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Lot # 32 (of 1512)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1886 New York Giants BBC Team Cabinet Card (Jos. Wood Photographer)

Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $6,000

Magnificent and extremely rare team-composite cabinet card of the 1886 New York Giants produced by noted baseball photographer Joseph Wood. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of only four examples of this card. Its rarity notwithstanding, this particular team cabinet also has a remarkable provenance: it originates from the personal collection of Charles W. Mears, longtime sports columnist for the Cleveland News and legendary pioneer collector who specialized in nineteenth-century baseball. Charles W. Mears ultimately donated his extraordinary collection to the Cleveland Public Library in the 1940s, but he did save a few items, of which this is one. This cabinet has been consigned directly by the Mears family.

The card features manager James Mutrie pictured in the center, surrounded by thirteen team members, including Hall of Famers John Ward, Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, Mickey Welch, Buck Ewing, and James O’Rourke. Each player is identified in print below his image, and the team, year, and photographer’s name are listed directly below Mutrie’s photo. Joseph Wood’s name and address also appear in print along the right border of the mount. Sophisticated card collectors will no doubt recognize the images here, as they are the same photographs that were used to produce the N167 1886 Old Judge series, the very first set issued by Goodwin. The portraits appearing on this Joseph Wood New York Giants cabinet card were also the very same that were used to produce the several New York Giants player cards (such as Buck Ewing) in the 1887 Four Base Hits tobacco-card set. The poses on this card are also very similar to those used for each player’s respective card in the 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bats tobacco-card issue. The Kalamazoo Bats photographs were obviously taken at the very same time and the only difference is that on this cabinet card the players are pictured without caps (on the Kalamazoo Bats cards they are pictured with caps). It would be hard to even calculate how much it would cost to assemble these images on Four Base Hits or Kalamazoo Bats cards, but if it were even possible, it would easily total many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Though this is not a tobacco card, this J. Wood cabinet card does have a direct connection to these important sets. While today the market values tobacco insert cards as the most highly prized of all nineteenth-century cards, it is hard not to appreciate the comparative value represented by this equally rare card.

Another interesting aspect of this card is that the name "W. M. Rankin" is handwritten in pencil on the reverse. Many of the items in the Mears" collection bear Rankin's name on the reverse, and for good reason: William Rankin's scrapbooks were among the many baseball items donated to the Cleveland Library by Charles Mears (the family recalls that Mears either purchased or was given Rankin's entire baseball collection). Rankin was a prominent New York sportswriter who worked for the New York Clipper in the 1880s (he eventually became the paper's sporting editor in 1894). Rankin was the first writer to publicly denounce Henry Chadwick's long-held assertion that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders. In an 1886 syndicated newspaper article he asserted, in part, "It can no more be claimed that the game of baseball had its origins in rounders or town-ball than billiards were the issue of pool, or the latter came from bagatelle. . . . The game of baseball seems to have sprung up, just as any game has." Three years later A. G. Spalding, perhaps after reading Rankin's article, would also champion that theory, positing further that the game must have an American inventor. In addition to writing about the sport of baseball, Rankin was also one of the game's preeminent scholars and a collector. According to his obituary in the April 5, 1913, issue of Sporting Life, when Rankin died he "left one of the most complete base ball libraries in existence. It contained records of the diamond extending over a period of nearly forty years." Another obituary from the time noted that Rankin "kept a record of everything of interest from the time he first became identified with the game [baseball], and after Chadwick's death he assumed Chadwick's title [Father of Baseball]." It is no surprise then that this card would have been one of many team cabinets in his collection.

The card (6.5 x 4.25 inches) displays light contrast, as well as moderate surface wear. The reverse displays a few small areas of both surface paper residue and loss. In Very Good condition overall. As a point of reference, a restored example of this card appeared as Lot 30 in REA's May 2007 sale, where it sold for $7,637. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open).

SOLD FOR $6,000


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