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Rare Baseball Card Auctioned in Biddeford for $92 K
02/07/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

The world of high-priced, extrememly rare baseball memorabilia drew more than a hundred curious people to an auction house in Biddeford last night. Serious bidders came to take their shot at owning one of the oldest baseball cards in existence in America. Jay Field watched the auction go down.

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Rare Baseball Card Auctioned in Biddeford for $92
Originally Aired: 2/7/2013 7:30 AM

Baseball card

An hour before an auction, it's all about the browsing. The curious nudge their way past swords and canes, sasparilla bottles, and a pile of 1950s-era baseball programs. They stop at the glass display case, set apart in the middle of the room.

"That's something else. Supposedly there's only two known to exist," says Jason Casavant, who's from Biddeford and wears a Boston Red Sox jacket.  Casavant stares at a faded photograph from 1865. Nine men, players for the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club, huddle around their manager. They wear intense expressions and white jerseys. Casavant says he's a serious collector.

"Oh, they're speculating about $100,000, right?" he says.

Jay Field: "Did you come with all cash or just checks? A hundred grand. That's a lot of money for a baseball card."

But it isn't just any baseball card. Here's the story:  Way up on the Canadian boarder, in the Washington County village of Baileyville, one day, a man went antiquing. Lacey Gagney is with the Saco River Auction Company.

"He was at a yard sale and bought a photo album. And in the photo album was this picture," Gagney says.

The man, who's asked to remain anonymous, took it to the auction house. Gagney says they began researching the card. A New Jersey company authenticated it and it turned out to be even rarer than first thought.

"Well, we originally thought it was one of two, with the other being at the Library of Congress," he says. "However, after further research, we've learned that it's actually one of a kind and it was derived from a different negative."

The Brooklyn Atlantics were a dominant amateur team that won the National Association of Baseball Players championship in 1861, 1864 and 1865. The card is actually a photograph, mounted on a card. In its book, Baseball Americana, the Library of Congress says Brooklyn would hand out them out to fans and opposing teams in a gesture of bravado.

Auctioneer:  "Brooklyn Atlantics here! They say the world meets in Brooklyn. We'll find out! Somebody give me $50,000 to open it. Where do you want to do with it? $10,000? $25,000? I'll take $25000!"

In no time at all, Auctioneer Floyd Hartford had already gotten the price up to $50,000:  "$52,500, $55,000, $55,000, $57,500, $55,000, $57,500, $55,000!" he says.

The bids then slowed, as Hartford narrowed in on the sale price:  "At $80,000 once. At $82,500! $81,000 (groans) SOLD! $80,000."

Auction house officials hustled the buyer, Jason LeBlanc, into a hallway off the main floor, where he met the media. "It's such a small thing to cost eighty thousand dollars."

It actually comes out to $92,000, with the auctioneers' commission. Leblanc, who's a financial consultant from Newburyport, Massachusetts, has bought memorabilia before and says he plans to use this as a financial investment to help his youngest son.

"Alex is the one we have that has some challenges in life," Leblanc says. "We spend a lot of time in the hospital and a lot of time with therapists and doctors."

For now at least, LeBlanc says he plans to lock the card away in a safe deposit box - though he quickly adds that he'll listen to offers from anyone who wants to pay two or three times what he paid. 

Photo by Jay Field.


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