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Rarest Baseball Cards From 1800s Up For Auction In Long Island

LYNBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - You never know what you might find in the back of the attic or basement.

One family held on to a set of baseball cards that are now worth a small fortune, reports CBS2's Steven Overmyer.

"I think they knew they were valuable," said auction house owner Phil Weiss. "I don't think they know the exact value, but to be honest, right now nobody does."

Weiss is curating an auction of 37 of the rarest baseball cards, known as cabinet cards.

"I was excited," he said. "That's the best part about this business. You never know what's going to come in on any given moment."

In the late 1800s, photographs this size were rare. To get a baseball card, you had to turn in 10 cigarette pack coupons. The owner had to smoke 200 cigarettes to get just one.

Weiss Auction Baseball Card - Connie Mack
Connie Mack, a catcher from Washington, is one of the rare baseball cards up for auction in March 2019. (credit: Weiss Auctions)

PHOTOS: Take A Closer Look At Baseball Cards From The 1880s

"Back then you didn't have TV or radio to broadcast the games," said Weiss. "The quality is great. There's not a lot of foxing or browning on them, so the picture is clear."

MORE: Auction, Bidding Details At Weiss Auctions

Some cards you might be able to land for $800 or $1,000 dollars. Others will go for more than $20,000.

"This is the cabinet card of Connie Mack," said Weiss. "From my research there's only one other one known to exist. Do you think anybody at that time would think he would be the winningest manager in baseball history?"

Only time will tell if the rare find is valued more as historical art or as something with a future financial return.

"My gut tells me most people are buying for investment," he said.

Because the photo process then was in its infancy, these pictures are all one of a kind - all with their own story, like the one photo of the 1888 Brooklyn Grays who changed their name. That year, almost every one of the players got married, so they changed their name to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and stayed the Bridegrooms for two years.

Weiss Auction Baseball Card - 1888 Brooklyn Bridegrooms
A team shot of the 1888 Brooklyn Bridegrooms is one of the rare baseball cards up for auction in March 2019. (credit: Weiss Auctions)

The cards will be sold individually, but the whole lot will bring between $100,000 to $200,000.

"This is really Americana at its best," said Weiss. "That's what this is, a little time capsule. Somebody opened it up 130 years later."

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