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Circa 1850s "Reward of Merit" Baseball Certificate Collection (10)
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $411
Roy Campanella once said, "To play in the big leagues, you got to be a man, but you got to have a lot of little boy in you, too." Scholars searching for the origins of the game should heed those words, for it was from the childhood games of rounders and one-old-cat that the modern game of baseball most likely evolved. Evidence of that theory is supported by the images found on these ten scarce "Rewards of Merit" dating from circa 1850. Each of these small certificates, which were issued to elementary school students by their teachers in acknowledgment of classroom achievement or good conduct, displays a pastoral vignette of boys playing a game with a bat and ball. The first example (6.5 x 3 inches), which is printed on thick paper stock, features a large color illustration of boys playing an early form of baseball (bat resembles a cricket bat) and bears both the name of the student and teacher written in pencil along the base. The remaining nine certificates are similar in design in that each features the same four vignettes surrounding a larger, central image. The vignette of interest to baseball scholars is the one found in the lower left, which pictures a boy holding a bat about to strike a ball. The nine certificates, which are printed on thin paper stock and have been hand cut, are of varying colors and measure approximately 6.24 x 2.5 inches. Seven of the certificates display a printed verse or prayer on the reverse. Two of the nine certificates are duplicates (i.e., the central panel design is identical to two others in the group) and all but one bear the names of the respective students and teachers. These "Rewards of Merit" certificates are scarce and we have never seen such a large group. The first example displays minor surface wear and is in Excellent condition. The remaining nine hand-cut certificates are in overall Very Good to Excellent condition, with one displaying a corner chip and a few exhibiting minor edge tears. Reserve $300. Estimate $500++. SOLD FOR $411
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