An auction selling 37 incredibly rare baseball cards recently found in an attic returned $473,750 on Thursday to a family in Defiance, Ohio. A card of Honus Wagner sold, by itself, for $200,000. By the time the family is done selling the collection of 700-odd cards — which it will do over time so as not to flood the market — the find could bring them perhaps $3 million.
Cleaned out your attic yet? It's probably worth it to look, but the Ohio find The Stew first wrote about in July is a once-in-a-generation treasure. Once in three generations, actually.
Members of the Hench-Kissner family found the cards, series E-98 from 1910, while cleaning out the house of an aunt who had died. Wagner, Ty Cobb, Cy Young — all of the greats of the era were there. Seventeen eventual Hall of Famers. Before Karl Kissner's discovery — dubbed "The Black Swamp Find" after a nickname for the area of northern Ohio where Defiance is located — only 625 of these cards were known to exist. And none of them were as pristine.
From the Baltimore Sun:
"Typically when someone calls and says they have some of these cards, they were packaged with candy and are stained and in terrible condition," Heritage Director of Sports auctions Chris Ivy told the Sun. "So when they sent us an example with eight of them...those eight cards would have been a find on their own. They were absolutely mint."
The family patriarch owned a sausage shop that also sold candy, and the cards were given out as a promotional item. Good thing that grandpa Carl Hench kept the cards away from the candy — and in a nice, dry attic inside his house built in 1885 — as reporter Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes:
How did the cards remain in that condition over more than a century of sitting in that cardboard box? Well, the key, it appears, was the cardboard itself. The cards were printed on a no-acid cardboard, and so their chemical composition did not compete with that of the box. And because the attic was dry, the cards held up about as well as if they were pieces of wood.
"In the basement," Kissner says, "they would have drawn moisture and stuck together."
The Hench-Kissner family plans on sticking together, too, even though money has the tendency to change people. The cousins, totaling 20, will split the pot evenly.
[T]hey also have an appreciation for each other, strengthened by the shared experience of uncovering a century's worth of family heirlooms and that now-famous box of gold.
"I think, for this family, sure, the value is nice," Kissner says. "But I think the fun and the memories are worth more to us. Because it's just been a ball."