If you’ve ever dreamed about going into an old house and stumbling across a long-forgotten stash of really old baseball cards just sitting there for the taking, a Pennsylvania man can tell you exactly how it feels.
And he didn’t have to go far to find them.
“Jerry” lives in the north central part of the state. The home next door to his had been falling into disrepair, “unoccupied for nearly three years and basically abandoned.” The roof was leaking. Earlier this spring he bought the property, planning to tear it down and get rid of the eyesore.
“I had talked to an uncle who is a contractor and discussed it with him,’ Jerry told Sports Collectors Daily via email. “He mentioned how it may not be as bad as it looks and may be worth fixing. So I decided to start cleaning it out to see what it would take to repair to possibly rent.”
The house wasn’t completely empty. Upstairs were two bedrooms; one with a closet and a crawl space inside of that. There were boxes that had been left behind or forgotten but it was apparent they’d been there a long time. Jerry’s dad was pulling boxes from the small storage space into the closet while Jerry moved them out into the bedroom.
“Once the last box was out we cleaned up and called it a day.
“About 3 days went by before I was able to get back in there. When I came home from work my wife and I were in that bedroom going through the boxes when I saw the cigar box. It was inside a box that had old toys and games in it.”
The lid had been ripped off the box but what Jerry saw inside caught his attention.
The box was full of old trading cards. Actors. Actresses. Other non-sports cards. Boxers…and baseball cards. There were nearly 400 in all.
“I grabbed it and started going through the cards and when I noticed the tiny tobacco cards. I looked at my wife and said ‘I’m done.’ I’m going home to check these out.”
A sports fan, but not an active card collector, Jerry could nevertheless tell immediately they dated back to the deadball era and the rough and tumble days of early 20th century professional boxing.
While the cards had been “well loved” by someone more than a century ago with multiple creases, dinged corners and the name “Edward” or initials “EK” written on the back of many, there were plenty of big names. A T206 “bat off shoulder” Ty Cobb. Rare 1912 Miner’s Extra cards of Cobb, Home Run Baker and Rube Marquard along with boxers from the same issue. Strip cards of Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Boxing cards that included Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson.
“I was sorting through them and saw the two Cobbs,” Jerry recalled. “I took a picture of the T206 and sent it to my brother.” While it wasn’t another addition to the rare Cobb Tobacco back T206 population, any Cobb in virtually any grade is worth a decent amount of money.
After doing some research, Jerry identified most of what he found. There were 80 T206s, 19 of the 24 known cards from the T227 “Series of Champions” set that included the aforementioned Miner’s Extra baseball and boxing cards, 27 strip cards (W514 and W516), three T205s, some center panels from the Hassan Triple Folders set, 43 T219 boxing cards, a few other miscellaneous sports issues and nearly 200 non-sports cards, topped by 104 E-123 Actors and Actresses.
Jerry plans to sell the cards either outright or via auction consignment. Despite the low grade condition they’re likely worth several thousand dollars. For now, though, he’s enjoying the story of his brief reunion with card collecting.
“I had some cards in my early teens but I think I ended up giving them to my younger brother. It wasn’t many. He was really into baseball then. He would rattle off stats constantly, probably from always watching it on TV or maybe because I don’t think he ever missed SportsCenter back then.”
Jerry has also been able to learn a little about the original owner of the cards through some papers he also found inside the home. “Edward” was born in 1902, making him 8-10 years old at the time most of the cards were found inside tobacco products or distributed with candy. He graduated from high school in 1921 and later went on to become a Pennsylvania motor policeman.
While Edward is long gone, luckily for Jerry, he left a little of his childhood behind.
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