What is believed to be the first ever baseball card will sell as part of a New Jersey auction, which is scheduled to open on April 19.
The card, created in 1863, will sell with a $50,000 starting bid as the star lot of the sale. Known as the Grand Match at Hoboken card, it was ordered and distributed by Harry Wright, who is also the card's subject, in order to attract patrons to the St George's Cricket Grounds in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The ground itself has a fascinating history, as host to the first international cricket match in 1844, which was staged between Canada and the US.
English-born Harry Wright was one of the driving forces of baseball during its early days. He assembled, managed and played for the sport's first fully professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
The card, the only-known example, originates from the days before Wright joined the Cincinnati team, while he was at the New York Knickerbockers. It was issued to promote a series of three games, two of which were cricket matches and the third was a baseball game.
"There has long been debate among collectors and historians about the answer to the question of what is the very first baseball card," commented the auction house's Robert Lifson.
"While one has to define what a baseball card is to answer this question, if a baseball card is an image of a ballplayer on a collectible card available to the general public, then the 1863 Grand Match At Hoboken Benefit card of Harry Wright unquestionably qualifies as the first baseball card."
The earliest "dated" baseball card, from 1865, sold at auction for $92,000 arlier this month. The lucky consignor had found it in a Maine yard sale.