Holy Cow! Family Finds Baseball Card Collection That May Fetch $3 Million

Jul 11, 2012
Originally published on July 11, 2012 5:33 pm

"My grandfather stuck it in the attic a hundred years ago and here it is now, a blessing to his grandchildren."

A blessing for sure.

As the Toledo Blade reports, when Karl Kissner and his cousins were clearing out his grandfather's home in Defiance, Ohio, on Feb. 29 they came across a box of very rare and very valuable baseball cards.

According to the Blade, "experts say the trove of about 700 nearly mint cards just might represent the greatest and rarest discovery in the sports card industry's history. The best of the collection is expected to fetch more than $500,000 at the National Sports Collectors Convention next month in Baltimore while the entire stock could bring in $3 million."

Heritage Auctions, which is handling the sale of the cards, calls this the "Black Swamp Find" because of the "damp landscape on the edge of Defiance." The best cards in the cache, the Blade says, "are part of a rare 30-player set distributed with caramel candy in 1910. Only 635 of the undersized rectangular cards from the E98 series were known to exist."

According to the family, granddad (Carl Hench) ran a meat market southwest of Toledo and apparently collected the cards that came with the candies. "We guess he stuck them in the attic and forgot about them," Kissner told The Associated Press. Hench dies in the 1940s, AP adds.

The set in Defiance had been "frozen in time beneath a wooden doll house and a century's worth of dust," the Blade adds.

Heritage says the players represented include greats such as "Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Chief Bender, Christy Mathewson, Connie Mack, Frank Chance, Hughie Jennings, Johnny Evers, Roger Bresnahan [and] Cy Young."

The AP reports that the family is "evenly dividing the cards and the money" among 20 cousins" named in the will of an aunt who lived in the house until her death last October.

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This week, good fortune has once again come to Defiance, Ohio. The first time was in the 1950s. You might remember that first case from a 2005 movie called "The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio."


It was based on the true story of a poor family from the town who hit the jackpot. The mother had a knack for coming up with slogans and winning contests and saved the family from financial ruin.



: Mrs. Ryan, are you all right?

JULIANNE MOORE: (as Evelyn Ryan) I just have to sit down and have myself a happy cry.

BLOCK: Well, now another family in Defiance has defied the odds once again. In February, Karl Kissner and his cousins found a stash of 700 old baseball cards, bundled with twine, in the attic of his deceased grandparents' home.

KARL KISSNER: We did not have any clue what we had really found.

SIEGEL: This is from an interview he gave to the Defiance Crescent News, the local paper. What they found were cards smaller than the usual kind, but among them three of baseball's old-time greats: Ty Cobb, Cy Young and Honus Wagner.

KISSNER: So, our decision was they're either worth nothing or they're seriously worth something.

BLOCK: So they took them to experts and two weeks later they learned that what they'd found may be one of the biggest discoveries in the world of sports card collecting. What they had is a rare 1910 set of baseball cards in nearly pristine condition.

Unlike his grandfather, Karl Kissner says he never collected baseball cards but he has a new-found appreciation for them.

KISSNER: It's just neat.

SIEGEL: Neat, indeed. A Defiance, Ohio family hits a jackpot worth nearly $3 million. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.