A fortune tossed away and found by another!
Many of us baby boomers grew up collecting baseball cards and comics. After a while, most of us stopped collecting. It was a good opportunity for moms to throw away the cards and comics.
However, some moms (including mine) held on to them. Growing up in St. Louis, my family followed the hometeam St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. They were loaded with all-stars, such as Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Ken Boyer, and my favorite, Bob Gibson.
My mother did not want me to be upset with her, so she kept my baseball cards. I am appreciative to this day.
But most kids were not so fortunate. Their cards were tossed away by the time they finished high school. The cards were never going to be worth anything. Right?
Now with baseball in full swing, let me tell you a story of a card that was thrown away. It turned out to be a home run for an unsuspecting lady. I would even say it was a grand slam for her.
Bernice Gallego and her husband Al owned a shop called Collectique in Fresno, California. Bernice and Al would go around the Fresno area acquiring items from estate sales. They would look in the attics and cellars, and take with them anything that looked decent enough to sell at their shop.
Keep in mind that Bernice is not a baseball fan. She knew the name Willie Mays but not many others.
In the summer of 2008, the Gallegos were looking over what they had brought back to the store. She pulled out a card from a box.
They looked at the wording of the card, “Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnati.” It was a photo of ten men with their socks pulled up to their knees. The card was dirty and wrinkled. She knew it was old.
Bernice figured it was worth selling on eBay. She took a picture of the card, wrote a description, and put it up for auction. She priced it at ten dollars rather than fifteen, because it would have cost an additional twenty cents to price it at fifteen.
That same night that she posted the card on eBay she was surprised to get a few inquiries. Someone wanted to know if it was authentic. Another person wanted to buy it immediately.
Bernice thought to herself that the card might be worth more than the ten dollars she was selling it for. It could possibly be worth fifty dollars, or even more.
Bernice picked up her phone that night and called a friend George Huddleston, who advised her to pull it from the auction. There had yet to be any actual bids on the card. He suggested that she first find out what the card was worth. She took his advice.
Wise decision. King Solomon would have been proud.
As the Gallegos were soon to find out, they were in possession of probably the oldest baseball card in history.
The card was an advertisement from 1869 with a picture of the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
That 1869 Cincinnati team was undefeated. It was estimated that they won 65 games that year, with one tie against the Troy Haymakers. That year a card was issued as an advertisement for Peck & Snyder, a New York manufacturer. The company made sports and firefighting equipment.
Bernice and Al then drove to the PSA headquarters near Los Angeles to get the card authenticated.
Bernice remembered not caring too much about players in an actual game. The history of the game was what was important. The 1869 Red Stockings were unbeatable. In 1870 the Red Stockings were almost as invincible. They won 27 more consecutive games before losing to the Brooklyn Athletics.
The Gallegos cannot remember when and where they exactly got the card. However, they do remember putting it on auction.
By the way, the card that Bernice Gallego nearly overlooked went for $64,000. Not too bad for a person who had never been to a baseball game in her life. Not too bad at all.
Jeff Figler has authored over 700 published articles about collecting. He is a professional certified appraiser and one of the world’s leading experts on collectibles. His latest book “The Picker’s Pocket Guide to Baseball Memorabilia” has been #1 on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.