If you consider the Mort Rogers issue solely as scorecards, then on that basis alone they're already a historic game-changer in prestige and production quality. However, if you designate them as trading cards (which many leading experts do—and which Rogers himself did by calling each one a "Photographic Card"), then we're talking about arguably the first-ever set of baseball cards featuring individual players. Period.
Yes, incredible but true, this offering represents what we believe to be the only untrimmed example of Hall of Fame luminary Al Spalding among the seminal set's several dozen known surviving cards. Newly discovered, it's an absolute beauty in EX-EX/MT condition with a shockingly clean portrait photo; solid, sturdy construction throughout; and no restoration whatsoever. Spalding is, of course, one of just three HOFers in the Mort Rogers checklist, along with baseball's famous Wright Brothers. And as a point of reference on value, the finest known Harry Wright exemplar sold at auction in 2016 for a whopping $83,650. Our rival presented here is easily next in line as the second-most desirable Mort Rogers card on earth.
According to MLB's Official Historian John Thorn, former player Maxson Mortimer “Mort” Rogers was traveling with the 1871/1872 Red Stockings as an umpire and a printing entrepreneur. (Incidentally, Mort's brother Fraley Rogers holds the dubious distinction of being baseball's first documented suicide.) A few years back, Thorn struck research gold when he came across this description in the July 3, 1871 issue of the Cincinnati Daily Gazette: "A new invention in the score card line, and one that is destined to supersede all other such arrangements now in use, made its appearance on the Union grounds in the games of Monday and Tuesday. It is an ordinary large sized score card, with a photograph of some prominent ball player pasted on the outside of each. The whole arrangement is very neat and complete. Mr. Mortimer Rogers, of Boston, and a member of the Boston base ball club party, is the originator of the device."
Ten days later, a second article in the Cleveland Leader referenced Rogers' ambitious aspirations for his revolutionary card set: "Mort Rogers, of Boston, now with the club, has gotten out an exceedingly neat photographic score card. This series which he proposes to publish, will comprise pictures of every professional ball player in the country, and will make a valuable collection." Although he never reached his lofty goal (the highest numbered card we're aware of is 48, suggesting a total of only 48 different subjects), it's still more than accurate to call the existing rarities a "valuable collection"!
According to the well-preserved pencil scoring, this contest actually marked the very final game of Boston's inaugural 1871 season—a 12-3 rout over the Troy Haymakers on October 7th. Spalding's name, interestingly enough, is the boldest of all his teammates and immediately stands out. Notated at bottom right is the surname of New York Mutuals player-manager Bob Ferguson, who umpired that day and who has gone down in history as baseball's first switch-hitter. The ornate portrait cover is stamped "NO. 8" and "ALBERT G. SPALDING / PITCHER BOSTON NINE 71." Dimensions are 5-1/4" x 3-3/8".