Today is opening day at Yankee Stadium, which got us thinking about a few lots in tomorrow’s auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana. Swann doesn’t sell baseball cards, but we do have a special item related to “Honus” Wagner, known as the face of one of the rarest baseball cards around. Which, as Webb Howell, publisher of Fine Books & Collections, noted in a column last week, can top one or two million dollars. What Swann is offering is the watercolor artwork for a cigar box label rendering of Wagner, identified by his given name of Hans. The pose may look familiar, as it is identical to the famously rare baseball card, which was in turn taken from a 1905 photograph.
Swann devoted the cover of the auction catalogue to one of the most attractive baseball prints of the 19th century, Representatives of Professional Base Ball in America, a promotional piece commissioned by P. Lorillard & Co. of Jersey City, NJ to promote their Climax Red Tin Tag Plug Tobacco, 1884. In the foreground are vignettes of 12 active players (most notably Buck Ewing, Tim Keefe, Dan Brouthers and Cap Anson) and four executives including Al Spalding and Harry Wright. In the background is a charmingly naive depiction of a game; the poor catcher is about to get brained, and we’re not sure what draws the attention of the first baseman.
Also featured is a group of eight 1927-29 Associated News Service illustrated news posters, each featuring future members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. These posters were issued on a variety of topics, promising “Latest World Events in Pictures.” Two of them show Babe Ruth in mid-swing, one has Brooklyn’s Dazzy Vance demonstrating his knuckleball grip and another shows the Cubs and Athletics on the eve of the World Series. An earlier bulletin shows Tony Lazzeri of the Yankees sliding in the 1927 World Series.