My buddy Brian brought this story to my attention. As he guessed, this was right up my alley. A gentleman in Defiance, OH was going through his grandfather’s attic and found a box full of baseball cards from 1910. There were 700 in total and they all seem to be from the 1910 E98 set. No one knows exactly who manufactured the set, but the Kessler family (who found the cards) thinks they were given to their grandfather. He ran a meat market and they believe he received them as a promotional gift from a candy company who distributed caramels.
It’s incredibly rare to find old baseball cards in an attic these days. People in my generation grew up during the peak of baseball card hype in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time period every kid in the country was searching his grandparents’ houses for old baseball cards. So, to have some still laying around and untouched for years is quite noteworthy. But the real surprise about these cards is their condition. Take a look at the pictures that accompany the article. These cards were made in 1910!!! They were put into a box and left in attic for over 100 years and they look absolutely brand new. I’ve gotten cards from a brand new pack recently that were not in as good as condition as the Honus Wagner that PSA graded a mint 10. Incredibly, they found 16 Ty Cobbs in the box that graded an astonishing 9. The corners are sharp, the pictures are clear, the colors are vibrant. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing as I read the article. These cards are truly amazing and the family who found them really did step right into a gold mine.
One other thing to discuss is the trading card market. The reason these older cards are valuable is two-fold. First, they depict, in some cases, players who are legends of baseball. Many of them Hall of Famers from a bygone era. That drives up the price. But probably more importantly they are rare, and particularly rare in good condition. The main reason the Honus Wagner T-206 tobacco card sells for so much money is because of its scarcity and its condition. One copy of the Wagner card recently sold for $2.8million and that’s largely because there are only about 60-200 known to have ever existed and only about 50-100 of those are speculated to still be around. It’s the same with these E98 cards. Their value is largely driven by their scarcity. But now, with this incredible find, they are adding 700 new cards from that set to the market. So, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the prices of the E98 set overall and in the long-term. I’m guessing that initially, especially given the amazing condition these cards are in, the prices will be considerable. The people who have been collecting the E98 set will be looking for copies of cards they already have, but in better condition, and the competition for those will drive up prices. But also expect to see the prices of the lesser conditioned cards to drop, particularly those that have already been out there on the market or in private collections. Now that there are multiple copies of E98s in better condition about to hit the market, it wouldn’t surprise me to see cards in worse condition lose some of their value. But, who knows. I’ve been surprised by the sports card market before.