FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fans and collectors of all things Fort Wayne and baseball have less than two weeks to potentially snag a rare piece of history through an online auction.
An 1871 photo of the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, a team credited with playing in the first-ever game of professional baseball, is currently being auctioned by Lelands, a sports auction house that has been in business since 1985.
Tom D’Alonzo, an acquisitions specialist with Lelands who helped facilitate the auction, said the person selling the photo contacted the auction house after coming across a photo album that contained the Kekionga photo and other photos of baseball teams from 1871.
“She wasn’t 100% sure what she had, so I went through the album with her,” D’Alonzo said. “The team cards were a little bit of a giveaway she did a little research, and actually the Kekionga [photo] is the one that kind of led her to understand that these were baseball players.”
D’Alonzo said the woman’s Kekionga photo is only the second known example to be for sale.
According to the auction listing, the first known example sold at an auction in 2006 and has remained in private hands since then.
D’Alonzo Explains What Makes the Collection Rare
With the photos being so rare, D’Alonzo called the collection a “once-in-a-generation type find.”
“For someone to save them, it’s pretty incredible,” D’Alonzo said. “There’s very few of these known. They just don’t pop up.”
The photo, which has been trimmed and is housed in an SGC protective case with an “Authentic” grade, first hit the online auction block Oct. 29 with a starting bid of $5,000.
Since then, two bids have been made, and the auction sits at $5,500 as of Nov. 6.
With the photo being so rare, D’Alonzo said it is “hard to say” how much it is really worth, but he also said it could go for a lot depending on the right person.
“There’s no telling what this one will sell for,” D’Alonzo said. “Obviously, it’s in the thousands of dollars. Is it tens of thousands? We’ll find out after the auction, [but] these items are only worth what someone is willing to pay.”
The company depicted on the back of the photo, a defunct sporting goods store named J.A. Pierce and Co., published the cards, and D’Alonzo said the the Chicago Historical Society owns a few photos since the store originated in Chicago.
The auction ends Nov. 18 at 10:00 p.m.
The Kekionga photo is part of Lelands’ 2023 Fall Classic, which features other sports memorabilia including a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle and a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.