Newly Discovered 19th Century Card of Hall of Famer Heads for Auction

A previously unknown card from the rare 19th century Police Gazette cabinet series—still in its original mailing envelope—has been consigned to Robert Edward Auctions and will be in the company’s upcoming 2014 Spring Auction.

John Montgomery Ward 1889 Police Gazette cardThe card features Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward and was not part of the last 36-subject checklist produced for the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. in 2011.  It has been held by the same family for 125 years, according to REA, which has placed a $5,000  reserve on the card.  However, its one-of-a-kind status will likely result in a winning bid that is much higher.

Fewer than 50 cards from the entire 1889 Police Gazette set are known to exist in all.  REA has handled only two others in its history; Sam Thompson and Tim Keefe, both sold in the 2009 auction.

The Police Gazette was a prominent weekly publication at the time  and covered professional baseball extensively.  While never confirmed, it has been long believed that the cards were issued as a premium to readers and the original mailing envelope that comes with the Ward card features an ad offering “Police Gazette Cabinet Photographs” for 10 cents each, essentially confirming that theory.  A ‘catalogue’ of photos was available.  The Gazette’s ad also offered readers the chance to send away for books.

envelope 1889 Police GazetteThe existence of the Ward became known when a photo was shared anonymously on the Full Count Vintage Baseball Card Forum in September of 2010.

The story reveals the current owner of the card is a direct descendant of the 12-year-old boy who had received it by mail from the publisher of Police Gazette in 1889.  Within the last few months, he decided to consign it to REA.

The consignor is the great-grandnephew of the original owner, young Arthur Everts, who apparently treasured it enough that he kept it well preserved in the envelope until his death in 1966.  The card, remaining in its promotional sleeve/mailing envelope for parts of three centuries now, was inherited by Everts’ nephew and then, upon his death, passed on to the current owner who has held it for 18 years.

The card comes with a letter of provenance and a detailed “family tree/card history” provided by the consignor.

Ward, known as ‘Monte’ to his contemporaries, was an outstanding pitcher, who also played the outfield and third base for the Providence Grays and a few different New York teams during a career that lasted from 1878-1894.

Ward is identified as “Johnny Ward” on the card, which shows him in a formal studio pose while with the New York Giants and was taken at least a year prior to the release of the Police Gazette set.  The pose is the same one used for Ward’s 1888 S.F. Hess baseball card.

The card is in exceptional condition, according to REA, except for some spots of surface wear.  A black mount remains attached with a gilt-embossed notation reading “Richard K. Fox-Publisher of the Police Gazette, Franklin Square, New York”.

REA’s Spring 2014 auction will open in April at  Free catalogs are available.