The Forest City club of Rockford, Illinois, was one of the very first professional baseball teams, playing in the inaugural season of the National Association in 1871. That season, the club finished in last place, with a 4-21 record despite the presence of their star, Cap Anson.
Between 1868 and 1870, despite being one of the first teams to pay its players, they were considered an amateur team. This exceptional team composite featuring the members of the 1870 club is extremely rare, originating from a find of eight team cards that were part of a collection of more than 100 CdVs and trade cards brought to auction nearly a decade ago. Of course any baseball cards or photos dating as early as 1870 are of tremendous historical significance, but this particular card is a museum-caliber item due to the inclusion of Hall of Famer and baseball pioneer Albert Goodwill Spalding - one of very few known images from his time as a player. Spalding began playing with the Forest City at just 15 years old, and remained with the club until he was 20, then joining the Boston Red Stockings where re remained until 1875, subsequently moving to Chicago and helping build the White Stockings at the behest of William Hulbert. There, along with his brother Walter, Spalding began the sporting goods store and manufacturer that still bears his name today.
The card itself bears the images of ten players including Spading and team manager Scott Hastings, 19th Century star Ross Barnes, as well as Bob Addy, Al Barker, Fred Cone, Joe Doyle, Tom Foley, Joseph Simmons, and Garret Stires. The images are clear and visible, the 2 1/2" x 3 3/4" card boasting a strong and clean appearance, with a slight trim to the top and bottom of the mount. The overall appearance is EX or better, disregarding the trimming, which is likely more than a century old. Though the photographer name (G. W. Barnes) is printed on the back of the card, it is almost completely obscured by a strip of paper that has been glued on the reverse, bearing the name of J.W.D. Kelley & Bro." some sort of firm based in Chicago.
In an era where collector/investors routinely spend six figures on ultra-modern insert cards, here is a true rarity, manufactured before professional organized baseball even existed and featuring a rare image of one of the forefathers of the game - Hall of Famer Albert Goodwill Spalding. One of the very earliest images of baseball, depending on one's definition of "card" perhaps one of the first cards ever produced. Regardless, a 152-year-old document of the very birth of our beloved game.
PLEASE NOTE: this item has a reserve of $15,000.