January 07, 2009
The strange story goes like this: Last summer, Bernice Gallego pulled an old baseball card from a box of antiques. She figured it might be worth something to someone, so she listed it on eBay.
The starting bid was $10.
But after getting a flurry of inquiries about whether the card was authentic or not, Gallego started to suspect she was holding something a little more valuable and immediately ended the auction.
Turns out her hunch was correct. She did have something more valuable. The card she found was made in 1869 and featured the "Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnati," the sport's first professional team. It's considered one of the first baseball cards ever produced and its actual value could be worth more than $100,000 when she puts it back on eBay (with a higher starting price, of course).
Of course, the news that she had found a rare piece of early baseball history came as a shock to the 72-year-old Fresno, Calif., resident who said she's never been to a baseball game. Her tale, from unwitting discovery to learning about the card's history, is wonderfully captured by our old pal Mike Osegueda of the Fresno Bee. Click here to read it.
From the Fresno Bee:
"When I came to meet her and she took it out of a sandwich Baggie and she was smoking a cigarette, I almost fainted," (collector Rick) Mirigian says.
"They've uncovered a piece of history that few people will ever be able to imagine or comprehend. And it comes out of Fresno," he says. "That card is history. It's like unearthing a Mona Lisa or a Picasso."
Gallego said she doesn't know exactly where the box of antiques came from since she and her husband are collectors and frequently buy lots from different estates around California. She does have a history of being lucky, though, having once won $250,000 on a slot machine.
(And with that, I'm off to see what I can find in my basement.)
For another baseball card story, check out our interview with Scott Mortimer, the guy who's trying to get every card in the 1983 Fleer set autographed.