From a nondescript box in a Fresno antique store to national fame, a 140 year-old baseball card is now heading to the auction block.
The 1869 baseball card discovered by the owners of a Fresno, California antique and collectibles store last month will be sold by Memory Lane Inc.
The southern California-based auction company has landed the consignment and will place the card up for auction on its website Tuesday night, January 20th with a minimum bid at $10.
The owners of the Peck & Snyder card, Al and Bernice Gallego, have become celebrities after pulling it out of a box in their shop and placing it on eBay for a $9.99 minimum bid, only to discover it was one of the most rare and desirable pieces of sports memorabilia in existence. The couple will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday to talk about their find, which generated news stories in dozens of media outlets across the country.
"This card is an unbelievable find of historic importance in baseball and in the collecting hobby. We at Memory Lane are honored to be involved in auctioning such a great card," said Memory Lane’s J.P. Cohen.
The card, really an advertisement for 19th century New York sporting goods dealer Peck & Snyder, features a team photo of 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. It’s considered the first baseball card ever produced and showcases the nation’s professional baseball team. Recently authenticated and holdered by PSA, estimates on its potential value vary, but it’s possible the card will sell for in excess of $100,000.
“This card is extremely important because many hobbyists consider it to be the very first baseball card ever produced. In addition, the sepia image featured on the front of the card captures the game of baseball in its infancy,” said Joe Orlando, President of PSA, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc.
“Baseball has gone through many evolutions, and this card provides a time capsule of what the sport used to look like in terms of the uniforms and equipment. The card is a tremendous conversation piece whether you’re a collector, an avid baseball fan or historian.”
Less than a dozen Peck & Snyder Red Stockings cards are believed to exist–perhaps less than ten. The card features George and Harry Wright, organizers of the team and two of baseball’s earliest stars. Produced just four years after the end of the Civil War, it’s testimony to baseball’s fast-spreading popularity thanks in large part to this wildly successful Cincinnati team that toured the country.
The Gallegos don’t recall exactly when or how they acquired the card, but believe it may have been among the contents of a storage unit space they purchased years ago.
"This card is proof that you never know what’s out there," Cohen told Sports Collectors Daily. "If you think you have an old card or piece of vintage sports memorabilia or know of something, you’d better look into it because it could be worth a lot of money."
Memory Lane normally holds its first catalog auction of the year during the winter months, but because of the unique nature of the Peck and Snyder find, Cohen says the Gallego find will be a one-card auction, closing February 10th.
“There are less than ten examples of this card known to exist, and this is possibly one of the best based on condition,” Cohen stated
Ironically, one of Leno’s other guests on Tuesday will be actor Charlie Sheen, a sports memorabilia collector himself. The card will also be featured on the Martha Stewart Show and the Bonnie Hunt Show this month.
Related: Editor’s Blog