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How an Orioles Babe Ruth card went from a sock drawer to a Baltimore museum and a $6 million valuation

In 1914, Archibald Davis was just like any other young kid who loved collecting cards. He would go through the Baltimore News-Post and take out a trading card from the International League Baltimore Orioles team. One of the cards Davis found stuffed between the newspaper was a pre-rookie card of Babe Ruth.

Over the years, that card had many homes: a sock drawer, a shoe box, and for the last 23 years, the Babe Ruth Museum. The card represents a piece of the Davis family and Baltimore baseball history. Yet, no one truly knew the value of the card until recently when it reportedly sold for millions.

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During a June 2 news conference, Collectable, a sports memorabilia investing platform, announced the Great Bambino’s card was valued at around $6 million. The exact terms of the sale were undisclosed, however, the price exceeded sales of the 1952 Mickey Mantle and the 2003 LeBron James rookie cards, which sold for $5.2 million each.

“I was surprised,” said Mike Gibbons, a historian and director emeritus at the Babe Ruth Museum. “We have been living with that card since 1998, and we felt it was worth seven figures. But not the amount it was rumored to have gone for.”

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Gibbons wasn’t aware of the card’s existence until 1998 when Richard Davis, who received the card from his father Archibald, lent the Ruth pre-rookie card to the museum for public viewing.

“At first, nobody understood that there was a monetary value attached to the thing,” Gibbons said. “I remember calling the National Baseball Hall of Fame curator and saying, ‘What do you know about a 1914 Orioles Babe Ruth rookie card?’ He was like, ‘I don’t know anything.’ ”

Ruth’s minor league card has played an integral part in the Davis family legacy since 1914. Archibald would deliver copies of the Baltimore News-Post when he was a young boy. Inside the newspaper would be trading cards from the 1914 International League Orioles team. Whenever Archibald would bring a newspaper home, he would take a card out like a coupon then stow them away in a sock drawer for safekeeping, according to the Davis family lawyer Richard Burch.

Archibald managed to collect 15 cards from the 1914 International League Orioles team. Archibald eventually gave the cards to Richard when he was around 10 years old. Richard, a lifelong Baltimorean who passed away in 2001, stored the cards in a shoe box, gaining value over the years.

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Richard’s wife, Geraldine, and his son, Glenn, never put the card on the market or had intentions of selling the family’s prize possession. However, they were approached unexpectedly in April with an offer for the 15 cards. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse, said Burch.

When the Davis family reached an agreement to sell the card in May, the buyer promised to keep the card in the museum.

“Geraldine and Glenn regret on one level having sold the card and the collection, but on the other hand, they’re happy that the buyer was willing to keep the card on display [at the museum],” said Burch, speaking on the Davis family behalf. “At the end of the day, they are satisfied with the sale and the terms of the sale.”

While the Ruth card will remain at the museum for the foreseeable future, Collectable announced the card will be sold for $3 a share.

The Ruth card and the rest of the Baltimore News-Post collection are currently with the new owner. According to Gibbons, the cards will return to the museum when they finish building an exhibit, where the cards will be on display.

“What shocked us was that the guy who bought the card, immediately said the card belongs here so that the public can enjoy it,” Gibbons said. “We are going to be creating a whole new exhibit area, and we are going to present the card as special as it is.”

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