A 1921 New York Times Pictorial Led to a Common Babe Ruth Card
The publication was the basis for one of Ruth’s popular early candy cards
Babe Ruth was a hot commodity in New York in the 1920s. As baseball gained in popularity, so did the slugger, who was the sport’s unofficial face.
It wasn’t long before collectors could find Ruth on any number of baseball cards. At the time, those were mostly candy cards as American tobacco cards were pretty much going extinct.
One regional set of Ruth cards was the 1921 Schapira Brothers candy cards. Schapira Brothers was a candy company right in New York City where Ruth-a-Mania was taking place. They were self-hyped as ‘The Largest Manufacturers of Penny Novelty Packages,” meaning they likely dabbled in more than just candy.
The company printed a set of six cards on the boxes of some of its candy products. One of those six cards was a portrait card that included a special offer. In exchange for 250 of the cards (which were essentially a Proof of Purchase), fans could receive an autographed ball of Ruth. Whether or not the ball included a genuine hand-signed autograph of Ruth or merely a replica is unclear, though the latter is probably assumed here.
All Schapira Brothers Ruth cards are valuable, usually starting around $400-$500 for ones in decent shape. But the Portrait cards are a little less desirable since there were twice as many of them printed. Each box contained a portrait card and another random card, thus making them double printed.
The card, as you can see, pictures an image of Ruth’s head against a baseball. But the interesting thing is that it’s not a random design created by some artist. The image was almost certainly taken from this 1921 New York Times Pictorial that featured Ruth on the cover. The publication was a baseball preview of sorts, published in April of that year, including other pictures of baseball players as well.
Not only is the head the same but it’s also against a baseball that just happens to have the same orientation as the baseball in the publication. The artist’s rendition isn’t too great but, despite that, it’s still clear to see the inspiration for the drawing. And given that the New York Times was in the same city as Schapira Brothers’ headquarters, it’s even easier to see the connection.
It’s also worth pointing out that this visage of Ruth was seemingly used in other sets as he has several other cards with a similar portrait pose. The difference between those and this one, however, is the baseball background.
Just one of the many fun facts about this unique set.