1894 Temple Cup Program
To put it simply, this is one of the finest baseball programs known to exist, in a lonely pantheon with the first World Series program and nothing else. In some ways, this program, from the inaugural Temple Cup held in 1894, is more important, as it was a forerunner to the much better known World Series and is the only one we know of now in private hands. The only other specimen we're aware of was reproduced by Robert Opie in the 1970s as part of his herculean task of reproducing old World Series and All-Star programs. The Temple Cup was instituted by William Chase Temple after his Pittsburgh Pirates finished second in the 1893 National League standings. Believing that his team deserved a chance to play the first-place team for the title, Chase had an expensive $800 trophy made (over $21k today), and the following year the Temple Cup was officially adopted by the league. The New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles, who participated in every Temple Cup, met in the 1894 edition, and the second-place Giants swept the Orioles 4-0. Though it lasted just four years, the Temple Cup was pivotal in the creation of the World Series, serving as a template for a year-end championship. The format was revived once more in 1900, known as the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup, before the World Series as we know it was first played in 1903. The importance and rarity of this program are just part of its appeal; it also has an extremely pleasing aesthetic with beautiful colors and graphics on the cover, which features the New York squad. It is scored inside, showing the home Giants winning 4-1, in the same manner/person as the 1905 World Series program offered in this auction. There is some wear to the edges but it is otherwise gorgeous. The colors are as bright and vivid as the day it was sold by Harry M. Stevens. This is a holy grail of baseball memorabilia.
Addendum: There is only one other program like this one in private hands.