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Lot # 1181 (of 1673)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1894 Zimmer's Base Ball Game

Starting Bid - $5,000.00 , Sold For - $19,975.00

Extraordinary newly-discovered example of the famous Zimmer's Base Ball Game. This is an incredible find. The Zimmer's Base Ball Game is the most spectacular of all baseball board games, and one of the most highly prized of all nineteenth-century baseball display pieces of any kind. The discovery of an example in such high-grade is simply amazing. The Zimmer Game was produced by McLoughlin Bros., the premier game-maker of the 1890s. It was endorsed and designed by Cleveland catcher "Chief" Zimmer. The Zimmer's Base Ball Game is with good reason referred to as "The Mona Lisa of all baseball games" by Dr. Mark Cooper in his definitive work on the subject, Baseball Games, Home Versions of the National Pastime 1860s-1960s (Shiffler Publishing, 1995). It is extremely rare, with fewer than ten examples known, and features a beautiful full-color board that includes identified portraits of eighteen star players, including eleven Hall of Famers. The players in the field are Buck Ewing, Amos Rusie, Dan Brouthers, John Ward, John Glasscock, Billy Hamilton, Jimmy McAleer, and Sam Thompson. Along the first baseline are portraits of the players in the "dugout": Cy Young, Kid Nichols, W. Zimmer (unknown, probably a relative of Chief Zimmer), Jacob Virtue, Bud McPhee, Patsy Tebeau, Ed Delahanty, and Gemany Smith. "Chief" Zimmer is most prominently featured in front of home plate. It is amusing that Zimmer chose nine Cleveland players, including himself, to be represented on the two all-star teams fielded in the game, but fortunately Cleveland had many great stars, including Buck Ewing and Cy Young. Chief Zimmer was one of the first players to actively pursue marketing ventures. His Zimmer-brand cigars were also one of the earliest of all player-endorsed cigars.

Over the years Robert Edward Auctions has handled the sale of five Zimmer games and seen almost all of the examples we have not personally handled. The colorful playing field of this newly discovered example is by far the best we have seen. We cannot imagine a finer example. It is hard to believe that the playing field of this game could survive in what is essentially perfect condition, but this happens to be the case with this example. If not for a few pinpoint flakes near the bat mechanism, the playing field would literally be in Mint condition.

Zimmer games normally have considerable surface wear to the playing field, even to the point of the surface being totally worn away in places, especially between the pitcher and the catcher. This is an action game, designed to "pitch" a wooden ball launched by a wooden spring-action "pitcher." When the ball is hit, metal pieces above each player's portrait in the field are designed to "catch" the ball. There is a lot of damage that can happen to this game just by normal use. We have seen Zimmer games with severe surface wear, including paper loss, just from its being rubbed countless hundreds of times by the ball during the normal course of play. This is a natural consequence of repeatedly playing the game. This newly discovered Zimmer game has absolutely no surface wea: the area between the pitcher and the batter, as well as the entire playing surface, is flawless, in an almost impossible-to-believe pristine state. This surface of this game looks like the game was just purchased, put away, and never played. Its incredible state of preservation is due to the fact that it probably was never played, since the small wooden bat necessary for play is missing. (Note: a replacement bat can easily be made, as it has for other games, if desired.) Considering its intended use by youngsters, the survival of a Zimmer game in such an improbable ultra high grade is simply extraordinary. We have written in the past that this is a game that is not known to be, and could not reasonably be expected to exist, in Mint condition. This example is much closer to that impossible ideal standard of condition than we thought we would ever see. Conservatively, we grade this example overall in Excellent to Mint condition, and believe this to be possibly the finest example in existence of one of the true "Holy Grails" of nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia. This is a world-class museum-caliber display piece that would be a very significant highlight in any collection. Dimensions: 21.25 x 21.25 inches, surrounded on all four sides by wood "stadium walls," which are 1.5-inches high. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000/$20,000. SOLD FOR $19,975.00


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