Amid the usual newspapers and documents buried for 50 years was a little slice of a kid’s life—still in good shape.
Opening a decades-old time capsule sounds like an exciting concept but more often than not what’s inside is not exactly cause for awe on the part of those who take that brief step into history. Despite the well meaning intentions of history-minded people, newpapers, a coin or two and maybe a photo are usually what’s inside and many times they’ve taken a beating if the capsule isn’t properly sealed.
But not always.
College officials and students at Western Washington University recently dug out a 12x8x3″ copper box that was placed next to a commemorative stone inside the walls of the school’s student union in June of 1959. Tucked amid the usual black and white pieces of pre-space age life was a well preserved 1959 Topps Willie Mays baseball card.
The little boy who contributed that small piece of his freshly minted card collection isn’t lost to history. In fact, Jeff Goltz remembers the day quite well. He was the nine year-old son of the man who had moved his family from Minnesota to Washington to run the new union.
“I remember the night before the dedication ceremony my dad was putting papers and things into the box and I was talking with him about it,” Goltz recalled to Sports Collectors Daily. “He told me ‘if you want to put something in there, you can’. Knowing what’s happened to the value of old baseball cards, I wish I’d taken out a card of a backup infielder or something.”
It turns out, Goltz may have been encouraged to include a player future generations might remember. Barney Goltz included a letter with the items in the capsule in which he referenced his young son’s contribution. “I have asked my nine year-old son Jeffrey to place something in the box he was willing to sacrifice. After some reluctance he has contributed a baseball card of one of his favorite players,” the letter reads.
Jeff Goltz grew up to become an attorney and currently serves as chairman of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. The Mays card was part of a big collection he maintained as a kid. In fact, he still has most of his old cards.
“Some friends of our family back in Minnesota owned a five and dime store and each year when the new cards would come out, they would save a box for me,” he said. That practice continued even as the family moved west. Goltz collected cards from 1956 through the early 1960s and despite selling off a few on consignment to a local card shop in the early 1990s, he still has the bulk of the collection that surrendered the Mays card for history’s sake. Goltz used the proceeds from those he did sell to help finance annual trips to spring training with his father, who passed away last year.
The university says it plans to bury a new time capsule somewhere on campus, possibly with the contents from the older one inside of it as a bonus to those who open it in 2059.
While it might be fun to reunite with his old ’59 Topps Mays, Goltz doesn’t plan to ask for it back. “What’s it worth now? Enough to start a scholarship endowment?,” he asked with a chuckle. “The university can do what they want to help their budget. And besides, I have another one.”