Fact. The 1st soccer player on a sports card! Also, the 1st professional black soccer player on a card! The world's first soccer rookie card, too!
The world's first sports card dedicated to a soccer player. Though issued in the same series as Frank Sugg, for Derby County, Sugg was a cricketer as well as a footballer. After his running world record, Wharton was dedicated to soccer.
Date? It's the series, not just the Darlington club and the running record which help to date this card, or the address on the back of the card, the 1886 address for Baines, the card is also one of a series which featured Frank Sugg, for Derby County. Frank left Derby County and moved to Lancashire to play for Everton in late 1885. His card shows him at Derby County. So, the images were designed in 1885. Why date this as 1886 then? In the 1880's it took time for news to travel and to make cards, not like today. Months could go by before you'd hear of a transfer, and it took months to hand design, etch and lithograph cards, so 1886 was the time the cards were ready and issued.
Wharton was a top goalie in his day - and even an exciting goal-getting outfield player! It's sure he could have played for England had it not been for the colour of his skin. Afterall, by then he was goalie for the best team in the British Isles: Preston North End, a team so good they were known as The Invincibles.
This is the earliest card of Wharton. It shows him early on in his career, at Darlington CFC, where he played during the 1895-1896 season, summer 1885 through Spring 1886. It's the earliest of all known Baines cards of Wharton and it's earlier than the infamous copy, a card made by Baines' rival Briggs, in 1886. This was before Baines obtained a protection patent 13173, issued in 1887. So, his earlier cards , although they were design registered cards, were not protected by such powerful patents and Baines' rivals sometimes made off with his designs.
Later fan-shaped cards of Wharton were issued and other, shield-shaped cards too. They are just as rare but this is the first, the very earliest and the undisputed rookie of rookies for Arthur Wharton and all of soccer.
Arthur Wharton, the legend about whom the Cass book, "The First Black Footballer, Arthur Wharton 1865-1930", was dedicated. Written by Phil Vasili it's a must read!
MORE... he was not just a great footballer, he was fast! He held the world sprint record,and was world champion sprinter at the very time this card was made.
SHOWN FOR PLEASURE. This is in the collection of the author, the site owner and it's not necessarily for sale but the owner will consider serious offers.