Friday, January 12, 2018

Time to solve a RMYstery

If you're at all interested in baseball photos -- whether it's learning about them, looking at them, or trying to collect them, you should check out They describe themselves as an "industry leading auction site for vintage collectable photographs." They are. They've been running auctions since 2013, I believe, and I've always been amazed at the scope and quality of images they auction.

If you're interested in reading baseball books, then you should also check out The Glory of their Times, by Lawrence Ritter. The book contains interviews with old-time ball players. The original version was published in 1966. It was re-released in 1984, and another four interviews were added. It's a very easy read, and the interviews are so candid and honest. Even if you don't want to buy it, your local library almost certainly has a copy.

Back to photos, though. This past December, RMY's 2017 Holiday Premier Auction contained a George Gibson photo. It's one I'm well aware of, as it the basis for a number of George Gibson cards.

Here are some such cards:

And here is the image upon which they are based: 

I've wanted to track down a copy of this image for a long time. When I saw this in RMY's auction, it didn't take long to decide to go after it. And lucky for me, I won it for what I consider to be a very reasonable price.

Now here's the RMYstery. Look at the back:

When I first saw the back of this photo, I didn't think much of it. I mean, I was interested in the front, obviously, so I don't think much about the backs of photos. I know that the back of the photo can help you authenticate it, but honestly, I don't know what I'm looking at/for, and I trust RMY.

At some point, I was checking on the auction and the back did catch my attention. Specifically, "#1 in George Gibson chapter." George Gibson chapter? What George Gibson chapter?

And then it hit me. I came racing upstairs to my office and grabbed my copy of 'The Glory of their Times'. I flipped to the "George Gibson chapter", and guess what I found?

Page 71. I'm not going to scan the page in case there's some copyright reason I can't, but sure enough. The bottom half of that page is this photo. Below it is the caption "George Gibson around 1910".

So now I'm thinking, well wait a second...does that mean this is the actual physical photo that Lawrence Ritter used for his classic book? That can't be. Can it?! I flipped through the book a bit more, and eventually I landed on a page titled 'Picture Credits'.

The page starts with, "Many of the pictures in this book were obtained from the personal albums of the players themselves. the sources of the others are as follows:"

So I went through the list of photo sources, and page numbers.

Guess which page number isn't in the list? Page 71. Keep in mind the auction is still going at this point. But now I'm thinking the photo in this auction was used for the book, AND, it came right from George Gibson?! That couldn't possibly be, could it?

So there's my RMYstery. Where did this photo come from?

After the auction ended and I paid for the photo, I emailed RMY and asked for some more info about where they got the photo. I haven't heard back, though I'm sure I will. With 1100+ lots in the auction, plus the holidays fast approaching, I can only imagine how much work it would be collecting payments, packaging, shipping, dealing with inquiries, paying consigners, etc. And the truth is, while I do believe this photo was used in the book, I really don't believe it came from George Gibson, so I'm fine to wait for a response.

BUT....what if?


  1. Hey, you're still alive! Seriously though, this was a really interesting post. Congratulations on winning the photograph, hopefully you will hear back from them as that would be pretty amazing to find out that your photo was not only the one that was used for the book, but also that it was supplied by George Gibson himself.

    Oh, and thanks for the book recommendation, I will be trying to acquire a copy in the very near future.

    1. Yep, still here ;)
      Thanks for checking-in, Jon, hope you're doing well. And I promise you'll enjoy the book!