$1 Million in Rare Baseball Memorabilia Discovered at 'Antiques Roadshow' Taping

Dan Carson@@DrCarson73Trending Lead WriterAugust 11, 2014

Albert Goodwill Spalding, standing six feet tall, of the Boston Red Stockings is shown in this undated photo.  Spalding pitched for the Red Stockings from 1871-1875.  (AP Photo)
Associated Press

Antiques Roadshow is about as low-octane a television show as can be found, but occasionally—ever so occasionally—appraisers sift an exciting treasure from the mountain of mothballs.  

The Wall Street Journal’s Lindsay Gellman (h/t Lynn Elber of The Associated Press) reports that a haul of rare, 19th-century baseball memorabilia was discovered at a recent New York City taping of the PBS program.

Gellman writes that appraiser Leila Dunbar came across a collection of Boston Red Stockings cards, signatures, letters and photographs from 1872. 

“More than likely to make one of the broadcasts is an assessment by appraiser Leila Dunbar of rare baseball memorabilia, including 15 photographic baseball cards from 1872,” Gellman writes. “She valued the collection at $1 million."

A promoter for Antiques Roadshow told the AP that this is the show's largest sports memorabilia find in its 19-year history. The artifact thought to hold the most value is a letter to the boarding house landlord signed by three future Hall of Famers, Al Spalding and Harry and George Wright

It’s a singular collection, according to Dunbar. 

“We’ve never seen these cards before,” Dunbar said. “We didn’t even know they existed.”

Elber reports that the collection is a family heirloom the owner inherited from her great-great grandmother, who oversaw a Boston boarding house the team called home between 1871 and 1872. The owner's name has been withheld, according to PBS.

How much will a signed Hank Aaron baseball card be worth in 100 years?
How much will a signed Hank Aaron baseball card be worth in 100 years?Eric Risberg/Associated Press

The Boston Red Stockings formed in 1871 as part of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the first pro baseball league. The Red Stockings would join Major League Baseball in the National League from 1876 to 1882.

They later became the Boston Beaneaters (1883-1906), the Boston Doves (1907-1910), the Boston Rustlers (1911), the Boston Braves (1912-1935), the Boston Bees (1936-1940), the Boston Braves (1941-1952) and the Milwaukee Braves (1953-1965) before finally moving south to become the modern-day Atlanta Braves (1966-present).

This is what it's all about. This is what Antiques Roadshow fans (they exist) dream of. Anyone who has ever watched the show fantasizes about taking Nana’s silver plates and finding out they’re Robert E. Lee’s rolling trays. That’s how they hook you in: the rare big-ticket finds.

This Red Stockings ensemble is one such haul, and the $1 million estimated price tag is the highest to date for Roadshow’s coming season. 

Keep dreaming big, Roadshow dreamers. I know I do.

One day my great-great grandson will inhale fancy aerosol champagne and own a fleet of Bentley pod racers because ol’ grandpappy had the foresight to vacuum-seal his Fleer Metal rookie cards.

Mark my words, kid. You’re going to be rich.

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