1865 baseball card expected to get big bids

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Six-figure bids are expected when an auction house sells a 148-year-old baseball card that was discovered at a yard sale in rural Maine, the auction house manager said Wednesday.

A man found the card by chance in a photo album he bought while antique picking in the small town of Baileyville on the Canadian border, said Troy Thibodeau of Saco River Auction Co. in Biddeford.

It's not the same as a modern baseball card, which became commonplace beginning in the 1880s. Instead, it's an original photograph from 1865 of the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club mounted on a card. Nine players are gathered around their manager.

Thibodeau said he's aware of only two such cards in existence, the other at the Library of Congress. Putting a dollar-figure value on it is difficult, he said, but he expects it to fetch at least $100,000 at the Feb. 6 auction.

"There hasn't been another one that's sold," he said. "When there are only two known in the world, what's it worth?" Last summer, the Portland, Maine, auction house sold an 1888 card of Hall of Fame baseball player Michael "King" Kelly for $72,000. The priciest baseball card ever is a 1909 Honus Wagner, at $2.8 million in 2007.

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The Library of Congress has had another copy of the Brooklyn Atlantics photograph since the late 1800s, when it took possession of it from a New York court where the photographer, Charles Williamson, had submitted it for copyright.

In its book "Baseball Americana," the Library of Congress calls it the first dated baseball card, handed out to supporters and opposing teams in a gesture of bravado from the brash Brooklynites, who were dominant and won their league championship in 1861, 1864 and 1865.

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