next example of the Ruth photo usage is from a 1930s checkers board game. Specifically, the picture of Ruth was printed on the game’s box.
I wasn’t even aware of this particular item until I found it on eBay, which states it is from 1935. But while Ruth may not be named on the box, there is no denying it is the same picture of him as found on these other cards.
The game where this picture of Ruth is found is called “Baseball Checkers” and was issued by the Walter Koehl company. Now, this was not simply a basic game of checkers. It was checkers where actions would mimic real baseball game actions like hitting the ball or drawing a walk.
Another very rare item that you hardly ever see for sale.
1930s Rogers Peet
Possibly the most desirable Ruth card on this list is the one found in the somewhat tough 1930s Rogers Peet set.
The Rogers Peet cards may not be altogether as rare as others here. But it may be the one that collectors would prefer to have the most of any Ruth item on this list.
Rogers Peet was a clothing brand and they issued a 48-card multi-sport set. The cards are not impossible to find but are pretty rare and prices are high for the big stars in the set. The release also includes big names, such as Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, boxer Jack Dempsey, and football player Red Grange. Ruth is No. 48 and the final card in the issue.
As mentioned, the card is quite expensive. A PSA 6 sold by SCP Auctions fetched more than $3,200 in a 2018 auction.
1937 Doughnut Corporation Thrilling Moments
Classified as D46 in the American Card Catalog, this is another one of Ruth’s tougher cards. The 1937 Doughnut Corporation Thrilling Moments cards were printed onto boxes of donuts and Ruth is again a part of a multi-sport set.
Like most others on this list, these cards are particularly rare. That is easy to understand in this case as most of the donut boxes were probably discarded after the product was gone. But some collectors did think to keep them and you can expect to usually pay starting prices of about $1,000-$1,500 for a decent copy on the rare occasion you can find them.
Now, the image on this one isn’t entirely identical. You’ll notice the presence of a catcher in this card, a well-defined home plate, and a slightly different stadium in the background. But the general pose is the same and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was modeled after the same image.