NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — Alex LeBlanc is the owner of what may be the first dated baseball card in history — a rare 1865 mounted photograph of the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club.
And the youngster, who is still several months short of his fifth birthday, probably will never know the significance of it.
His father, Jason LeBlanc, who paid $92,000 for the historic card at a Maine auction Feb. 6, is hoping the prized collectible will pay major dividends on his son’s future.
And along the way, it may also serve as an opportunity to create a legacy for his late wife who never had the chance to meet her son.
Sarah LeBlanc died in 2008 while giving birth to Alex, who was born with chromosomal deficiencies resulting in multiple developmental defects. The young couple had been married just three years.
Now, Jason LeBlanc has been left to raise his son with the help of support services and the determination to provide Alex the best life possible.
“Alex is my world,” LeBlanc said. “We have a father-son connection unlike anything you’ve ever seen before..”
LeBlanc, a professional trading card investor, started collecting baseball cards as a kid, spending the money he earned on his newspaper route to grow his collection.
As an adult, he turned his boyhood hobby into an investment business, buying, selling and swapping all kinds of trading cards through an eBay site online. But the Atlantics card is by far the most historic item he’s ever sought to own.
“To be able to own the first baseball card that’s ever been known to exist outside of the Library of Congress was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity,” he said.
LeBlanc learned the Brooklyn Atlantics card was coming up for auction a couple months ago. A Maine man had discovered the card inside an old photo album he picked up while antiquing near the Canadian border. He bought the album along with some old Coca-Cola bottles and a couple oak chairs for less than $100 combined.
The card, which dates to the Civil War era, features an original team photo of the Atlantics, one of the first teams known to invent America’s sport of baseball.
The Saco River Auction Co., which handled the sale, expected the card could fetch anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000. LeBlanc set an $80,000 limit on what he would spend. Bidding opened at $10,000 and quickly rose — with LeBlanc battling a phone bidder at the end before putting in the winning offer of $80,000. With the 18 percent required premium, the final price tag was $92,000.
“If the bidding had gone one penny higher, I was out,” LeBlanc said.
He’s since been told the phone bidder was an agent for actor Charlie Sheen.
For now, the card will be kept in a security box. LeBlanc is considering possibly loaning it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., or maybe the Yankees to put on display.
“We’ve had a lot of hardships in life. We’re very fortunate at the same time,” LeBlanc said. “I want people to hear our hardship and hear our story that life can be difficult and a lot of good can come from it.”
Sonya Vartabedian is a reporter for the Newburyport (Mass.) News.