When the baseball card first went up for auction on eBay, it was priced at 99 cents. That may have been a tad low.
The e-mails started coming immediately: someone offering $5,000, someone offering $10,000. The seller, who had found the card in an old photo album he purchased at a yard sale in Baileyville, Maine, quickly removed the eBay listing and brought in professional appraisers, who determined that the card was more than rare: It was one of two known examples of the first baseball card ever printed.
Now the card — a photo of the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club — is going back to auction, with a slightly higher price tag. The Saco River Auction Company in Biddeford, Maine, will host the auction next month for the seller, who has chosen to remain anonymous, and expects the card to fetch upward of $100,000. The only other known example of the card is in the Library of Congress.
Troy Thibodeau, the auctioneer, said the find is generating huge excitement from those who collect early 19th century baseball memorabilia.
“This is something that no other collector has, so if you’re a collector of that sort of stuff, you have to have this,” Thibodeau said.
The card was found by a yard sale picker who was looking at furniture in a woodshed and discovered an old moldy box on the ground that contained the album and other period photos. The picker paid less than $100 for the furniture, the album, and some old Coke bottles, Thibodeau said.
The card is actually an albumin photo that was attached to a cardboard backing, called a “carte de visite,” and was printed by the Brooklyn team as a “show of bravado,” according to Thibodeau. The Atlantics were the reigning champions, and they liked to give the card out to their opponents. Smug New York baseball teams are apparently an old phenomenon.