Incredible, newly-discovered Babe Ruth card from the enigmatic 1921 Herpolsheimer's issue, one of Ruth's most rare cards with only two examples known.
Herpolsheimer's Boys Fashion Shop, part of a Grand Rapids, Michigan department store for the younger male set, apparently commissioned a set of cards using familiar W575-1/E121 strip card images that were either never issued or barely made it out to the public in 1921. The issue was discovered in 2004 when a group of 69 or 70 were sold individually on eBay, each card unique as there was only one card of each player. The discovery generated a huge hobby buzz as the issue had never been seen before, and collectors scrambled to obtain one. The cards subsequently filtered into the hobby and the Herpolsheimer's issue joined sets like Tango Eggs and Shotwell Manufacturing as the subject of research and speculation about whether the cards were ever actually issued. Cards from the initial find make themselves available occasionally, and are always the subject of spirited bidding.
This example is part of a second find, dating to a 2019 Grand Rapids estate sale where the card was one of 39 1921 Herpolsheimer cards discovered in an old Band-Aid box. This "Band-Aid Box Find" was introduced to the Net54 Baseball message board in late 2019, yielding a number of Hall of Famers and newly-discovered subjects, most notably this Ruth. The Ruth becomes the second-known example and increases the likelihood that the 1921 Herpolsheimer cards actually were distributed to customers somehow, but remain incredibly rare.
The card has been graded FAIR 1.5 by PSA due to overall wear, the most noteworthy flaws related to the back. A series of surface abrasions break the surface of the reverse inside the printing of the word "Fashion," also scuffing away some ink elsewhere in the printing. In the area outside the bottom border, some long ago-erased pencil writing is barely visible. It should be noted that the remaining 38 cards in the find also have similar markings, though the grader who assessed those cards elected to address it with an "MK" qualifier. In this case, though the card has no qualifier, the marking is present, not readily visible in the scan. Surface, corner and edge wear consistent with the grade is visible on the front, most notably along the left edge, where chipping and a tiny edge wrinkle is apparent. Regardless of the flaws, the card front presents stronger, the image area largely clean, save for a small, light-colored blemish at Ruth's waist, and a few stray marks here and there. At first glance, the card appears VG.
Even with this discovery, the 1921 Herpolsheimer's is one of Babe Ruth's rarest cards, with only two surviving examples known. The story of the discovery of the 1921 Herpolsheimer's cards is the stuff of hobby legend, and obtaining an example has been a white whale of many advanced collectors. Only 110 or so collectors can own one. Only two can own a Ruth. One of the most rare and important baseball cards we have ever offered.
Please note: We have been asked to elaborate on the blemish visible at Ruth's waist. Unfortunately it is difficult to discern inside the holder whether it is a scuff, surface abrasion, or something on the card itself, even under magnification, but it does appear consistent with the grade and does not, in our opinion, detract from the visual appeal of the card.
Additional note: One of the appealing elements of the provenance of this find is the vintage Band-Aid box in which the cards were discovered. Our consignor has agreed that the Band-Aid box belongs with this card, as as such, we will include the box (now pictured in the listing).
Final note: Early this morning we published a blog entry titled "An Extraordinary Piece of Hobby Research," which chronicles a brand-new discovery that solves the mystery of how and when the 1921 Herpolsheimer's cards were distributed. We invite you to review the research that answers these questions, and also direct your attention to a newly-posted print advertisement from the Grand Rapids Press that features these cards. You can view the blog entry at https://loveofthegameauctions.com/an-extraordinary-piece-of-hobby-research/