One 1921 Schapira Babe Ruth Card Isn’t Like the Others
Collectors looking to buy a 1921 Schapira Babe Ruth card should keep one simple thing in mind
The 1921 Schapira Babe Ruth cards are some of the tougher cards of the slugger. These hand-cut cards were printed on candy boxes and, as you can imagine, most have not survived.
The reasons for that are two-fold. For one thing, many boxes were likely discarded upon finishing the candy. And for another, Schapira offered a promotion where 250 of the cards could be redeemed for a Babe Ruth ball. Even collectors that kept the cards probably did so to redeem them and, given the scarcity of them today, it is not likely they were returned.
How rare are the cards, exactly? There are seven different cards in the set (six, really, with one minor variation on a portrait card) and to date, PSA has graded only a little more than 100 total. The cards are a mix of Ruth hitting and fielding, as well as a portrait card.
Even though they are only cards cut from boxes, they are still very desirable among collectors. In lesser condition, they still usually sell for hundreds of dollars.
While all of the cards are valuable, collectors should keep one thing in mind if looking to buy one of these. And the card in question is Ruth’s portrait card.
The portrait card of Ruth isn’t a bad one by any means. Some may not care for the artwork but at the end of the day, it’s still a legitimate Babe Ruth card. Some will argue the technicality of that since it was more an advertisement for a redemption program but these are still bought and sold as real Ruth cards. It was actually modeled after a real image that appeared in a 1921 New York Times publication with Ruth’s head against a baseball.
There are two things to consider if buying a portrait card of Ruth from this set. First, that is the one most commonly faked. Forged examples are often on eBay and elsewhere. And while others in the set can be faked, too, the portrait is the one that seems to be forged the most.
Second, and more importantly, even the authentic copies come with a catch. See, each of the Schapira candy boxes included two Ruth cards on them. One was one of the action photos, which changed from box to box, and the other was the portrait. The portrait was printed on every box while others were found on only every sixth box (assuming they were all printed in equal quantities). Thus, the portrait cards exist in far greater quantities. Perhaps the reason they are faked so often is because they are the ones most commonly seen by forgers.
PSA’s population report is further evidence of this. So far, PSA has not graded even 15 of any one of the action cards. Meanwhile, they have graded nearly 70 of the portrait cards. The portrait cards of Ruth in the set are still desirable and sell for good money. But if you are faced with the opportunity to buy one vs. an action shot, all things equal, you’ll want the action shot since those are much rarer.