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Lot # 1188 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Extraordinary 1867 Base Ball Polka Sheet Music

Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $12,925

Sheet music for the Base Ball Polka , composed by Jas. M. Goodman, published in 1867 by C. F. Escher, Philadelphia. This extremely rare sheet music is one of the premier nineteenth-century baseball display pieces of any type by virtue of its extraordinary full-color lithographic cover illustration picturing a game in progress. The magnificent graphics of this sheet music have always made it as much an American folk-art classic as a spectacular nineteenth-century baseball display piece. The Base Ball Polka is one of only five color baseball sheet musics of the nineteenth century. It is also exceedingly rare. For such a famous and classic piece, it was surprising even for us to note that in forty years, this is the first example we have ever offered and looking through our library of resources, we were able to find only one other example ever offered, at Sotheby's almost twenty years ago. This sheet music was one of the very few significant nineteenth-century display pieces not included in the famed Barry Halper Collection, which really says quite a lot in that he had one of the most comprehensive baseball-sheet music collections ever assembled, with a specialty in nineteenth-century examples. This sheet music was produced two years after the Civil War and two years prior to the advent of professionalism in baseball. It was during that four-year period that baseball truly became regarded as our national pastime. The striking lithographic cover design captures the spirit of the game as it was during that historic era: a simple, pastoral game played by young men for purposes of recreation. It also captures the spirit of America and is a rare early baseball item with great decorative and crossover appeal. A crossed bats-and-ball motif decorate both the top and bottom borders and, as noted in print along the top, this song was dedicated "To The Fraternity." Because of the great cost involved, full-color lithographic covers on nineteenth-century sheet music were the great exception and, when they were produced, publishers normally also issued a plain, more affordable non-illustrated copy of the sheet music as well. (The higher retail cost for the illustrated sheet musics meant that only the wealthiest patrons could afford them. The fact that fewer were produced and sold in part explains their great rarity today.) Ideally, the offered sheet music is accompanied by its alternately published and less costly example featuring the plainer cover. The full-color illustrated Base Ball Polka sheet music (13 x 10 inches) is in remarkably high grade. The central image area is free of any flaws, has brilliant colors, and remains Excellent to Mint in appearance, displaying just as magnificently as it did when originally issued in 1867. A small hint of foxing in the lower right of the white border, barely visible even upon close inspection, is mentioned strictly for the sake of accuracy and has no impact on appearance. This sheet music originates directly from the legendary collection of Frank and Peggy Steele, who have displayed at their home for many decades. This is an extraordinary example of this extremely important rarity, with an extremely significant provenance. Matted and framed to total dimensions of 20 x 17 inches. The plainer example (9 x 11 inches) appears in Excellent to Mint condition overall and has been matted and framed to total dimensions of 15 x 17 inches. Total: 2 sheet musics. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000+. SOLD FOR $12,925

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