Surprise Find: A 139-Year-Old Baseball Card

By | January 8, 2009

Bernice Gallego of Collectique holds the rare 1869 baseball card that turned up at her shop recently. The card, a Peck & Synder featuring the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team, is said to be the first baseball card ever produced. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/FRESNO BEE/MCT / November 25, 2008)

Bernice Gallego sat down one day this summer, as she does pretty much every day, and began listing items on eBay.

She dug into a box and pulled out a baseball card. She stopped for a moment and admired the picture. “Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnati,” the card said, under a sepia tone photo of 10 men with their socks pulled up to their knees. The card itself was dirty and wrinkled in a few places.

It was definitely old, Gallego thought. As a collector and seller, it’s her job to spot old items that might have value today, to find the gems among the junk. …

The card is actually 139 years old. It, and a handful of others like it, are considered the first baseball cards. Sports card collectors call the find “extremely rare” and estimate the card could fetch five, or perhaps, six figures at auction.

… It’s not the first time Bernice has unexpectedly walked into a windfall. She hit a $250,000 jackpot playing quarter slots at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe.

via Surprise Find: A 139-Year-Old Baseball Card — Courant.com.

Here are 10 cards which may be worth money, especially if in mint condition. Also see Forbes top 10 from 2002.

What is the highest price ever paid for a baseball card? Are baseball cards a good investment?

On Monday, February 26, 2007 it was reported that a 1909 Honus Wagner tobacco card, formerly owned by Wayne Gretzky, sold for $2.35 million US to an anonymous Southern California collector. This makes the card the most expensive baseball card ever purchased.

Originally issued as novelties for baseball fans and as a marketing technique by tobacco dealers, baseball cards have grown into a large industry of vintage collectors and resellers and new market dealers. They are available in most toy and big-box chain stores such as Target, across the nation at independent storefronts and through vendors online. …the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card, regarded to be worth over $300,000, virtually any card featuring Babe Ruth (his oversized 1914 Baltimore News card the prize of the bunch) or other legendary baseball icons such as Shoeless Joe Jackson. The Honus Wagner card is considered so valuable that it may be worth a second check through your grandparent’s old collection and a trip to your local card shop, even a severely damaged Wagner card would potentially sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. – most-expensive

Remember the trading craze? Sports cards are no gold-mine. Many people are sitting on “thousands, if not tens of thousands, of baseball cards from the 1980s” and 1990s which are now worth… pretty much nothing.  The Motley Fool says,

Most hobbyists who attempt to parlay their collections into investments will find themselves on the short end of the stick and holding items that are as popular as velvet portraits of Elvis. –fool

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