An inherited, extremely rare set of baseball cards from the 1870s — that included a note from Albert Spalding, who would become a future household name and sporting good magnate — was appraised over the weekend at $1 million on a taping of public TV’s Antiques Roadshow.
That’s reportedly a new record appraisal for a sports memorabilia find in the history of the 19-year-old TV show. Antiques Roadshow travels the national looking for heirlooms and surprise treasures often kept by families for generations.
The cards are owned by a New York resident who previously had received a $5,000 offer for the collection. She inherited them from her great-great-grandmother who operated a Boston boarding house in the late 1800s. Some of the first professional baseball players of the time were regular guests at the boarding house.
The most valuable piece in the collection may be a May 1871 letter to the great-great-grandmother that includes hand-written notes from three future Hall of Fame stars: Albert Spalding and brothers Harry Wright and George Wright (see image below). Spalding would become the co-founder of the A.G. Spalding sporting goods company. He played major league baseball between 1871 and 1878.
The collection was brought to an Antiques Roadshow taping Saturday in New York City.
The owner, who was not identified as a security measure, told Antiques Roadshow appraiser Leila Dunbar that the collection “was just sitting in … a desk drawer. I ran across it one day and decided I’d like to have it, not realizing at all what it was worth.”
Antiques Roadshow appraiser Leila Dunbar called it one of the most thrilling appraisals of her career on the show.