Paper Money

Heritage Auctions offers up rare 19th century baseball note

Heritage Auctions offers a rarely seen baseball advertising note in its Sept. 17 auction in Dallas. The note features the Chicago White Stockings team, which later became the Cubs.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions

A National Baseball League advertising note that is as American as any piece of legal tender currency will make a rare appearance at public auction in the Heritage Currency Signature Sale in Dallas on Sept. 17. It is only the seventh time the firm has offered such an item.

Late 19th century tobacco and trading cards of the national game are better-known than these odd forms of ersatz currency, of which, Anson Whaley says in Sports Collector Daily, eight types are known. They were essentially coupons about the same size as U.S. large-size notes.

Whaley explains that from 1887 to 1889, six types were printed for the Chicago White Stockings, Detroit Wolverines, and St. Louis Browns, and one in 1893 with an all-star team. Each one was overprinted with the names of various businesses on the face and a notice on the back of what it could be used for, usually a set dollar amount or a percentage off the purchase price. The face of each also depicts the team’s owner or manager and a batter, while the backs show some of the featured team’s players.

The example being offered, with an overprint for Thorrington’s Boot and Shoe Office of Denver, is from the 1887 Chicago White Stockings, who are now the Cubs. 

The face has the bust of legendary owner and sporting goods magnate Albert Goodwill Spalding and that of first baseman/manager Adrian Constantine (Cap) Anson, who played for 27 years and was the first player to reach 3,000 hits.

The back has busts of 12 of the team’s players: Anson, Jimmy Ryan, John Clarkson, Fred Pfeffer, Marty Sullivan, Mark Baldwin, Silver Flint, Tom Daly, Dell Darling, Ned Williamson, Lou Hardie, and Billy Sunday. The inscription reads “Make a home run to Thorrington’s for his legendary $3 shoes.”

Spalding and Anson were inducted into the Hall of Fame when it opened in 1939, Clarkson in 1963. Sunday, a fleet-footed right fielder, has a career batting average of .248 and 246 stolen bases. If his name is familiar, it is because he left baseball for the ministry and, while earning a great amount of money, was one of the early 20th century’s most prominent evangelical orators and prohibitionists.

The note is in PCGS Currency Very Fine 35 condition and is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000.

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