BIDDEFORD — An auction of more than 1,400 century-old baseball cards featuring Hall of Fame players such as Cy Young and Ty Cobb got underway Wednesday night with more than a dozen collectors and dealers from across the United States submitting bids by telephone and online.

RaeLyn Hartford, a spokeswoman for Saco River Auction Co., said a glass negative of T.B. Doran, who played third base for the Omaha Omahogs and Omaha Lambs from 1887 to 1889, was the most expensive item auctioned Wednesday, fetching $4,900.

The highest selling baseball card was a 1909-11 portrait of Cobb, which sold for $3,700.

Saco River Auction Co. said that 212 cards from what has been dubbed the “Portland trove” went up for bid Wednesday.

Smaller than modern baseball cards, the so-called tobacco cards were issued by cigarette manufacturers to promote their brands. They feature color lithographs on the front and a tobacco advertisement on the back. Also up for auction are 48 glass negatives used to create “Old Judge” cards in 1888.

Auctioneer Troy Thibodeau said the collection, which dates to 1909, will be sold in installments over the coming year, with the next auction scheduled Feb. 18.

The family that put the cards up for auction does not want to be identified, he said. It’s not unusual for such a large collection to be put up for sale, but what makes this one special is that the cards are in good shape, Thibodeau said.

“These are truly pieces of art. They’re colorful, they’re bright, they’re folky, they’re Americana,” Thibodeau told the Associated Press.

Hartford said about 75 people attended the auction Wednesday night at the North Dam Mill in Biddeford. They were eligible to bid on the baseball cards, but she added, “The big bidders are on the phone.”

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