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1888 Red Stocking Cigar Card Charles Radbourn - Newly Discovered!
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $3,851
Presented is a newly discovered and extremely rare sample card from the 1887 Red Stocking Cigars series featuring Hall of Fame pitcher Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn as a member of the Boston Nationals. This newly discovered example was recently found among the family belongings by a noncollector in the Boston area. There were no other sports-related items, and storage conditions over the years apparently were not ideal, but fortunately this rare card had been diligently saved! Red Stocking Cigars have always been one of the rarest of all nineteenth-century cards, and one of the most seldom seen of all sample cards from any era. In all our years, we have seen a total of only seven examples (including this one) of any subject. This newly discovered Radbourn is particularly interesting as it is now the third Radbourn specimen of which we are aware, each of which is a different design relating to the schedule on the reverse. The first (and perhaps most recognizable) Radbourn graces the cover of Lew Lipset's Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards Volume 1: 19th Century Cards. That plate specimen features a schedule for 1886 games on the reverse. The second example was offered by REA in 2010 and features a schedule for 1887 games on the reverse. This newly discovered example features an 1888 schedule of games and is now the third different Radbourn (of three known) confirmed to exist. Amazingly, each of the three cards is still one-of-a-kind! Each of the three cards features slightly different advertising text (the offered example lists a different address for the manufacturer, suggesting a move later on in the production) along with the different year's schedules.
As noted in the Standard Catalog, only three different players (Buffington, Morrill, and Radbourn) are known from this elusive series. This card features a full-body line drawing of Radbourn dressed in full uniform identified as "Charles Radbourn, Pitcher Boston Base Ball Club. - 1888," surrounded by advertising on the front ("Smoke! - Red Stocking Cigars - F.W. MacDonald, Proprietor., 7 Hartford Street, Boston"), with the complete 1888 schedule for Boston's home and road games and additional advertising on the reverse ("Ask your dealer for 'Red Stockings' Cigars").
Radbourn, who was described by one reporter at the time as erratic, capricious, and ill-tempered, may not have been the most amiable player, but he was certainly one of the greatest pitchers of his era. "Old Hoss" was a workhorse on the mound and in 1884, while pitching for Providence, set a Major League record with fifty-nine wins. Although he was often plagued by arm problems later in his career he still managed to win 309 games in just eleven seasons. Radbourn played with Boston from 1886 to 1889, before jumping to the Players's League in 1890. He ended his career in 1891 with Cincinnati. After his retirement he lost an eye in a hunting accident, and thereafter became somewhat of a recluse. He passed away in 1897 at the age of forty-three. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939.
The card displays numerous condition flaws consistent with improper storage over the last 125 years. The important central image of Radbourn is largely unaffected and remains bright. Scattered creasing, minor tears, and soiling front and back are all technical flaws that are present but cannot take away from the incredible rarity of this card. It is likely that the card could be professionally cleaned, if desired, to alleviate some of the soiling. This is one of the great sample rarities of all nineteenth-century baseball cards and an exciting new addition to our understanding of this striking issue. This discovery represents an extremely rare (possibly unique) opportunity to acquire a remarkable rarity undoubtedly missing from virtually every Hall of Fame, nineteenth-century baseball-card, and sample-card collection. Dimensions: 6.5 x 3.75 inches. Encapsulated as Authentic by SGC. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,851
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