Babe Ruth is one of the most easily recognized figures in all sports over all time periods. Owning anything signed by Babe Ruth, particularly an autographed baseball, is a dream for any sports collector. Those autographs are quite valuable, if they are real. The problem is that the number of Babe Ruth’s real autographs is massive — and so is the number of fake Babe Ruth autographs.
The former Homerun King was undeniably the greatest batter of his generation. He was also one hell of a great pitcher before they figured he was a better full-time contributor with lumber instead of on the mound. And unlike many players over many eras, Babe Ruth was incredibly approachable for autographs. No one knows just how many real signed Babe Ruth autographs still exist on baseballs, cards, pieces of paper and so on. What is known is that it is thousands upon thousands of signatures.
With all of these thousands of signatures also being worth thousands of dollars each, take a wild guess what no one else knows the true answer to — just how many FAKE BABE RUTH AUTOGRAPHS are out on the market, in collections, and waiting for the next sucker to get duped.
Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. Most Babe Ruth signed items would fall into that description as any Babe Ruth signature could be worth thousands of dollars. Some signatures on balls, cards, checks, photos and other prized items can be worth tens of thousands of dollars if the signature is clear and if the item is in good condition.
The other caveat on having a high valuation is that Babe’s autograph has to have been actually signed by Babe himself and the item has to be authenticated by one of the reputable authentication services. With all of the items Babe Ruth signed himself you would think that forgeries would be less prevalent. Guess again.
I have now been presented with 5 Babe Ruth signed items which actually were about as real as if Babe Ruth were suddenly alive and signing at the National Sports Collectors Convention. We all know that hasn’t happened. What is hard to fathom is just how good and how pathetic some of the fake Babe Ruth signatures are.
It is also sad just how much people believe the stories that come along with each “signed Babe Ruth” whatever the item happens to be. Some of the stories are quite intricate as well. And sadly, some of the stories might be true but a secretary for the Yankees may have signed the item when it was mailed in. Babe Ruth would attract thousands of visitors when he appeared and he couldn’t sign every single item that someone hoped he would sign.
The September 2022 baseball presented ahead of the San Antonio collectibles show (image below)was the most intricate forgeries out there. According to the team at James Spence Authentication, this ball (also signed by Lou Gehrig) was a laser signature. The ball looked old. The ink looked authentic. The would-be buyer contacted me about the ball and I informed him of a massive number of fakes and told him that he must absolutely positively get the ball authenticated by JSA at the San Antonio show before he parts with the full asking price ($8,000.00, because the man needs the cash quick!). He gave the man a $1,000 deposit paid via a cash app incase there was something wrong and in case the seller ghosted him. The unfortunate side of this is that the authentication price has to be paid. But for $500 that was a risk worth taking.
That same September 2022 signed Ruth/Gehrig came with a big story too (Gehrig photo below). It was “in the family for decades and was obtained by Waite Hoyt” for provenance because they were supposed friends of the grandfather way back when. And as to why the ball had never been certified, well the answer was “I didn’t need it authenticated since I knew where it came from.” I wonder what year laser signatures were invented for signing Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographs. I do not know, but it wasn’t when they were alive.
Another “signed Babe Ruth baseball that has been in the family for decades” and was from “my grandfather who passed away in his 90s recently.” This lovely gem (see the image below) was presented to me in August of 2022. The message that was left about wanting to sell it online for $500 to help with a car down payment. I tried unsuccessfully to get back but left the message to “please do not sell a signed Babe Ruth baseball for $500 because it might easily be worth ten times that!” We finally did get to speak, but grandpa’s baseball was beat to hell. The navy blue ink was a felt tip pen signature that is unlike any other signature matched against several hundred images. And Babe Ruth’s “Autograph” was not left to right as it is on any other signature. The handwriting was off as well, so unless the Babe was blowing a .25% BAC or unless it was his last signature as he was passing away this one was toast.
Felt tip pens are not generally associated with Babe Ruth signatures. The website ChromatographyToday.com outlines the history of felt tip pens and many photos signed by Ruth would be candidates for that time line. On baseballs themselves, not so much. Was it possible that a pen of this sort could have been used? Yes, but…
Another “Babe Ruth” fallacy that exists to some people that they have a genuine team-signed Babe Ruth baseball. That was the Babe Ruth little league team signed, with no dates or anything other than a bunch of kid signatures and the coach’s signature with the first name only. Sure, the Babe Ruth marking was on the ball for the league but that was it. What are some people thinking?
Another fake Babe Ruth item that was from earlier in 2022 was a photo of the Yankees lived up. On the back of the photo were signatures of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The problem was that this photo that also “owned by Grandpa for decades and decades” was a new photo quality with bright white borders and a heavy glossy reflection that would not be accurate for a photo taken in the 1920s or 1930s. And the Ruth and Gehrig signatures on the back were not even signatures at all but were obviously stamped.
Collectors Dashboard has already shown the real value of a genuine autographed Babe Ruth baseball. It has also been pointed out that most vintage collectors would not be able to afford ANY Babe Ruth card from his playing years if it was not for one key set that makes his cards affordable in any condition. And we also know that signed Ruth baseball cards keep setting new records.
Owning a Babe Ruth signed baseball is considered a true Grail for any sports collector. Forgers and scammers know this. If it means they can make you part with a few thousand dollars because of a story that they just need fast cash then they are happy to pry that cash away from you.
The movie “The Sandlot” explained what could have happened with many Babe Ruth signed baseballs. But check out the image used for this auction. I did not bother to count the number of baseballs here in this one setting but it’s certainly a mountain of balls. Another article if you search “how many baseballs were signed by Babe Ruth” generated this result from Ruth’s agent at the time from just one off-season barnstorming trip — traveling 8,000 miles, playing before 220,000 people and signing 5,000 baseballs.
Criminals and family members who have believed the stories (or juiced the stories up) now have another dilemma on their hands. If pursued to the fullest extent of the law, and if the sale price is high enough (generally over $10,000) then they might be in line to get three hots and a cot.
There is an old saying of Caveat Emptor! It means “Buyer Beware!” This certainly applies here in this case.