Baseball cards in Ohio might fetch millions

BY foxsports • July 11, 2012

A treasure trove of baseball cards found in a dusty box in an attic in Defiance, Ohio, would have a welcome home in Cooperstown, New York.
Even if it’s just a few of them.
That’s the word from folks at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, who would welcome a call from the people who found the cards.
“It’s our job to preserve baseball history,” said Susan MacKay, the Hall’s director of collections.
It might be a pipe dream, though. A very large pipe dream.
Collectors already have told the family of Karl Kissner that the collection of 700 cards he found under a wooden dollhouse in the attic of his grandfather’s home could be worth as much as $3 million.
That’s a lot of security and college educations for one family to pass up. Plans already are under way to sell the cards at auction.
People at the Hall of Fame understand, but they also recognize the historical value of the cards, which were printed and distributed by a candy company in 1910.
There are duplicates in the collection the Kissners found, including 16 of Ty Cobb. Would selling 15 Ty Cobb cards and donating one matter that much? The Smithsonian might even be interested in some of these cards, given their historical impact and near-pristine condition. (Other cards featured Honus Wagner, Connie Mack and Christy Mathewson.)
A phone call to Kissner’s home and to his restaurant in Defiance went unanswered, and Kissner did not address the possibility of donating any cards in the Associated Press story written about the card discovery. He told the AP that his plan is to divide up the cards and the proceeds among him and his 19 cousins. The best 37 cards are already set to be auctioned in August during the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore.
The Hall has 138,000 baseball cards in its collection, which are shown on rotating exhibits. But MacKay said it has only two from the original release of 30 that Kissner found: Hugh Jennings and former Cleveland Indians star Nap Lajoie.
Jennings, who went by Hughie, played from 1891 through 1903, then in ’07, ’09, ’10, ’12 and ’18. He is a Hall of Famer with a career batting average of .312.
His card brings baseball history to life: He played for the Louisville Colonels, Baltimore Orioles, Brooklyn Superbas, Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers.
Lajoie is one of baseball’s all-time greats. He had a career .338 average in 21 seasons. In addition to Cleveland, Lajoie played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Athletics.
But the Hall does not have a Ty Cobb or a Honus Wagner.
“We would certainly love to have a complete set at some point,” MacKay said. “We encourage those who make these discoveries to chat about the donation process. Because it is an option for everyone.”
Cooperstown cannot make a bid to buy the cards because the Hall relies entirely on donations for its items on exhibit. MacKay knows it’s an uphill climb to hope that someone would donate items that are worth a lot of money.
“But things come back around,” she said. “Many, many baseball pieces are bought and sold over many years. Some things that are sold can eventually come to the Hall of Fame as a donation, depending on the current owner.
“So, you never know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot out there in attics and basements that can be discovered. It’s always fun to hear of these stories.”

The financial cost of donation is obvious. The benefits beyond the tax deduction are more esoteric.
“Folks that donate have a peace of mind knowing that items will be at the Hall of Fame forever,” MacKay said. “They are never traded or sold, and taken care of forever. We send items out to conservation labs for analysis and maintenance.
“We’re thrilled when people think of us, and think of us a permanent home for their pieces.”
Several items from Tuesday’s All-Star Game already are on their way to Cooperstown. Why not a few of these cards?
Expecting one family to sacrifice the entire find for altruistic purposes is a bit much, but hoping a few cards are donated might not be.
Obviously, any collector who buys one of the cards would take care of it and preserve it.
But Cooperstown would preserve it forever, and for everyone. 

share story