The owners of the Saturday County Cup - which has been in use since 1880 - are keen to solve the 50-year-old riddle of the trophy's missing lid before it goes on show at the National Football Museum in Manchester next week.
The North Riding FA is keen to track down the silverware, which was once lifted by Wharton, recognised as the game's first black pro player and who is buried in Edlington.
The lid of the trophy - originally known as the Cleveland Cup - went missing sometime between the 1960s and 1980s.
Dave Roberts from the North Riding FA told BBC Tees: "We believe it's the second oldest cup in the world that's been continuously played for. There is one problem, we've lost the lid.
"We need to find a hero, there is a hero out there who knows something about the lid, either about its demise, or its hanging on a wall or is on a mantelpiece."
In 1887, it was won by a Darlington team including Wharton.
He was born in Jamestown, Gold Coast - now Ghana - in 1865 and moved to England in 1882 at the age of 19 to train as a Methodist missionary, but soon abandoned this in favour of becoming a full-time athlete.
He was an all-round sportsman - in 1886, he equaled the amateur world record of 10 seconds for the 100-yard sprint in the AAA championship.
He was also a keen cyclist and cricketer, playing for local teams in Yorkshire and Lancashire. However, Wharton is best remembered for his exploits as a footballer.
He started as an amateur, playing as a goalkeeper for Darlington and later played for Preston North End, Rotherham Town, Sheffield United and Stockport County.
He retired from football in 1902 and found employment as a colliery haulage worker at Yorkshire Main Colliery in Edlington.
On his death in 1930 he was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. The grave was given a headstone in 1997 after a campaign by anti-racism campaigners Football Unites, Racism Divides and in 2003 Wharton was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the impact he made on the game.