Exceedingly rare Peck & Snyder trade card featuring the 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics. This card originates from an extraordinary find of three circa 1870 baseball-team cards, all of which were found in a nineteenth-century scrapbook and offered in REA's Spring 2014 auction. The 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics trade card has long been recognized as one of the most significant and greatest rarities of all nineteenth-century team cards. It has always been an essentially impossible-to-obtain "dream card" for advanced collectors. To the best of our knowledge, one had never come to auction until REA presented an exciting find of CDVs and trade cards in the May 2012 auction, which included the first 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics trade card we had ever seen in person, let alone offered. That example, encapsulated as "Authentic" by SGC (as is the example offered here) realized an amazing final price of $82,950. (Note: The 2012 example was superior to the currently offered card in that the trim of the mount was far less severe.) The formal studio photograph captures nine members of the Brooklyn Atlantics posing together in uniform. All of the players are identified in print along the bottom border of the mount: Charlie Mills; George "The Charmer" Zettlein (misspelled "Zettlen" on the card), one of the top pitchers of the era; Dickey Pearce, the game's first great shortstop and the player credited with practically inventing the position; Joseph "Old Reliable" Start, one of the game's top hitters and a premier first baseman; Charlie Smith; Bob "Death to Flying Things" Ferguson, so nicknamed for his defensive prowess; Fred Crane; Thomas Pratt; and John Chapman. This trade card, when originally produced (as can be seen on the 2012 REA auction example), displayed the team name and year ("The Atlantic Nine, 1868") directly underneath the player identifications, but unfortunately this has been trimmed away. The reverse features advertising for Peck & Snyder ("Base Ball & Sportsmen's Emporium").
The Brooklyn Atlantics, established in 1855, were one of the most prominent and successful baseball clubs in New York during baseball's formative years. A charter member of the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1857, the Atlantics are best known today for their historic win over the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1870. That victory, by a score of 8-7 in extra innings, marked the first defeat for the Red Stockings in over two years. Ironically, the last team that had beaten the Red Stockings, on October 1, 1868, was also the Atlantics. Many of the Atlantic players responsible for that victory over the Red Stockings in 1870 are pictured here, including Pearce, Ferguson, Start, Zettlein, Chapman, and Smith. After the 1869 season, the Atlantics joined the ranks of professionalism, but they declined to join the National Association (baseball's first professional league) during its inaugural 1871 campaign. Instead, the Atlantics waited a year and joined the league in 1872. They remained a member of the National Association during the remainder of its brief existence, but were not invited to join the National League in 1876. Without a league affiliation, the Atlantics continued to play an independent schedule for a number of years before disbanding in the 1880s.
As mentioned, the card has been trimmed and measures approximately 3.875 x 2.5 inches but still offers extraordinary eye appeal. (Trade cards, which were normally larger than CDVs, were often trimmed at the time so that they could fit into CDV albums. In fact, we have been able to locate images of only three other examples of 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics CDVs, all of which were similarly trimmed, though the team name and year were left largely intact.) The photographic contrast is extremely strong throughout. A few very tiny creases are evident in the corners and borders, with only a small wrinkle in the upper left affecting the photo portion of the card. The reverse is boldly printed with a crisp, clear black-print Peck & Snyder advertisement. Scattered wrinkling is present throughout the reverse but does not detract from the overall visual appeal in any way. Without regard to the trimming, the card is in Good to Very Good condition and presents stronger. This is a remarkable example of one of the nineteenth century's most significant and elusive rarities. The 1868 Peck & Snyder Brooklyn Atlantic trade card also holds the distinction of being one of the earliest-known baseball cards. Opening Bid $20,000. Estimate (open).