Hunt Auctions has announced the private sale of a bat used by Babe Ruth circa 1920-21 for $1.85 million, a record price for a baseball bat.
The previous record also belonged to a Ruth bat, one that sold privately for $1.68 million by Heritage Auctions last August.
According to Hunt Auctions, the new record holder is the “only known example to offer photographic corroboration.”
The “Polo Grounds” bat, as it’s colloquially known for the stadium the New York Yankees played their home games in until 1922, is matched to a 1921 photo of Ruth swinging it.
The bat sold recently at auction was “photo-matched” to this image of Babe Ruth from 1921. Hunt Auctions
In February 2018, collector Justin Cornett purchased the bat at auction for $400,800 through Heritage Auctions without a photo match. At the time, the estimation was that it was used sometime from September 1920 to March 1922.
PSA/DNA photo expert Henry Yee eventually matched the bat to a photo of Ruth from 1921, increasing its value exponentially.
The sale-record-breaking bat was matched to a 1921 Babe Ruth photo by PSA/DNA photo expert Henry Yee, who wrote that he saw five points “that stand out immediately” between the bat and photo, making them a “photo match.” Hunt Auctions
Ruth’s 1921 season notably established records for single-season home runs (59) and career homers (139). The bat received a perfect 10 grade from PSA/DNA Photo Authentication Services.
“I am very familiar with the ‘Polo Grounds’ Babe Ruth bat, bringing it into the hobby 30 years ago,” John Taube of PSA Pro Bat Services said in a statement provided by Hunt Auctions. “The rich brown patina and the Ruth characteristics that were present, then and now, establish the bat as one of the premier Babe Ruth game-used bats in any collection, public or private.”
The Polo Grounds bat also was displayed there in the early 1940s alongside other game-used lumber, from the likes of Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby, in a season-ending auction for charity.
“It is without surprise that the Babe has once again pushed yet another sports memorabilia category to record pricing territory,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions. “This baseball bat is as close to a work of art as the medium can allow.”
Hunt Auctions has a track record with Ruth memorabilia; it brokered a $5.64 million Ruth jersey sale in the summer of 2019 — still the most expensive piece of baseball memorabilia — and sold a Ruth baseball glove for a record $1.53 million last November.
In 2023, most MLB bats hover around 32 ounces in weight. Ruth’s $1.85 million bat, a Hillerich & Bradsby Co. model, clocks in at an astounding 44.6 ounces.