Fascinating 1888 article about an early autograph dealership with many prices listed. The significance of this article, in addition to being interesting in general with reference to the history of autograph collecting, is that it represents a very early reference (earlier than many realize was possible) to interest in collecting autographs of baseball players. The last sentence of the article reads, “The most costly signature is that of Ouida, the novelist, $7.50, and the cheapest Boston’s only Mike Kelly, the ball tosser, 10 cents.”
Another very interesting article (below) relating to Mike “King” Kelly and his autograph is this March 1932 Boston Herald article that recounts the story of Kelly promising to sign baseballs in March 1890. The significance of this article, if the story included is accurate, is that it represents the earliest reference to the signing of baseballs (far earlier than many have suggested is possible) that we have ever seen!
The key passages (describing the scene in March 1890 where Kelly is leaving by ship with the Boston and New York clubs of the Players League to go to their southern training grounds by water) read as follows:
All save Mike were already aboard the liner and sauntering its decks. He had lagged behind to say good-bye and crack a bottle of wine with a few old cronies in a snug little wine cellar around the corner off West street, a stone’s throw from the pier. In his pocket, he carries three or four baseballs he had been requested to autograph. That was a practice rare in those days, but Kelly was, in a way, the Ruth of his time and, one occasion, he yielded to these idolatrous professions of esteem….
….For God’s sake, Mike, get a move on! The boat’s going…Kelly was on his feet. He grabbed his travelling bag. “Good-bye boys! See you later. (I will) Autograph the balls when I get back. Good luck!”