Could this be the great Australian game’s oldest footy card?

The hand-coloured item, depicting a Carlton footballer proudly sporting a dark navy top and knickerbockers blue and white hooped socks and high-cut boots in a bushland backdrop, was released by local business Paterson Brothers, which occupied the premises at 68 Lygon Street from 1887-1891.

It was part of a lot that went under the hammer at Leonard Joel auction house some 18 months ago and acquired by Carlton supporter Simon Davis.

“It was sold by people who don’t tend to sell a lot of football memorabilia so not a lot of people knew it was being sold,” Davis said.

“A friend of mine, a Footscray supporter, saw it featured in a catalogue and contacted me about it. So I went along to the auction and pleasantly discovered that while there was some interest there wasn’t a lot of interest... and I picked it up for under $1000.”

Certainly, it would be difficult to envisage a card pre-dating this one. The oldest known Carlton footy card is that featuring Tommy Leydin, the club’s captain from 1887-1889. That card was published by the American firm Goodwin and Co., manufacturers of Old Judge cigarettes.

Tommy Leydin - Club’s captain from 1887-1889.

Noted Melbourne card collector Damien Green believed Davis’s acquisition raised more questions than answers.

“I’ve searched for a means of classifying this card and it appears to come under the classification of ‘carte-de-visite’,” Green said.

“A carte-de-visite is, in reality, a studio photo pasted onto a backing card that advertises the studio that produced them. I'm trying to get some more advice on whether it qualifies as a footy card, but I would think not at this point as these items were crafted for personal use rather than those specifically produced as a set then made available to the public.

“Today’s equivalent of a carte-de-visite would be Chris Judd’s head printed on a business card then passed off as a footy card.”

Regardless, the carte-de-visite in Davis’ collection is no less valuable according to Green, particularly if the subject featured is a Carlton footballer.

“If it’s a Carlton footballer it may be worth thousands of dollars because photographs of that period fade and this one appears to be in great condition,” Green said.

It is a fantastic piece of ephemera from an era where not too much photographic material has survived, especially the colourised variety.”

Whatever the merits of the item’s status, the burning question remains. Who is the Blueboy featured?

“I’d really like to know who the player is and a little bit about his history,” Davis said. “He’s clearly a Carlton player, he’s clearly in the Carlton uniform and the image can be sourced to between 1887 and 1891.”

If you know the identity of the footballer featured in this carte-de-visite, please call Tony De Bolfo at the club on 9389 6241.