Card collection could fetch family millions

07/11/2012 4:45 PM ET
By Stephanie Jenks

"It's like finding the Mona Lisa in the attic."

Those are the words of Defiance, Ohio native Karl Kissner, who struck gold of a somewhat artistic nature while cleaning out his grandfather’s attic earlier this year.

In a dusty box in that attic, Kissnes discovered hundreds of baseball cards dating back to around 1910 that featured some of the top stars of the day – names like Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Connie Mack and Honus Wagner.

The cards, which come from an extremely rare series known as E98, could render millions of dollars, and are a find that experts have called one of the biggest and most exciting in the history of sports card collecting.

"Every future find will ultimately be compared to this," said Joe Orlando, President of Professional Sports Authenticator.

The cards originally belonged to Kissner’s grandfather, Carl Hench, who passed away in the 1940s; Hench ran his own meat market in Defiance, and it is suspected that the cards came to him as a promotion from a candy company.

After Hench’s death, the house and his belongings were willed on to one of his daughters, who passed away last October and left everything to her 20 nieces and nephews. Kissner was put in charge of the estate and discovered the cards back in February.

The cards are in close to mint condition, and wanting to determine if they were real (and valuable), Kissner sent eight cards to Peter Calderon at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.

“I was in complete awe,” Calderon said. “You just don’t see them this nice.”

Once verified, Heritage, which will sell the cards over the next two of three years through private sales and auctions, sent the set to Professional Sports Authenticator, which grades cards on a 1-to-10 scale based of their condition. The highest grade ever given was a Cobb card from this series was a 7, but Kissner’s lot had 16 Cobb cards that were all graded a 9, and a Honus Wagner card that was given a 10.

The total collection includes around 700 cards that could value up to $3 million. Heritage’s first auction with the lot, to be held in August at Baltimore’s National Sports Collectors Convention, will sell 37 of the cards and is expected to bring in up to $500,000.

"These cards need to be with those people who appreciate and enjoy them," Kissner said.

Kissner also said the family plans to divide the cards and their profits evenly among the 20 cousins named in their aunt’s will. comments