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Lot # 1091 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1867 Capital B. B. C. of Columbus, Ohio Silver Trophy Ball

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $5,581

In the 1860s, the ultimate prize for the victorious team in an organized baseball tournament was a “silver ball.” The coveted “silver ball” was the earliest formal baseball trophy, presented to honor the tournament champions. Today, silver trophy balls are incredibly rare, with only a few examples known. This particular silver ball, which was presented to the Capital Base Ball Club of Columbus, Ohio, by the Franklin County Agricultural Society in 1867, is one of the few survivors, and is further distinguished by its outstanding condition and the fact that it is new to the hobby.

The design of the ball (9.75 inches in circumference) replicates the stitch pattern of a belt baseball from the era and bears an engraved inscription on the front that reads: “Awarded by the Franklin County Agricultural Society to the Capital B. B. C. of Columbus O. for the best playing Sept. 14th 1867.” The ball is lightly tarnished and displays a few extremely minor “dents,” otherwise it is Excellent to Mint condition and displays much as it did when originally presented. The Capital Base Ball Club was one of three baseball clubs formed in Columbus, Ohio, in 1866, and it appears to have been the most prominent. While our research failed to determine the club’s final record in 1867, the fact that they were the first opponent of the powerful Washington Nationals during the Nationals' famous Midwest tour that season indicates that the Capitals were one of the top clubs in Ohio at the time. The winning of this silver ball further attests to the club’s abilities on the diamond. Unfortunately, any great fame the Capitals may have achieved over the next three years was all but overshadowed by the success of another Ohio team: the legendary Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Silver trophy balls were only awarded by outside parties or organizations. Teams did not purchase their own silver balls to commemorate important victories; they were prizes to be won. In that way they differ significantly from the gold-painted trophy balls from the era, which were game balls from the match that were elaborately decorated and given to the victorious club for display in their clubhouse. The announcement that a silver ball would be presented to the winner of a match game conferred a special status upon that contest and always served to increase fan interest. In that manner, it was also an effective promotional tool for the organization or individual offering the silver trophy ball. Such was the case with this ball. The Franklin County Agricultural Society (which is still in existence to this day) provided this silver ball as a prize for its1867 baseball tournament, to generate additional publicity, encourage participation by the highest quality teams, and to promote higher attendance at the fair.

All baseball items relating to prominent teams of the 1860s, the era immediately predating professionalism in the sport, are exceedingly rare, and few are as rare or as significant as a silver trophy ball. Silver trophy balls, so named because most were literally crafted by artisans of silver, are the earliest form of championship trophies. In the 1860s, cigars were named after them, songs were written about them, and many battles on the ball field were fought over them. Today, silver trophy balls are virtually nonexistent. Even the Baseball Hall of Fame does not have a silver trophy ball dating from the 1860s. We have seen only three other silver trophy balls ever offered at auction. The explanation for the great rarity of silver trophy balls is probably a combination of several factors: 1) Each silver trophy ball represented a special tournament or even an entire season of games for an organized league; therefore, relatively few were ever needed for presentation; 2) They were very expensive. One 1860s advertisement quoted a price of $10 for a silver ball. This was a lot of money at that time, and this alone probably caused many baseball tournaments and leagues to pass on the purchase of a silver ball due to expense; and 3) The tradition of awarding a silver trophy ball was almost exclusively associated with the 1860s. In addition, because they were made out of silver, most silver trophy balls probably fell victim to being melted down over the years. All of these factors make the survival of any silver trophy ball dating from the 1860s unlikely. This is a phenomenal relic dating from the earliest days of our national pastime. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500+. SOLD FOR $5,581

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