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Circa 1860s Baseball Memorabilia Collection (5)
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $3,525
Each of these rare treasures dates to the earliest days of organized baseball. Each has merit as a stand-alone item; together they represent an exceptional nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia display. 1) Circa 1850s/1860s Baseball Belt. The elaborately designed black leather belt displays the team name "Clipper BBC" on the front and features an interior leather strap for size adjustment. A sliding belt loop displays the letters "JFI." (most likely the player's initials). Both the team name and initials on the loop are displayed in raised relief. The leather surrounding the team name has been painted red, while the individual letters bear a contrasting coat of white paint. No manufacturer's label or tag is present. During the 1850s, belts were the single defining characteristic of a team's uniform and most were similar in style and color. These belts were the only garment players wore bearing the club's name. As such, they were often quite elegant and striking in design, and a symbol of team pride. While they are very prominently featured in various equipment catalogs for sale, very few nineteenth-century baseball belts (especially those dating to the 1850s) have actually survived. This belt is highly desirable due to the fact that it displays the "BBC" (Base Ball Club) notation, which clearly indicates it was a baseball belt. Most similar style belts from the era (for example, those that might simply read "Excelsior" or "Knickerbockers") could also be fireman's belts, and cannot be definitively identified as baseball belts. Most early men's social clubs were simply extensions of each neighborhood or town's local fire company. As baseball rose in popularity, those social clubs also sponsored baseball teams. Thus, many of the earliest baseball teams were composed of firemen. The early connection between fire companies and baseball is the reason many early baseball uniforms were designed in the style of fire uniforms (often displaying a shield design on the front of the jersey). As a cost-cutting move, members would then use the belts from their fire uniforms with their baseball uniforms. For that reason, many early nineteenth-century firefighters’ belts are indistinguishable from baseball belts. This is a rare exception and one of the few definite baseball belts we have ever seen; unfortunately, there is no way to determine which "Clipper" ball club (it was a common team name) this belt belonged to. The belt is heavily worn, but all of the letters are firmly attached and no major flaws detract from its overall Excellent appearance. An outstanding example given its age and former use. 31.5 inches in length. 2) Early Circa 1860s Handmade Baseball. This small leather baseball, figure-eight style, measures 8.5 inches in circumference and weighs 3.4 ounces. This ball is smaller and lighter than balls used in organized play at the time. In 1857, at the first National Convention, the standard diameter of the baseball was determined by a vote to be between ten and ten and one-quarter inches in circumference and to weigh between six and six and one-quarter ounces. The following year baseballs began to be manufactured using the figure-eight pattern that is the norm today. The ball is heavily worn, including torn stitching and abrasions to the leather. 3) 1860s Handwritten Letter Referencing Baseball. Written by a gentleman who had just recently moved to Mansfield, Ohio, this four-page handwritten letter, dated October 30, 1867, makes note of the rising popularity of our national pastime. The gentleman, an urbanite who was originally from an East Coast city (probably New York), writes to a friend and recounts his many trials and tribulations in his new hometown, which he describes as being "out here in the Wilderness." He concludes: "Base Ball fever has just reached here in full force and it is all the talk and they were after me to know If I was a player. 'Not much.' I have something else to do they could not see why I was not excited about the matter." The letter (5 x 8 inches) is written on four panels of a single folded sheet and is in Excellent to Mint condition. 4) Boy's Own Book - A Complete Encyclopedia of all Athletic, Scientific, Recreative, Outdoor and Indoor Exercises and Diversions. Published in 1860 by C. S. Francis and Company, New York. While this 354-page book does not mention the game of "Base Ball" by name, it includes many of the related contemporaneous bat and ball games, including rounders, trap, and cricket. A pencil inscription appears on the inside front cover and on the front flyleaf. Good condition, with heavily worn boards, moderate separation along the spine, and foxing to the interior pages. 5) Early Baseball Bat. While we cannot state with certainty that this bat dates from the nineteenth century, it certainly has that appearance and would display exceptionally well with the other items offered here. The heavily worn bat bears no manufacturer's marks and features a tapered knob. Length: 33 inches. Weight: 38.6 ounces. Total: 5 items. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+ SOLD FOR $3,525
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