Photo via Bettmann / Contributor

It’s the Most Expensive Sports Card Ever, but the Price is a Mystery

Thanks to an NDA, the amount paid this week for a 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth is unknown to the public.

Typically, buyers of expensive sports cards or memorabilia can’t wait to shout their expensive, lavish purchases from the rooftops to anyone willing, or unwilling, to listen — particularly when the final sale price is of the all-time record-setting variety.

When billionaire Bob Duggan bought a Kobe Bryant rookie jersey for $3.69 million last week, he had a PR team ready to send a mass email to everyone under the sun who might want to publicize the news.

In most cases, staying private about a vanity purchase defeats the purpose of making it in the first place, adding to the intrigue of the news. Which makes the case of this week’s 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card transaction so unusual.

The super-rare baseball card depicts the Sultan Of Swat as a 19-year-old minor leaguer. The card has an estimated value of $6 million, and was recently sold to an unknown private buyer for what was lauded by multiple outlets as having broken the previous $5.2 million record price for a trading card sale.

Collectable, which allows users to buy and sell fractional shares of sports memorabilia, announced Wednesday that it has a deal with the buyer to sell 20,000 individual shares in the Ruth card starting at $3 apiece, an “IPO” they have framed as representing 1% of the card’s total value.

But due to a non-disclosure agreement, the public has no way of knowing the exact value of the sale.

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card valued at $6 million

“This card was recently graded a 3 by SGC, and recently set a record for the most expensive sports card ever sold, surpassing the $5.2M price for a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle and a 2003 Exquisite LeBron James rookie card,” read a blurb describing the Ruth card on Collectable’s website.

The private Ruth buyer reportedly required Collectable to sign an NDA as a condition of their deal, which subsequently created confusion about what the $6 million figure actually refers to. The Athletic had to issue a correction at the top of its article about the Bambino card, saying that “an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Babe Ruth card had sold for $6 million.”

Collectable CEO Ezra Levine told CNBC’s Jabari Young that it was a “reasonable assumption” that the mystery buyer paid nearly $6 million for the card, easily surpassing the previous $5.2 million record.

What we have to go on as of this moment? Good faith. To be clear, there’s zero reason to believe that any funny business is taking place here — but our inability to know the exact number nor the buyer’s identity is unprecedented stuff.

It’s a rare sports memorabilia purchase shrouded in a nearly-as-rare air of secrecy, as all we can do this week is celebrate that the record for most expensive sports card in history was broken once again thanks to the magic of the Babe.

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