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Lot # 19 (of 1673)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1866 Currier & Ives Baltimore Base Ball Emporium CDV

Starting Bid - $1,000.00 , Sold For - $1,880.00

Offered is an extraordinary baseball card representing one of the two or three earliest baseball cards known to exist. Discovered by REA in 2005 (previously unknown), 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 precisely 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 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 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, but O'Brien in particular can still be easily identified with a magnifying glass. 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 merchants distributed to customers, and which featured advertising for the establishment or, in some cases, a particular product.

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 fewer than ten original examples of the 1866 Currier & Ives "American National Game of Base Ball" print survive. 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 clipped corners (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 (open). SOLD FOR $1,880.00


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