Quite a Find: A Piece of History
A lot of guys like me who grew up in theÂ 1970s or 1980s have had daydreams along these lines. You’re at an estate sale, and you stumble upon a box of really old baseball cards in a corner marked “$10 for all”. Or you’re helping to cleanout your elderly neighbor’s attic and come upon a similar box of worn, but still very interesting and valuable, sports memorabilia. Or you’re the first one to reach the back table of a church rummage sale, and guess what you find?
I’ve certainly had such thoughts in my life, so it was great interest that I read this recent story at Yahoo! News: “Woman Finds 139-year-old baseball card in box of antiques.”Â
Now, my first thought was: “That sounds fake. That would be around 1870, did they even have baseball cards that early?” When I think of old baseball cards, I always think of the early 1900s tobacco cards, such as the famous Honus Wagner card that whenever a copy surfaces it sells for a gazillion dollars. But 30+ years earlier than that? Really?
And in truth, if you look at the photo at the Yahoo! story, this “baseball card” looks a bit more like a really old photo. But if it truly is printed on card-stock paper, then a baseball card it is. Regardless, it definitely looks like a great item, and obviously a great find for 72-year-old Bernice Gallego of Fresno, CA.
As the story reports the card is of the 1869 “Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnati”. She initially posted it to eBay with a minimum bid of — get this — $10. Actually, while she did that out of ignorance, that could have been a good strategy. Many, many people who sell on eBay — including myself — intentionally start the bidding for high-quality items at ridiculously low prices in order to get a large audience of people “watching” your item. Doing this can definitely lead to a higher final sale price than starting it out a price much closer to what you are hoping you’ll receive. Not following this strategy though, the story goes on to note that she ended the auction early after getting many inquiries about the item, and has since re-posted it (or will soon, it’s not clear) with a starting bid of $100,000. I’m not sure of the date of the auction, and a quick search of eBay didn’t turn up anything (even amongst the Completed Listings). So if any readers know the end of this story, I’d love to hear it.
I really liked this bit from the Fresno Bee’s three-pageÂ story about this:
Huddleston directed Gallego to a friend who would know what to do: Rick Mirigian, a local concert promoter and card trader who sold a rare basketball card in 2004 for $62,100.
In the meantime, Gallego didn’t want the card to get lost, so she put it in a sandwich bag and push-pinned it to her laundry room wall.
“If it fell off the wall, the cat would have ate it,” Gallego says. “Well, or the dog.”
When she met with Mirigian, she found out what the card was — an 1869 advertisement with a picture of the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
“When I came to meet her and she took it out of a sandwich Baggie and she was smoking a cigarette, I almost fainted,” Mirigian says.
“They’ve uncovered a piece of history that few people will ever be able to imagine or comprehend. And it comes out of Fresno,” he says. “That card is history. It’s like unearthing a Mona Lisa or a Picasso.”
Reading this story gives you several other great tidbits. Like the fact that Mrs. Gallego has never been to a baseball game (!). Or this humorous anecdote:
But who would pay that kind of money for a baseball card?
“A lot of people use sports memorabilia and sports cards as conversation pieces,” Orlando says. “And what a conversation piece this is.”
That could mean anybody from a businessman who is a baseball fan to a baseball executive. That’s the kind of stuff that Mirigian and Gallego sit around talking about.
“You might have George Steinbrenner wanting to buy this,” Mirigian told her one day, referring to the longtime New York Yankees owner.
“Who’s George Steinberg?” she asked.
And finally, just how lucky is this lady?Â Quite lucky it seems, as she once won $250,000 on a slot machine too. I won’t even begin to describe the kinds of daydreams that millions of Vegas-goers and other gamblers have along those lines!