February 12, 2013

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Jason Leblanc and his girlfriend Melinda Yung talk with the media after LeBlanc won an 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card with an $80,000 bid at the Saco River Auction Company in Biddeford on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. LeBlanc is from Newburyport, Mass., and the card is an investment for his sick 4-year-old son.

Man buys $92,000 baseball card for sick son

By Gillian Graham
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – Jason LeBlanc arrived at the Saco River Auction Co. on Wednesday with $80,000 to spend on a baseball card as an investment for his young son.

After several intense minutes of bidding and cheers from the audience of more than 200 people, he walked away with a collector's item that may be one of a kind.

With a buyer's premium, Le Blanc will pay $92,000 for the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card, which some had speculated could fetch $100,000 or more.

"If (the price) went up one more time, we were out of it," LeBlanc said minutes after placing the winning bid. "My mom thinks I'm crazy. I might be.

"It's such a small card it's unbelievable," he said. "Just holding it, my hands are trembling a little bit."

The Brooklyn Atlantics card was found late last year by an antiques picker in Baileyville, a town of about 1,700 residents in Washington County, 300 miles from LeBlanc's home in Newburyport, Mass.

The picker, who is not being identified by the auction house, found the card in a moldy old photo album while looking for antique furniture. He was not at Wednesday's auction.

LeBlanc said he bought the card as an investment for his 4-year-old son, Alex, who has health challenges that require stays in the hospital and many trips to doctors and therapists. Alex's mom died when he was born.

"We have a sad story and a great story all together," LeBlanc said, while his girlfriend, Melinda Yung, held the mounted card. "Alex is everything to me, and this is something I hope pays off."

The card will go into a safe deposit box until LeBlanc, a financial consultant, decides to sell it. He hopes to triple his investment.

LeBlanc outbid seven prospective buyers from across the country who bid via phone and Internet. He was the only person in the auction house to bid on the card.

The hall erupted into applause and cheers when auctioneer Floyd Hartford announced LeBlanc as the winner.

Wednesday was the second time in less than a year that Saco River Auction Co. set a record for auctioning a rare baseball card.

It set a state record last summer when it sold an 1888 Michael "King" Kelly card for $72,100. That card was found by an antiques picker in a trunk full of papers from a Kennebunk estate.

Hartford first thought the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card was one of two known to exist, with an identical card in the Library of Congress. But as news of its discovery spread around the world, the auction house discovered that the card is even more rare.

While it's similar to the card in the Library of Congress, the card is printed from a different negative. The two images could be viewed together through a stereoscopic viewer, which created the illusion of three-dimensional depth from two-dimensional images.

Hartford said the Brooklyn Atlantics card created a buzz, bringing in more people than usual for his monthly auction. Many wanted to see a spectacle and a historic moment, he said.

"What's more American than baseball?" he said. "It's every auctioneer's dream to find something like this."

The sale of the card came more than an hour into the auction, at which a complete set of 1949 Bowman baseball cards fetched $3,500.

The auction featured 295 lots and items such as a stuffed bobcat, German Nazi flags, sterling silver bowls and a Gucci watch.

Tom Dzamba of Wells, who buys and sells antiques as a hobby, didn't go to the auction for the Atlantics card, but he was interested to see how much it would bring.

It's always fun to find out the true value of items, he said.

"Everyone may be shocked, no matter which way it goes," he said shortly before the auction began.

In the end, LeBlanc's mother, Denise, was a little shocked about the outcome of the auction. Watching her son place bid after bid was nerve-wracking, she said.

"I think he's a little crazy, but he knows what he's doing," she said.

LeBlanc said he's done buying expensive baseball cards for a while. Before Wednesday, his biggest sports memorabilia purchase was around $10,000, for a baseball card. He said he doubled his money on it.

"This is a whole other league," he said. "You won't be seeing me at another auction anytime soon."


Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

This 1865 card of the Brooklyn Atlantics was found by a picker in Baileyville and was auctioned off for $92,000 at the Saco River Auction Company on Feb. 6, 2013.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Floyd Hartford, owner of the Saco River Auction Co., holds an 1865 card of the Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team. The card was auctioned on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 for $80,000.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Jason Leblanc and his girlfriend Melinda Yung talk with the media after LeBlanc won the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card with and $80,000 bid at the Saco River Auction Company in Biddeford on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. LeBlanc is from Newburyport, Mass.

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