Lou Brown has been a sports card dealer for 35 years--one of those rare birds who has survived the ups and downs of the industry and built a strong retail business. Nice collections used to come into card shops in those early days. Lately it's a lot of overproduced stuff that isn't worth the cardboard it's printed on. Recently, though, the wait for another really good find came to an end. What's generally considered the most rare football card ever produced walked in the door after being discovered in an old farmhouse. An 1894 Mayo Cut Plug John Dunlop emerged from a small pile of 19th century cards brought into Legends Sports and Games, Brown's shop in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"It's the 'Holy Grail' of football cards," he told one of two local TV stations who stopped in to see it:
It's believed the card is now headed for a major catalog auction.
It was discovered by surviving relatives of a recently deceased family member and the group had been stored for many years in an old notebook, presumably preserving them from handling and wear.
The Dunlop card is rare with the number of known examples barely into double digits. Mayo Tobacco Works apparently didn't keep track of who appeared on its cards very well. Dunlop's picture is actually identified on the front as "anonymous", another factor that has helped carve its niche as a legend with collectors of super rare, old football cards.
Topps used the set design in some recent throwback sets featuring modern players.
A complete set of 35 1894 Mayo Cut Plug cards, considered one of the best ever put together but still averaging no better than Good, sold at auction in August of 2010 for more than $35,000. Only a few dozen of the originals are currently on eBay. Click here to see them.