"Curse of the Bambino" No Problem for One Massachusetts Collector
by Bob Williams
May 25, 2004
The Boston Red Sox last won the World Series in 1918. Two years later, they sold
the contract of a young pitcher and batter - Babe Ruth - to the New York Yankees.
Since then, the Yankees have won 26 World Series titles - while the Red Sox have
remained winless. This is why baseball fans worldwide have come to believe in
the "Curse of the Bambino."
For one collector from Plymouth, Massachusetts, just 40 minutes south of Boston,
that curse seems to have had no effect, however. Rick Antoniotti, from America's
Hometown, recently pulled one of the more unique and interesting, modern trading
cards made for America's Pasttime of baseball. The card features baseball's first
slugger, George Herman "Babe" Ruth.
"The Sultan of Swat," as he was known, was one of the most talented and
well-liked baseball players ever which leads to the enormous interest in Babe Ruth memorabilia
and collectibles among sports collectors. In May 2002, Donruss/Playoff, a manufacturer of
sports trading cards, purchased a 1925-era, game-worn Babe Ruth jersey - one of just three Ruth
pinstriped home jerseys known to exist - for $264,911 at an auction. Then in 2003, the
company began cutting swatches from the jersey resulting in over 2000 pieces of the Ruth
jersey which were to be incorporated into various products over a period of several years.
One of those products was 2004 Donruss Timeless Treasures, released earlier this year.
The Timeless Treasures set contains a Home and Away Gamers Combos Prime Signatures subset
featuring one prime swatch of both home and away game-worn jerseys, one swatch of game-used
bat and one autograph sequentially numbered to 5 or less. The Babe Ruth version of this card
is numbered to 1, resulting in a true one-of-a-kind collectible.
When Rick Antoniotti, a collector and hobbyist, purchased two cases of Timeless Treasures
from eBay PowerSeller 1-Stop Card Shop on May 3, 2004, he had no idea about the excitement he
would soon be generating. At $1159.99 per factory-sealed, 15-tin case, Antoniotti was hoping
to add valuable, high-end cards to the growing baseball and football card collection he had
built over the last few years. As he began opening tins and packs, he soon pulled the
incredible 1/1 Babe Ruth card shown here (click each for larger image).
Antoniotti explains, "I realized immediately what I had pulled as I had seen the card in an
advertisement." As he began the process of fully understanding what he had just pulled and
its potential value, he recalls being "stunned, amazed and shaking for a half hour."
Donruss/Playoff Communications Manager Tracy Hackler adds, "For any collector, that card is
absolutely the pull of a lifetime. In terms of content and collectibility, it's just a stunning
piece of history. We've been delivering some spectacular Babe Ruth pieces throughout much of 2004,
but that one might be one of the most splendid. Internally, when we were putting the finishing
touches on Donruss Timeless Treasures from a development perspective, there was a tremendous amount
of attention and anticipation surrounding that card."
Within days of pulling the Babe Ruth card, Antoniotti decided to auction the item
on eBay. He explains, "I am not a vintage collector and decided to place the card in
an eBay auction so that someone who is a true vintage Babe Ruth collector would have the
opportunity to own it." As expected, there are a number of collectors who are
welcoming the chance to add this unique card to their collection.
Hackler of Donruss/Playoff sums up the interest by saying, "It will be exciting to watch the
activity surrounding that card now that it's been pulled." The first eBay auction for
the card ended with a final high bid of $24,000. However, the reserve was not met and the card
was relisted. Once again though, the second auction ended without meeting the reserve after
reaching a high bid of $19,900. The card was then relisted again for a third auction after
removing any reserve. The third auction had a high bid of $15,500, but payment has not been
made on the card. The next step is undecided at this time.
As for Antoniotti, he will continue collecting and has no immediate plans for the earnings from his
auction. Since he says, "Unfortunately, this is the most valuable item I have ever had
in my collection," one has to wonder what other great pulls may be coming for this Massachusetts
collector who has already avoided the "Curse of the Bambino."
About the author
Bob Williams is the owner of TradingCardCentral.com, the one stop site for
sports and non-sports trading card enthusiasts. He has been collecting
sports, non-sports and gaming cards for over 20 years and has a personal
collection of over 0.5 million items.
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