Presented is an extremely rare and truly remarkable nineteenth-century team cabinet card of the Paterson (New Jersey) Silk Weavers, highlighted by future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner. Dating to 1896, the offered cabinet card, which we believe may be unique and represent the earliest card of Wagner as a professional, features him in his second year of organized baseball with the Atlantic League team from northern New Jersey. Wagner wouldn't touch the diamond for a Major League club until the next year, when he joined the National League's Louisville Colonels. This incredible piece has a fascinating hobby history. It originally appeared in the famous 1991 Copeland Collection auction conducted by Sotheby's. At the time, it realized $13,200 and was purchased by our consignor, a New Jersey resident himself, who attended the auction with his sights set on this card or another featuring a young Babe Ruth with the Baltimore minor league team (that card, the Baltimore News Ruth, outpaced his budget, hammering for $18,700). Thrilled with the acquisition of this extremely early card depicting one of the greats of the game, our consignor kept it as one of the centerpieces of his collection for thirty years before deciding now was the time to reintroduce it back into the hobby. This is the only example of this cabinet we know to exist. We are aware of two larger imperial cabinets featuring the same image, but it is hard not to consider the offered cabinet card the more significant of the three pieces as it very likely represents the earliest card featuring Wagner as a professional player, predating the Reccius Wagner by at least one year. (We are also aware of a cabinet photograph featuring Wagner as a member of the 1895 Warren team, but we do not know of any cabinet cards from the 1895 team.)
The cabinet (6.5 x 4.25 inches) features twelve members of the team, with Wagner prominently placed in the center of the top row, directly behind manager Ed Barrow. Posed in front of an ornate backdrop, Wagner wears a crisp jersey with the team name "Paterson" across his chest, with quilted pants and a thick belt paired and indicative of the era's equipment. The studio's name and address (Townsend, Gray and Knapp / 256 Main St. Paterson, N.J.) are emblazoned in gold on the left side of the mount. The piece has survived in exceptional condition, with remarkable photo contrast, virtually no wear to the mount, and an overall Excellent appearance. There are, however, two small areas of surface wear along the bottom-row players, which must be mentioned but do not in any way detract from the card's display value. The blank reverse displays light toning and a pencil notation, which reads "Paterson B.B.C. / June 1, 1896."
Honus Wagner, in addition to being one of the greatest players of his era, was also one of the most respected and popular players in the history of the game, beloved by his teammates, opponents, and legions of fans in every city. His name is also legendary in the world of card collecting. The offered cabinet card is a stunning, early, and extremely significant depiction of Wagner in his nascent days of professional baseball. It is a world-class item that would be at home in even the most advanced nineteenth-century, Honus Wagner, or pre-rookie and rookie-card collection. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open).