With every box that was opened, Ken Goldin’s eyes got a little wider.
He wasn’t naming past winners of the award.
Like a kid transported to the dead ball era, he was rattling off the names of the cards he was seeing in a new consignment stored inside 800-count boxes. Live on camera for his social media audience at the end of the fourth day of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City on Saturday, he was combing through them for the first time.
When he got to about the 16th Cy Young—multiple examples of all three poses included—he couldn’t help but break out laughing at the utter absurdity of it all. The stack of Cys was just the tip of a collection of cards that put the old in old school.
It was an unknown, perhaps forgotten, one owner collection accumulated long before the National was even a thing.
There were gobs of Cobbs.
Mountains of Mathewsons.
Loads of Lajoies.
Truckloads of Tinker. And Evers. And Chance.
Save for the few icons that had just been Card Savered by his staff, the antiques that had just been carried into the show by the family of the original owner weren’t even in penny sleeves. In 21st century hobby lingo, they were “raw.”
They were real. And they were spectacular.
Not because of the condition but because of the sheer non-cherry picked, almost incomprehensible volume.
There were four 800-count boxes you see at every show and shop, each holding two long rows of T206s. There were thousands of them. Three thousand? Four thousand? No one knew yet. The stacks seemed never ending. Each box brought a new twin tower of tobacco card greatness.
“It was unfathomable,” Goldin told SC Daily the next day. “The first thought is that somebody smoked a lot of cigarettes to get these cards.”
But that wasn’t all. There were 19th century Old Judge cards. T202s and T205s. Several hundred 1933 Goudeys including Babe Ruths and Lou Gehrigs, hundreds of 1934-36 Diamond Stars and other tobacco issues from more than a century ago. The original owner, it seemed, just loved old baseball cards for pure enjoyment and had stopped collecting before card holders, grading, price guide magazines and everything else we know as the modern hobby.
“I’m going to guess they probably stopped a while ago,” Goldin surmised. “There isn’t a single card from the 1970s on. They weren’t looking for resale value down the road.”
The original owner, it seems, had passed away not long ago and after family members located the card collection, they set out to find a potential outlet to sell them. One of them had a connection at Goldin and they decided to drive to Atlantic City.
Ken Goldin wasn’t at the booth when the family arrived and says other than a quick glimpse, he didn’t see the extraordinary nature of it until he was going through it live in front of an audience.
“Mind blowing. Not since I started Goldin had I ever come across something like that, just so completely and totally unexpected.”
A few decades ago, when baseball card dealers would put a want ad in the local newspaper and set up camp at a local hotel, it wasn’t unheard of for someone to bring in a box of really old cards. Other times, lucky show dealers would fight for a chance to buy a “walk in” collection. It brought Goldin back to his days as a teenage card hustler back in the late 1970s when someone walked in with 900 T206s, all with the rare Polar Bear backs. He bought those for a buck apiece. It was his biggest and best find from the iconic card set.
“It’s the largest aggregation of cards from that era from one collector that I’ve ever seen in my life and that goes back to the Philadelphia show from 1979 to 1982 and used to see (former dealer) Lew Lipset there with stacks and stacks of T206s at his table. He didn’t have this many.”
The condition of the cards is a mixed bag.
“There are going to be 1s and hopefully a lot of 4s and 5s,” Goldin relayed. “It doesn’t look like there are going be any 6s in there.”
But he doesn’t know yet. There are too many to go through. His inventory team will do that in the coming days. He had quickly discovered some rare Old Mill backs in that brief foray through the boxes on Saturday. It seems almost inevitable that there will be more surprises. When the original owner was collecting, the T206 Doyle error—now considered one of the set’s “Big Four” cards—wasn’t even known to exist.
“The good thing is that we have a lot of staff at Goldin now. We have over 100 people. We’re going to go through every single solitary card and figure out what the disposition is. Do we want to take the best of every single different card and try to put a complete set together? We’re going to figure out what’ll work best but my goal is to get some of the better cards done quickly.”
That’s because the company has two auctions coming up including its first ever vintage only sale in September.
All of the cards are going to be placed into future auctions so those hidden gems and higher grades can be culled from the collection and put on the open market in front of bidders who will establish the market value of it all.
The identity of the family that inherited the cards and has consigned them is being kept quiet, at least for now.
“We’re going to do what we think is going to bring the highest dollar value and sell it in a way that gets our consignor the most money,” Goldin promised.
Some collectors might be thinking about the potential impact so many cards could have on the market as a whole, but Goldin says the population of many of the sets in the find is big enough to easily absorb them, especially considering the number of collectors who are actively chasing T206 cards or have an interest in owning a few.
“It’s not going to be like a Black Swamp Find (of Cobb Tobacco backs) or Lucky 7 Find (E98) where these are cards no one knew about and all of a sudden the market is flooded with them. These won’t even add one percent to the existing T206 population.”
Goldin sells thousands of items including multiple six-and seven-figure modern cards and pieces of memorabilia every month but handling a collection that appears to have emerged from a cardboard time warp is the reason its founder got into the game.
“This is the kind of stuff that we live for. It just shows you that there are still collections out there and who knows what someone is going to turn up some day.”
-See T206 cards on eBay here