A collection of vintage baseball, football and hockey trading cards -- including what may be the most valuable baseball card in history -- will go on the auction block next month.
Included in the group, estimated to be worth more than $20 million, are a rare 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card and a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card.
The memorabilia belonged to Florida neurologist Thomas Newman, who died in January of COVID-19 complications at the age of 73. His widow, Nancy Newman, says the almost daily effort her husband put in over the past five decades was a labor of love.
"It was something that gave him so much pleasure," she tells USA TODAY Sports. "He wouldn’t sell a card unless he acquired a better (version of that same) card."
The result is an impressive collection totaling over 1,000 -- from Newman's childhood in the 1950s, going back to Ruth's rookie year in 1916 and some even dating to the 1880s.
“One of the 1933 Babe Ruth cards (Goudey #53, PSA 9) in this collection is the finest known of its kind and we expect it to break the record of $5.2 million for any sports card," says JP Cohen, president of Memory Lane Auctions, which will be conducting the online sale from June 21 to July 10.
But for Dr. Newman, the value of the cards was secondary.
"That wasn’t the reason why he did it," Nancy Newman says. "It was an investment for his family’s future, but not anything that he saw himself gaining from."
His hobby began in typical fashion -- when his mother tossed out his collection after he went off to college. However, none of those cards had any significant value because he played with them all the time.
"As soon as he was an adult out of college, he started collecting, started building sets, getting better ones than he had," she says. "Until he died, I didn’t really have a figure (on their value). It was surprising. I did know it was a lot, but not this many millions."
As the collection grew, so did the space needed to store them. Newman says they had a safe in their Tampa home where the most valuable cards were. ("I think I’ll have to take a wall down now that it’s empty," she says.) Others could be found locked in closets and cabinets. He also had an entire room on the top floor of his office he used for storage.
"He was just a quiet collector. He didn’t brag about it to anybody. Only his friends and close family really knew it," she says. "He’d get them out and play with them. He called them his ‘paper babies.’”
Now that her husband is no longer around to enjoy them, Newman hopes the auction will give other card collectors an opportunity to do the same.
Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Baseball cards, memorabilia could fetch over $20M at auction