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1870 Forest City BBC of Rockford CDV with Al Spalding - Newly Discovered!

Reserve - $5,000. Estimate - (open)

This exceedingly rare team composite of the 1870 Forest City Base Ball Club of Rockford, Illinois is the first example of this card we have ever encountered and an extremely significant new discovery. The history of this piece is nothing short of remarkable. Some collectors might remember that in 2005 Robert Edward Auctions sold an 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings CDV (Lot 79, realized $26,100) that had then just recently been discovered by a non collector in Florida. The Red Stockings CDV was found in an album of over 100 various nineteenth-century CDVs, and, at the time, we were told by the consignor that it was the only baseball CDV in the album. (He only recognized it as a baseball photo because Harry Wright was dressed in uniform and it identified the club as Cincinnati B. B. C.) Unbelievably, this past year we were once again contacted by the very same gentleman who communicated to us the discovery of this 1870 Forrest City BBC card in the same album! He had only sold the one 1869 Cincinnati Reds CDV in 2005 and had kept the balance of the album of photos as a family keepsake. Looking through the album recently, enjoying the old images for fun, he noticed this baseball card that had previously been overlooked. Because the players are not in uniform, he had no idea that this CDV pictured a baseball team in 2005. However, noticing the names of the players and the Forest City's team name with which he was unfamiliar, he conducted some further research and was shocked to learn that this too was a baseball CDV.

The CDV features portrait images of the 1870 Forest City's team. The players are in formal attire and include a portrait image of team president J. P. Manny, who is pictured prominently in the center. Surrounding Manny are the portrait images of ten team members, all of whom are identified in print (last name only): Spalding, Barnes, Addy, Hastings, Cone, Simmons, Barker, Stires, Foley, and Doyle. Printed on the photo, along the base is "Forest Citys 1870." The printing at the base of the mount identifies the photographer: "The Star Gallery, Rockford, Ill." The back is blank.

While any and all baseball team cards dating from the 1870 era are exceedingly rare, the 1870 Forest City example has added historical importance because it features one of the very few known contemporary images of baseball great Albert Goodwill Spalding from his brief but legendary playing career. Other notable players depicted here are Ross Barnes, one of the best infielders of the era, as well as National League batting champion in 1876, and Bob Addy, one of the top outfielders of his day. The main attraction of the club, however, was young Albert Spalding. Though only twenty years old, Spalding was considered by many to be the top pitcher in the country at this time, and his performance on the mound helped establish Forest City as one of the premier ball clubs in the land. The following season Forest City became a charter member of the National Association, baseball's first organized professional league. Spalding, however, lured by the bonus of $1,500, jumped the club to play for Harry Wright's newly formed Boston Red Stockings, where he led the club to four championships during the league's brief five-year existence. After a stellar pitching career which saw him post an unbelievable 185-43 mark during the four year span 1872-75, Spalding retired to open a sports emporium in 1877. In his positions as a sporting goods magnate and president of the Chicago White Sox, Spalding continued to play an important role in the business and development of Major League baseball throughout the late 1800s. Spalding's power gradually grew and by the close of the century he was widely regarded as the most influential man in baseball. CDVs predating the advent of organized professional baseball are extremely scarce and this particular example, featuring both Spalding and an important early club, is universally recognized by advanced collectors as one of the very best, as well as among the rarest.

The composite photo displays light contrast, but all of the names are clearly legible upon close examination. The card (2.5 x 4 inches) itself has very light corner wear and is in outstanding Excellent to Mint condition overall. Encapsulated and labeled "Authentic" by SGC. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).


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