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The only known pre-Civil War baseball team card!Circa 1860 Brooklyn Atlantics Baseball Card, SGC Authentic. Seminal artifact ranks with the most significant mementos of the sport's infancy ever to surface in the collecting community, quite possibly the only team baseball card to be printed before the first drop of blood was spilled in the American Civil War. The subject is the Atlantic Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, considered the first Champion of our National Pastime, as well as the sport's first dynasty. The Atlantics served as a founding member of the sport's first organized league, the National Association of Base Ball Players, and held the Championship from 1859 through the war-shortened season of 1861 before finally surrendering supremacy to archrival Eckford of Brooklyn in 1862.
Though the century and a half that has passed since those earliest days of organized baseball has largely wiped the name clean from the minds of all but experienced baseball historians, the Atlantics did enjoy a recent brief return to the spotlight when an 1865 team card surfaced in a small Maine auction, where it drew a winning bid of $92,000. Certainly this is the more significant of the pair.
The carte-de-visite produced by Brooklyn's "Farach & Lalumia Studio," was passed down through the family of Archibald McMahon, an outfielder for this most essential of pioneering squads. This provenance can be traced back as far as 1928, as we supply a photocopy of the obituary of Brooklyn's last surviving Civil War veteran John McMahon, from which the following is excerpted:
"He also was an ardent baseball fan and had a picture in his home of the original Atlantics team, of which his brother, Archibald McMahon, was a member."
It was likely Archibald himself who pasted a newspaper clipping to the back that appears to establish a precise vintage of 1859, and which identifies the gentlemen pictured. It reads, in part:
"The members of the Atlantic nine who played in a majority of games during the season of 1859 were: Boerum, catcher; M. O'Brien, pitcher; Price, Oliver and Smith on the bases; Pearce, short, and Hamilton, P. O'Brien and McMahon, in the outfield."
We note that Richard "Dickey" Pearce is widely considered one of the first professional ballplayers, a pioneer of the shortstop position, and father of the "tricky hit" which we know today as the "bunt."
The image finds this historic nine posing in bib-front uniforms, one with a thick-handled bat resting against his leg. The two unidentified men in civilian clothing are likely team management, and partially legible penciled handwriting on verso appears to identify them as team president and secretary. The photographic contrast and registration is surprisingly fine, with some paper loss at upper left, well clear of the subjects, the only noteworthy distraction within the image area. Wear at the edges and corners is both expected and inconsequential. The studio stamping appears on verso beneath the aforementioned affixed newspaper clipping and penciled handwriting. Dimensions of the card are approximately 2.5x4".
The card has remained within the McMahon family for the entirety of its 156-year existence, and is consigned to this Platinum Night auction with their letter of provenance. It is one of just two examples known to exist today. Encapsulated "Authentic" by SGC.
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2017 June 29 Premium Sportscard Catalog Auction - Dallas