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Lot # 37 (of 1525)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1866 Currier & Ives Baltimore Base Ball Emporium CDV

Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $2,088.00

Offered is an extraordinary new baseball card discovery representing one of the two or three earliest baseball cards known to exist. This 1866 CDV baseball card features a photographic image of the famous Currier & Ives American National Game of Base Ball lithograph on the front. The reverse features an advertisement for George Gratton's "Baltimore Base Ball Emporium." This establishment was one of the first in the country to specialize in all products relating to baseball, including "bases, batts [sic], spikes, scores, shoes, shirts, caps, books" etc. The Baltimore Base Ball Emporium, located on Baltimore Street east of Calvert, had its grand opening in 1866. Based on the style of the card, the year of the grand opening of the store, and the year of issue of the Currier & Ives print featured on the front, it is our opinion that it is highly likely that this advertising card dates from 1866. It is also very likely that the then just-released Currier & Ives print featured on the CDV was available for sale at the Baltimore Base Ball Emporium. Published in 1866, the American National Game of Base Ball was one of Currier & Ives most famous prints. The print features a game-in-progress scene of the 1865 Grand Match for the Championship played between the Atlantics of Brooklyn and the Mutuals of New York, which was played on August 3, 1865. The Atlantics won, 13-12, in a five-inning rain-shortened contest. Though this is one of baseball's most famous early images, it is often misidentified as featuring what is generally recognized as the first organized baseball game played between the Knickerbockers and the New York Nine played at Elysian Fields in June of 1846. Few realize that the players featured on this print are not generic depictions. Six members of the Atlantics can be clearly identified at the bottom right. They are Sid Smith, Joe Start, Dickey Pierce, Fred Crane, John Galvin, and Tom Pratt. In the crowd scene, facing the viewer, is Pete O'Brien. Because of the small scale of the CDV image, identification of the players is difficult on the CDV, but O'Brien in particular can still be easily identified with a magnifying glass on the CDV. As an advertising card, this style card is technically referred to as a "trade card." In the mid-to-late nineteenth century, trade cards were a very popular form of advertising which were distributed by merchants to customers, and which featured advertising for the establishment or in some cases a particular product.

There has long been discussion in the world of collecting about which was "the very first baseball card." In discussing this topic, one must of course first define what qualifies as a baseball card. To us, the 1863 Grand Match at Hoboken Benefit CDV ticket/card qualifies as the first baseball card, because this was the first card picturing a baseball player printed for the purpose of promoting the retail sale of a product to the public. In that case, the product was admission to a game. Some define the term "baseball card" differently. There is, of course, no one correct definition, but to those who prefer to define the 1863 Hoboken card as a ticket, the distinction of the earliest baseball card would fall on either the James Creighton memorial trade card with advertising on the reverse for Peck & Snyder, or this newly discovered Baltimore Base Ball Emporium CDV advertising card. Both of these cards are undated. We are relatively certain that the Baltimore Base Ball Emporium card dates from 1866. Creighton died in 1862. While it is not clear exactly when the memorial card was printed, it is likely that it precedes 1866 by as much as a couple of years. In either case, and no matter what one's definition of the term "baseball card," this newly discovered Baltimore Base Ball Emporium advertising card is one of only several baseball cards which deserve serious consideration in a scholarly discussion about what is the earliest of all baseball cards. This may not be the first, but it is not far behind; and if the Baltimore Base Ball Emporium was, indeed, a seller of the Currier & Ives print in 1866, this card would then hold the distinction of being the first baseball card issued to promote the sale of a specific manufactured product. Today there are fewer than ten surviving original examples of the 1866 Currier & Ives American National Game of Base Ball print. The last example of this famous print to be sold realized over $80,000. This is the only known period card featuring this important and classic Currier & Ives image. By any measure, this is one of baseball card collecting's earliest issues, and one the very few cards dating from the dawn of the game's great popularity as America's National Pastime.

The card has corners clipped (which is not uncommon when dealing with 1860s CDVs), and is otherwise in Very Good condition. 2.375 inches x 3.75 inches. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $1,000/$10,000. SOLD FOR $2,088.00

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