To say it was a big year for the hobby would be somewhat of an understatement. Not only did 2016 see the soaring prices of vintage baseball cards; a number of notable card finds made headlines and again instilled that child-like hope in all of us — you know, that hope of sorting through long-lost belongings and uncovering a treasure, but in trading card form?
In no particular order, here are the three biggest card finds of 2016.
What’s in the Box … The Cracker Jack Box?
Ever heard of Cracker Jacks, the delicious, caramel-coated popcorn morsels that continue to send children’s sugar levels through the roof, and once contained a surprise in every box? In 1914 to 1915, that surprise was baseball cards, and one man, the late “Uncle Ollie” of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, must’ve loved caramel coated treats, or cards, or both. His steadfast determination to uncover and save every Cracker Jack card that came his way amounted in one of the most important card finds in history, let alone 2016.
After Ollie’s death in 2002, his belongings were bequeathed to his three siblings, his two nephews and a niece — all of them unaware that his treasure trove of Cracker Jack cards quietly resided in an innocuous box, scattered amongst his possessions.
The box remained unopened until this past summer, when one of his brothers found the box within an assortment of family documents. Upon opening the box, the brother discovered Uncle Ollie’s stash of century-old cards, all 171 of them, amounting to one of, if not the, most substantial finds in the history of the hobby.
Among the highlights of the find were a Christy Mathewson, a Joe Jackson and a Jack Del Pratt — a card considered to be as rare as the Ty Cobb tobacco cards (more on those later). The three aforementioned cards are expected to each fetch over $50,000.
A Collection of Biblical Proportions
For many, collecting is a lifelong passion, which can potentially amount to a vast amount of collectibles. But “vast” tends to be a subjective term; one collector’s massive collection can incur scoffs from the next.
Not in this case.
Charlie Young, a 67-year-old Texas native who passed away in 2007, possessed a truly massive collection of baseball cards — totaling the hundreds of thousands, some of which are hockey cards. The collection is so vast—an empathic “vast” — it includes a majority of sets from mainstream manufacturers dating from 1948 to 2007. (Yes, he was still collecting up to his untimely death.)
These cards may still be residing in the Young’s home, if it weren’t for collecting providence. By happenstance, Young’s wife shared a Bible group with the wife of a notable collector, and the two would discuss the hobby their husbands shared.
After grasping the potential scope of Young’s collection, the prominent collector would call in a tip to a New Jersey-based hobby auction house, Love of the Game Auctions, who eventually handled the sale of the monumental collection, which is estimated to fetch amounts in the six-figure range.
Though the mammoth set contains a substantial amount of cards, which will take time to sort through, the most valuable card so far is the iconic 1952 Topps Mickey mantle.
7 Incredibly Rare Cards, 1 Paper Bag
There seems to be a theme with these card finds: a fortune’s worth of cards is discovered upon the passing of a late collector. The same can be said of the “Lucky 7” find, but unlike the previous two finds — which totaled in 171 cards and “thousands of cards,” respectively — the Lucky 7 find entailed, well, seven cards. But it wasn’t the number of cards that was incredible; it was the card in question that was uncovered, seven examples of the exact same and extremely coveted card: the 1909-11 T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back.
Only 15 examples of the card were believed to exist. Then the Lucky 7 find happened.
According to the movie-like story, a family in a rural southern town discovered the cards after sorting through the belongings of their late great grandparents. The most unbelievable part of the story? The cards just as easily could’ve been cast away as trash, as they were found within the bottom of a torn brown paper bag on the floor, lying face down.
Seven cards may not sound like much to the uninitiated, but the discovery of seven 1909-11 T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb backs, arguably the card of the hobby, is astounding. The multi-million dollar price tag of the seven cards further cements the landmark nature of the find.