1889 M-UNC Police Gazette Cabinet John Ward with Original Mailing Envelope

Published by Robert Lifson on Tagged Uncategorized


Extraordinary high-grade and possibly unique example of Hall of Famer John Ward from one of the rarest of all nineteenth-century baseball-card issues: the 1889 Police Gazette cabinet-card series. This is an astonishing newly-discovered example which is of tremendous note, not only for its rarity as a sample, but for its heretofore unconfirmed existence! The 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards lists only thirty-six different known subjects, and John Ward, offered here, is not among the cataloged subjects. This card had only ever been seen once when a photo was shared anonymously on the Full Count Vintage Baseball Card Forum (http://vbbc.forumotion.com/forum.htm) in September 2010. The astute collectors there immediately recognized the significance and marveled at the find. We were equally as stunned by the card at the time and never dreamed that we would someday be contacted to present it at auction.

Adding to this card’s miraculous existence is the incredible provenance which accompanies: it has been consigned by the great-grandnephew of the original owner and has been passed down through the family with the original mailing envelope from the publisher of Police Gazette, Richard K. Fox of New York. The envelope is addressed to the great-granduncle, Arthur Everts, who at the time of issue was twelve years old. Arthur kept the card until his death in 1966, at which time it was inherited by his nephew, and then upon his death, passed on to our consignor, who has kept it in his possession for the last eighteen years. A letter from the family and detailed “family tree/card history”  accompanies and fully documents provenance. This incredible and perfectly documented chain of custody has kept the card in the family of the original owner for the last 125 years!


Few cards, nineteenth century or otherwise, can compare with the extreme rarity of this set. This is one of only three Police Gazette cabinet Hall of Famer cards we have even seen in our many years (REA’s 2009 auction featured examples of Tim Keefe and Sam Thompson). Fewer than fifty Police Gazette examples in total are known to exist from this set. For many years, the exact method of issue of this set was unknown. The prevailing theory was that they were most likely issued as premiums by Police Gazette in 1889. The Police Gazette, one of the most prominent of all weekly periodicals of the era, provided in depth coverage of professional baseball. The discovery of the original mailing envelope offered here (the first we have ever seen or heard of existing) confirms this theory. Printed on the back of the envelope is an advertisement billing “Police Gazette Cabinet Photographs” at a cost of ten cents each as well as advertising for a “Catalogue of Police Gazette Books and Photographs.” Advertisements for these cabinet photos likely ran in the periodical and interested parties could send away for the cabinets or books they desired.


The formal studio photo pictures John Ward (identified as Johnny Ward on the card) in uniform as a member of the New York Giants. This particular image of Ward is the same one used for his 1888 S. F. Hess card, and with the distinctive oval-style portrait design identical to that used by S. F. Hess, at first glance looks like a giant S. F. Hess card. (For reference, an example of the smaller S. F. Hess tobacco card of Ward is illustrated in the 1991 Copeland auction catalog, lot 767). This is an outstanding and extremely striking cabinet card. The image on the photo is very bold, with virtually flawless clarity and contrast. Small spots of surface wear, of no consequence to the overall display value, are present near the top edge of the photo and near the “W” on Ward’s jersey. Bright and crisp, both front and back, with a near-flawless black mount, which bears the gilt-embossed imprint “Richard K. Fox - Publisher of the Police Gazette, Franklin Square, New York.” The blank reverse is entirely clean, which is extremely rare to see on nineteenth-century cards as they are often found with writing, album residue, or paper loss. Outstanding overall Excellent appearance. This is an exceptional Hall of Famer example, with a remarkable original-owner provenance, accompanied by an extremely significant and (to date) unique original mailing envelope, from one of the nineteenth century’s most elusive and highly regarded issues. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). 


Above is one of the many highlights in the upcoming REA Spring auction.

Catalogs mail the first week in April!

Bidding begins approximately April 7, 2014.

Auction closing date: April 26, 2014.

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