The discovery of an 1888 St. Louis Browns baseball currency advertising note, the first of its type, has been reported by Rob Lifson, president of Robert Edward Auctions.
In a series of SCD columns nearly a year ago, Bob Lemke, former editor of The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, detailed the history of the baseball advertising notes, and presented a census of the known types and the merchants who used them as a promotional medium.
At that time, there were seven known types of baseball currency, representing and picturing members of the 1887, 1888 and 1889 Chicago White Stockings, the 1887 and 1888 Detroit Wolverines, the 1887 St. Louis Browns and an 1893 all-star aggregation.
The discovery piece for the 1888 St. Louis Browns was consigned to Lifson's auction firm by a non-collector who reported finding it in an old book.
The ad piece shares the basic format of other baseball currency, measuring about 73/4-by-33/8 inches (the standard size for U.S. paper money of the late 19th century). The front has at left a line-art portrait of colorful Browns owner Chris Van der Ahe. At right is a large representation of the "Solid Silver" Wiman Trophy, emblematic of the 1886 team's championship of the American Association (they went on to beat the National League champion Chicago White Stockings, four games to two in a postseason "World Series").
At center of the new-found note is a large green cartouche with the date "1888." Printed in red at bottom center is the name of the advertiser who ordered and used the notes, "London and Paris Misfit Parlors," in St. Louis, V. Klein, proprietor. "Misfit Parlors" appear to have been the factory-seconds outlet of their era. Klein is one of about 60 advertisers who are known to have issued this type of promotional piece.
The back of the 1888 St. Louis note is again similar to the 1887 version, though both are noticeably different from the contemporary Chicago and Detroit pieces in that they picture only 10, rather than 12 players, and have no background baseball scene at center. The basic design on back is printed in green, with player portraits in black-and-white and the advertising message in red.
Fully half of the players pictured on the 1888 note were new to the Browns in 1887, probably the result of "Der Boss President" refusing to pay championship-caliber salaries to his stars.
Gone from the 1887-dated ad piece are Dave Foutz, Doc Bushong, Bob Caruthers, Curt Welch and Bill Gleason. They were replaced on the 1888-dated note by Silver King, Chippy McGarr, Harry Lyons, (future Hall of Famer) Tommy McCarthy and Jocko Milligan.
The pictures of McGarr and Milligan, unlike those of the other players, are merely black silhouettes, wearing the team's distinctive striped caps. Perhaps this indicates the notes were produced at a time before photographic images of the new players could be had by the bank-note engravers who created the advertising series.
The 1887 Browns were also American Association champs, but had been defeated in the postseason series by the Detroit Wolverines, 10 games to five.
The discovery specimen 1888 St. Louis Browns baseball currency note will be offered in REA's April 2007 auction, where it will be joined by the only known "Territorial" baseball currency note, issued in 1888 by a Deadwood, Dakota Territory, clothier.
For more information, contact REA at (908) 226-9900, or go to www.robertedwardauctions.com.