It apparently sat undisturbed for decades, perhaps more than 125 years, tucked into the pages of a book printed decades before the invention of electricity. A freebie for smokers in 1887, but now a valuable and rare collectible with a great story to tell, a newly discovered Four Base Hits John Clarkson has sold at auction for $95,600.
The price, which included a 19.5% buyer’s premium, beat the pre-sale estimate of $50,000-$75,000.
Huggins and Scott Auctions revealed the discovery of the card and its consignment to auction last month, a story that played out over an entire year.
Early in 2014. auction officials say a Montgomery County, PA couple had ventured into a far-flung thrift store and purchased the stack of old books. After returning home and leafing through each volume, they discovered the Clarkson card, tucked inside a 19th century Bible, apparently used as a bookmark generations ago and never removed.
Curious, but in no hurry, the couple set the card aside for several months before turning to the internet to find out a little more about what they had uncovered. After extensive research, they submitted the card to SGC for evaluation, where it was authenticated and assigned a 20 (Fair) grade, becoming the only complete version of the card ever discovered. The only other Clarkson was judged ‘Authentic’ due to trimming.
Learning of the March 6-8 Philadelphia Sportscard and Memorabilia show, the couple visited Huggins & Scott’s booth and opted to consign it to the company’s auction.
It was fitting, perhaps, that a baseball card that could well be considered a 19th century holy grail find a quiet home inside a copy of The Holy Bible. The card opened with a minimum bid of $10,000.
Only 17 subjects from the 1887 Four Base Hits series have ever been evaluated by both SGC and PSA. Only eight of those are Hall of Famers, including Clarkson, who won 328 games and was inducted into Cooperstown in 1963, 54 years after his death.
Measuring 2 ¼” x 3 7/8”, Four Base Hits is a favorite among advanced collectors of pre-War cards. The manufacturer has never been determined.
The auction description in the Huggins & Scott catalog, stated:
The dapper mustachioed hurler is portrayed in his suit-and-tie against a perfectly contrasted sepia backdrop. The sturdy cardboard foundation exhibits superficial corner and edge wear with pinpoint centering and a blank reverse. Faint reverse finger print impressions and an inch-long horizontal edge crease which does not protrude the surface are evident only upon close scrutiny. While the lower obverse concedes two microscopic specks of paper loss (the larger between the “ch” in pitcher) along with a barely perceptible fissure located on the bottom edge, the overall integrity of the surface is not compromised in the least.
The set also includes Mike “King” Kelly, Buck Ewing, Mickey Welch and John Montgomery Ward, among others. One of two known Ward cards, graded Authentic by SGC, sold for $18,690 via Robert Edward Auctions a year ago.