Babe Ruth Autographs: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide
The Babe Ruth autograph is arguably the single most desired signature to own in the entire hobby.
After all, Ruth is the most recognizable player in the history of the game...
He's a baseball icon.
And that's why collectors will pay big bucks to own practically anything with his signature on it.
In this guide we'll cover the following key things you need to know when buying or selling memorabilia autographed by the Sultan of Swat:
Over the course of his life, Ruth signed his name in several different forms.
Depending on the time period and the medium upon which he signed, his signature usually took the form of one of the following variations:
This is the most common Ruth signature that there is. Usually you will find this variation on signed baseballs, bats, etc. as it's probably the most common way he would sign items for fans.
Early in his career, Ruth would occasionally place "Babe" in quotation marks. It appears he stopped doing this past the 1920's, however.
G H Ruth
Sometimes you will see Ruth's signature with the initials of his real name, George Ruth, as "G H Ruth". This variation appears frequently on checks.
George H Ruth
On more formal documentation, such as insurance forms and contracts, you will find that he might sign as "George H Ruth".
George Herman Ruth
This may be the most rare form of his signature as he usually also reserved it for important formal documentation, such as his last will and testament or important loan documents.
Some of these variations may be more rare than others.
But to my knowledge, no single variation of his signature is necessarily worth more than the others.
The value, which we'll go over later, is more determined by other factors such as the clarity of the signature, the medium upon which it was signed, etc.
However, personally, I'd prefer to have a Ruth item signed as "Babe Ruth" more than the other variations.
But that's just me.
The funny thing about Babe Ruth autographs is that they're not all that rare.
Prior to Ruth's arrival in the big leagues, players didn't commonly sign autographs.
In fact, he was one of the first to openly sign for fans and he rarely, if ever, turned down anyone.
He likely signed tens of thousands of items throughout his life, if not more.
Given the value and large demand for Ruth's signature, it's also sadly the most commonly forged.
So, how do you determine if a Babe Ruth autograph is real?
His signature does exhibit some distinct characteristics that can at least help you get started:
- The 'B' in 'Babe' has that looping hook to start and never really closes off at the bottom
- The 'e' in 'Babe' is more of a capital 'e' than a lower case 'e'
- The 'R' in 'Ruth' exhibits a unique, bubbly loop to it
- The 'u' in 'Ruth' starts with an upward swing to it
- The 't' in 'Ruth' crosses on through the 'h'
Also look for other clues such as whether the age of the ink and medium are the right age for the time period.
The style has to be right, too.
For example, earlier I mentioned that Ruth stopped putting his name in quotes after the 1920's. So if someone is trying to sell you an item from the late 1930's or 1940's and his name is in quotes, that should immediately raise eyebrows.
Or, if you see a baseball signed as "George Herman Ruth" then that should be suspicious as well since he really only signed that way on formal documents.
The safest and easiest way is to let a professional authenticator evaluate it for you.
There are multiple professional grading companies out there who can authenticate his signature.
Companies like James Spence Authentication (JSA), Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), and Sports Card Guaranty (SGC) all do a fantastic job of authenticating.
The value of a Ruth signature will depend on several things:
- The medium upon which Ruth signed
- The condition of the autograph
- Whether it is a single signature or a multi-signature
- Whether the item was game-used
Let's first take a look at the type of mediums that are most commonly used.
Individual taste will always depend on the collector, but typically autographed Babe Ruth baseballs are his most coveted signed items.
They're the most integral component of the game itself.
They're easy to display--especially alongside a collection of multiple baseballs.
Typically you'll find Ruth-signed baseballs with his autograph shown in the position you see below.
Scuffing on the baseball itself can reduce the value so take that into consideration if you're buying or selling.
Ruth's legacy was built on the towering home runs that he smashed throughout his career.
So what better way to remember Ruth than with a signed baseball bat--the very tool he used to club so many long balls.
There are plenty of Babe Ruth baseball cards still in circulation these days but only a small percentage were ever autographed.
Sometimes having a card that was signed by the player himself will bring down the value of the card itself but with Ruth it's hard to say.
And it would of course depend on the condition of both the card and the signature.
Here's a look at a couple of 1933 Goudey cards signed by Ruth:
You can also find modern baseball cards with what are known as "cut signatures" contained within them.
The cards are often beautifully designed with vivid imagery of the Babe.
And they're thicker than normal cards to make room for the cutout of an index card or piece of paper that was once signed by Ruth.
Often these cut signature cards will be numbered as one of one but occasionally you will find a set that contains more than one.
Here are a couple of examples:
Personally, I prefer the original pre-war baseball cards with his signature directly on them versus the modern cut signature cards.
But, hey, who would argue with owning either kind?
Signed letters can be some of the coolest Ruth items you can possibly collect.
They can potentially offer a small glimpse of who he was as a man.
That said, much of the value of a signed Ruth letter will depend upon the context of the letter itself.
Collectors typically want to see a letter that details something about his personal life or playing career.
I love the letter below.
How cool would it have been for that young boy to receive a letter from Ruth offering not only his autograph but a bit of life advice as well?
There is just something about the image of Babe Ruth himself that captivates collectors to this day.
And if the picture was autographed by the Bambino himself then the value can soar.
Like with most any autographed picture of a professional athlete, those in which Babe Ruth is depicted in uniform or playing in a game are worth more than those in which he is wearing street clothes.
Signed letters can be some of the coolest Ruth items you can possibly collect.
Much of that will depend upon the context of the letter itself.
Index cards may not be as eye appealing as baseballs, bats, or uniforms but hey, are you really going to complain if it's autographed by Babe Ruth?
Many kids and collectors used to mail index cards to famous athletes, movie stars and musicians for them to sign and mail back.
For those who could not see Ruth up close and in person at a ballpark, this was a great option to still grab his signature.
Regardless of the type of medium used, collectors will always want their Ruth signature to be in the best condition possible.
If we were to compare two signatures side-by-side on the same type of medium, the item with the clearer, smoother signature will be more valuable.
However, if you compare two signatures side by side on two different types of medium, the story could be different.
For instance, if you are considering a game-used bat with a mediocre autograph versus, say, an index card with a great autograph then certainly the autographed game-used bat will be worth more.
Single-Signed vs. Multi-Signed
When you hear the term "single-signed", it is simply referring to an item that has been signed only by Ruth.
And a multi-signed item will be one that Ruth and other players/coaches signed alongside him--like a team ball where all the Yankees signed for example.
Which one is worth more?
Again, you have to consider multiple things: what is the medium, who else signed the item and what the condition of the signatures is.
What you cannot do with multi-signed items is simply add up the values of each signature to come up with a total value.
Preserving the autograph properly is the most important thing you can do to maintain its value.
Over time, ink will fade so it is critical to store the autograph away from light as much as possible.
Storing the actual medium upon which the autograph was signed in dry place will also help maintain the structural integrity of the piece and therefore the signature as well.