Obscure Card of the Month: Babe Ruth 1935/36 Donat Indiana-Sport-Avion Babe Ruth
A rare card of the Babe is the Obscure Card of the Month
Ever heard of the Donut Indiana-Sport-Avion set? If you haven’t, you’re not alone.
The 1935/1936 Donat Indiana-Sport-Avion set remains a mystery to collectors. This mixed set features a variety of sports and non-sports cards but not much more is known.
So, first — what’s with that name? The name is somewhat puzzling at first. However, it’s easily broken down and makes more sense once you translate it. The Indiana part is the trickiest but most references point to it being a French variation for ‘Indian,’ as the company issued several cards depicting cowboys and Indians. The sport part clearly refers to the many sports in the set. Finally, ‘Avion’ translated from French means ‘plane.’ While that seems odd, many early cards in the set’s numbered checklist are indeed cards of various airplanes. And counting some cards for auto racing, approximately 2/3 of the set features modes of transportation, such as airplanes, cars, and boats.
The cards are from France, and thus, obviously written in French. Backs state that there are 136 cards in the set and that the set is a ‘DONAT’ product. That is a reference to the apparent producer, printed at the very bottom, Jean-Donat Dupont, and Donat was a confectionery company offering products such as bon bons. But exactly how the cards were distributed is unclear. As if all of that was not confusing another, another Donat set, simply titled, Indiana-Sport, also exists.
Backs indicate there are supposed to be 136 cards but that is not believed to be accurate. While another, similar set (titled as Indiana-Sport, minus the Avion) does have cards with higher numbers, to date, this Indiana-Sport-Avion set is only believed to have 63 or 64 cards.
A firm date on the cards is also unknown. However, they appear to have been issued in 1935 or 1936, based on several of the fronts picturing events from 1935. Some have simply referred to this as a 1930s set instead. Measuring, approximately 2 3/8″ x 3″, the cards are a bit thicker than the earlier candy cards and are black and white with white borders.
Fronts of the card feature the aforementioned black and white image with the ‘Indiana-Sport-Avion’ name in bold, black letters at the bottom. Below that is a caption of what is being depicted as well as a card number.
The key card in the set is one featuring the legendary Babe Ruth. His card pictures a full batting scene, complete with catcher umpire, and a packed crowd. It’s titled ‘Match de Base-Ball’ (baseball game) and is appropriately numbered 60 in the set. While not likely a nod to Ruth’s then-record of 60 home runs, I prefer to think of it that way.
What is not often referenced is that, while Ruth is depicted on the front, the game being played is actually one in Japan. We know that from the description on the back that roughly translates to:
“Baseball knows, across the Atlantic, the same vogue as football in France. In this photo, you see three great American champions who, traveling to Tokyo, had played in front of an audience estimated at 65,000 people.”
Unlike some of Ruth’s other 1930s cards, this one is quite rare. This card does not have the same desirability as a Goudey or more common American gum issue, of course. But it is undoubtedly much tougher to secure. To date, PSA has graded a total of only two. Now, many others obviously exist and the few times I have seen this card pop up for sale, it has been in raw, ungraded form. Still, there are simply not many of these around.
That makes pricing it extremely difficult. But one thing we do know is that the value has almost certainly increased since 2018 when one was sold for around $340 on eBay. I would estimate even low-grade cards in today’s market to start closer to $1,000, if not more.