700 rare, pristine baseball cards found in Ohio attic

1910 E98 baseball cards, 27 out of a set of 30A collection of 700 rare baseball cards from a 1910 promotional series has been discovered in pristine condition in an attic in Defiance, Ohio. Restaurant owner Karl Kissner and his cousin Karla were going through their late grandfather’s attic when they came across a green cardboard box underneath a crumbling wood dollhouse. The box that had once held women’s clothing was now covered in soot. Karla opened it and saw hundreds of small baseball cards tied with twine. Some of the names — Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Honus Wagner — were immediately recognizable, but not knowing whether these particular cards were authentic or of any value, the cousins set the box aside and continued to explore the attic.

Karl researched the cards and discovered there was a chance they might be valuable. He sent eight of them to Peter Calderon at Heritage Auctions in Dallas to determine whether they were authentic; the rest he locked up in a bank vault. Calderon confirmed that they were authentic 1910 E98 series baseball cards, a set so rare few people even know about them, and that they were in exceptionally good condition. The few 1910 E98 cards that have survived are faded, stained and worn, handled roughly by the sticky fingers of pre-World War I children. Most of the Kissner cards look like they’ve never been touched at all.

Ty Cobb cardHeritage Auctions checked the context — the age of the house, how Karl’s grandfather Carl Hench might have acquired 700 1910 E98 cards — and all the pieces seemed to fit. Carl Hench was a butcher who ran a meat market in Defiance. The cards were promotional items distributed with caramels — one of the mysteries of the set is exactly which company manufactured them — so Hench probably sold the caramels in his shop, keeping some of the cards and giving away others. The family suspects he put the box of cards in the attic and forgot about it.

He died in 1944. After his wife died in 1976, the house was left to their daughter Jean Hench, Karl Kissner’s aunt. She was a pack rat, bless her heart, and never threw anything away. She died last October, leaving her possessions to 20 family members, including Karl and Karla. The family spent months looking through the house, finding all kinds of wonderful treasures like dresses from the turn of the century, a steamer trunk from Germany, and calendars from Carl Hench’s meat market. They finally got to the attic in February. Karla opened that fateful box on Leap Day.

Hans Wagner cardOnce the probable history of the cards was pieced together, Heritage Auctions sent them to Professional Sports Authenticator to confirm the authentication and to adjudicate condition. They authenticated the cards and judged them the finest E98 series they have ever seen. The Honus Wagner (he’s called “Hans” on this series) card is a perfect 10 in condition, the first 10 ever given an E98 series card. The highest grade an E98 Ty Cobb card has gotten before this was a seven. PSA graded 16 of the Ty Cobbs in this collection a nine.

The 20 members of the family mentioned in Aunt Jean’s will split the cards up. Some of them want to keep their cards; most of them want to sell them. The 37 star cards will be auctioned at Baltimore’s Camden Yards baseball field during the National Sports Collectors Convention on August 2nd. Heritage Auctions is taking bids on a set of 27 on their website and the current bid is already at $120,000 20 days before the auction. The rest of the cards will be spread out for individual sale so they don’t flood the market and lower the value. Experts think the whole collection could prove to be worth as much as $3 million.

6 thoughts on “700 rare, pristine baseball cards found in Ohio attic

  1. I bet they wish they had found the cards 20 years ago when the baseball card market was hot. The cards would probably have been worth 3 to 4 times the current estimate. Still a wonderful find nonetheless.

  2. No they wouldn’t these are one of a kind. They are probably worth more now than 20 years ago. These aren’t Barry Bonds or griffey Jr rookie cards.

  3. Anonymous is 100% correct. These cards are vintage baseball cards. Exceptionally rare, and in exceptionally excellent condition. I got my hands on a Minor Brown card from this set. It’s pretty well weather-beaten, but still worth a bit.

    Also, sorry to say, but even if these were sold all at once rather than split up (shame to split them up!) No. It wouldn’t “flood the market,” and it certainly would not “lower the value” of any other cards out there.

    Also, while Steve is right that baseball cards were hot 20 – 30 years ago (and even before then,) the reason why the hobby went cold, is because of the insane mass-production of a dozen or so different manufacturers throughout the 80s and 90s. Killed the market.

    Around 2008(?) the market finally started making a comeback. MLB has decided to award licensing of team logo to one manufacturer on, and they had to adhere to strict rules, such as all rookie cards had to have an “RC” logo attached, print runs had to be limited, especially the complete sets and there had to be various rare specialty sets.

    Topps complied with MLB’s rules, and they were awarded the exclusivity of using MLB logos.

    Other manufacturers are still producing baseball cards, such as Panini. But if they photograph a player in their jerseys, they have to photoshop the logos out. They also cannot use the team name anywhere on the card. Only that the played played in Philadelphia, or New York, etc.

    the reason why Panini and others can still produce baseball cards, is because they can sign individual players, and the MLB cannot say anything about it. Players are protected by the MLBPA (MLB Players Union.) The league only owns the rights to utilize and sell league logos and uniforms.

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