The First Baseball Card?

Some detective work by baseball historian John Thorn has pinpointed the origin of a unique piece of early baseball memorabilia dating to the 1840s.

Collectors of chase cards, eat your heart out. This one is a doozy.

1843 Magnolia baseball club

Five years after it was spotted in an auction, an enamel-coated piece of cardboard picturing an early baseball scene has now been identified and offers new insight into the origins of baseball in New York.

Long before ARod and Jeter, Mantle, DiMaggio and even the Babe, there was the Knickerbocker baseball club. Thought to be the earliest club of New York men who played a recognizable form of baseball, it turns out the old Knick club may have been beaten to the punch.

The 1843 "Magnolia" club is pictured on an image sold in a Lelands auction back in 2002. Baseball historian John Thorn got a look at the piece when another researcher thought it might make for a suitable illustration for an upcoming article on town ball. After scouring newspapers of the time for clues, Thorn found the card was actually a ticket to a wintertime gala held by the team. Measuring 5" by 3 1/4", the card is the first known depiction of men playing baseball.

No matter if you consider it the first baseball card or not, it’s a fasincating piece of baseball history which Thorn begins to detail in his blog.