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Lot # 1528 (1528 of 1911)   « Previous Lot | Next Lot »

Extremely Rare Circa 1918 PM1 Babe Ruth Ornate-Border Pin

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $4,500

Presented is one of the most extraordinary baseball pinbacks in existence! Exceedingly rare circa 1918 PM1 ornate-border pin of Babe Ruth. The PM1 set has long been a favorite with advanced collectors, but collecting them and even properly checklisting them has always been challenging. A few subjects are relatively common, many others are extremely rare, some have only one example known! The checklist grows every few years as additional subjects or variations are discovered. This particular pin was only discovered in 2006, prior to which no examples were known! To the best of our knowledge, it still remains the sole survivor, as we have never seen or heard of another Babe Ruth, but obviously the company made many of each subject, so another could always turn up. But to date, to the best of our knowledge, this is the only Ruth known!

PM1s are one of the most distinctive and popular of all early baseball-pin issues. Sometimes referred to as the "fancy border pin set," PM1s are designed with an oval real photo set in an ornately designed mount. Since little is known about the PM1 pin set, including the name of the manufacturer, we are not sure exactly which year they were issued. For many years reference guides dated the set as being issued in 1915, but as the checklist has grown and the images of players (and the uniforms they are wearing) featured in the set have been studied, it is now clear that the set was actually issued over a period of several years, probably between the years 1914 and 1919. The offered example features Ruth in a batting pose as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The image used is a circa 1918 photo by Charles Conlon, thereby dating it to one of the final few years of PM1 production (circa 1918). As the lone example in the hobby, this Ruth pin is, quite obviously, the key rarity to the set, which continues to expand even at this late date (a few significant new discoveries, in addition to the Ruth, have been made during the past ten years, and there will no doubt be more in the future).

Robert Edward Auctions remembers well when the existence of this remarkable pin first came to our attention: In 2006 a longtime advanced collector in New Hampshire (who is still cleaning out his closets!) began the long process of selling his large turn-of-the-century collection of baseball memorabilia and cards. When he told us about the Ruth pin, we were stunned. It was a tremendously exciting discovery in our eyes, though "old hat" in his, as he had had it for many years (and he was not specifically a pin collector, though he appreciated its rarity and knew it was not yet checklisted). We were so excited about the discovery, we mentioned it to many collectors, and the next thing we knew, we received a call from legendary collector Chad Dreier, who was at that time collecting the PM1 set (and who eventually put together by far the most advanced PM1 collection ever assembled!), inquiring if it might be available to purchase outright rather than wait for the next auction which have been many months in the future. As a courtesy to both Chad and the consignor, we checked, and within hours a private five-figure sale had been made. The PM1 Ruth remained in the Dreier Collection until 2013, when the entire Dreier Collection was sold at auction. It has been consigned to this auction directly from the purchaser in 2013 auction.

The pin (1.25 x 1.5 inches) displays light tarnishing to the metallic frame. The photographic image displays a small blemish near the right border and some very light spotting in the white background area. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. The retail cardboard mount (2 x 2 inches) that accompanies is not original to the Ruth pin (when we handled the pin in 2006, there was no retail cardboard mount). However, it is an original PM1 cardboard mount, one that has been taken from another PM1 pin, and is ideal for display with the PM1 Babe Ruth. The retail mount, which is lettered "Price 10 cts. Each" below the pin, has a horizontal crease and is in Very Good condition.

One last amusing note about this extraordinary PM1 Ruth pin that if we don't document here will be lost to time: The private sale of the Ruth pin was especially noteworthy to the entire household of the advanced New Hampshire collector because it was not found or purchased by him personally. He and his wife often went to antique stores, and during one such outing decades ago, this pin was found by chance by his wife and purchased for all of a dollar and given to her collecting husband as a gift without even knowing it was rare or special. Our report back from the seller in 2006 was that while he was happy, his wife was ecstatic! The discovery of the existence of the Ruth PM1 pin in 2006 has always been one of our most amazing pin-collecting stories, but its purchase and sale for many thousands of times its cost of one dollar is also an amusing and thrilling family story to add to the family folklore of the original seller.
Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $4,500


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