About 10 to 15 years ago, a woman was helping clean out a house after her relative had passed way.
The woman was given a box of items that were children orientated: paper dolls, books and some toys. There was also a regular sandwich-sized bag filled what she thought were old advertisements because of their small size. She thought nothing of it.
In mid-October this year, the woman, “Sue,” stumbled upon the old baggie with the “advertisement” cards. As a mixed media artist, Sue incorporates items into her art. She had hung on to the baggie to possibly use the images in a painting. She had planned to glue them onto a canvas.
One day, Sue was talking with a family friend. He’s a sports fan, so she thought he would get a kick out of the cards. She’d never showed them to anyone before and went to her studio to pull them out.
“When my friend saw them, he flipped out,” said Sue, who lives in south Florida and wishes anonymity. “He started looking at them and going through them and he came across Babe Ruth and some of the other famous ones – which I don’t even know, but I do know Babe Ruth. He really got excited and said, ‘I think this is something.’ He looked them up, and we were like amazed.”
What Sue had was 178 baseball cards that are over a century old. The cards are from the 1916 M101-4 Sporting News set, which featured 200 cards. The latest big find in the hobby has since been dubbed the “Baggie Find.”
“Honestly, I looked at them and I never have guessed those were original baseball cards,” Sue told Sports Collectors Digest. “We’re not sports people.”
With the suggestion from her friend to reach out to some auction houses, Sue called around and left a voicemail for Derek Grady, the vice president at Heritage Auctions. Grady quickly called Sue back on a Friday in October, and looked at photos of the Ruth and a Shoeless Joe Jackson, among others, she sent him. He flew to Florida three days later and met with Sue, her husband and her family friend.
“She had the cards laid out and I went through them,” Grady said. “She had the stars in one area and the rest of them in stacks. The first 40 cards were blank backs and the rest of them were Sporting News backs.”
Grady was impressed by the find. He was most astonished by how good a shape they were still in after 104 years and how they were stored.
“Half of them were ex to ex-mint, and I was just blown away by the condition,” Grady said. “She showed me she had stored them in a baggie. And I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ Sometimes people find the cards and put them in card savers or top loaders or boxes. She literally had them in a baggie.”
Grady picked out 24 cards to get graded and sent them off to SGC. The Ruth rookie came back a 4 (VG-EX) and the Jackson a 5 (EX). Most of the cards earned mid- to low-range grades. However, a Frank “Home Run” Baker and Zach Wheat both were 7s, which are the highest-graded examples of each card by SGC.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Sue said. “I watch ‘Antique Roadshow’ all the time and I do like antiques. So, you just always think, ‘Oh, maybe someday this will be worth something.’ But I never thought it would be baseball cards in my life that would be worth it. It’s fun to wake up every day and have this to look forward to.”
All 178 of The Sporting News cards will be featured in Heritage Auctions’ Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction on Dec. 10-13. The cards are separated in three lots: one for the Ruth rookie; one for the Jackson; and the third lot for the remaining 176 cards, which includes the likes of Ty Cobb (graded SCG 2), Honus Wagner (SGC 4), Walter Johnson (SGC 5), Nap Lajoie (SGC 4), Grover Alexander (SGC 6) and George Sisler (SGC 3). That large lot is estimated to get $25,000.
The Ruth, which Grady said is an extremely nice 4 that could have garnered a 5 holder, is estimated to sell for $200,000.
“We try and be conservative on our estimates,” Grady said. “I think it’s going to go higher than that, because I think the card is potentially under-graded. It’s fresh to the hobby and it’s got nice eye appeal. With all that going for it and in a good market, yeah, I think it sells for over $200,000.”
In SGC’s population report, it has graded 15 Ruth M101-4 rookies and only five are graded higher than the 4 that Sue’s card received.
The Jackson card, which is estimated to fetch $10,000, has only been graded seven times by SGC, with only two other examples getting higher grades.
“We’re just so thrilled and can’t believe it. As I say, it’s a blessing,” Sue said. “We never would have expected this. It’s like you want to hit the lottery. One time I won $500 in all these years. This is better than the lottery.”
J=K Candy Find
Another great find that will be featured in Heritage Auctions’ upcoming auction are 21 cards from the 1912 J=K Candy set (J=K stands for J. Koenigsberg). Every card is in a lot of its own.
According to Heritage Auctions consignment director and vintage card expert Peter Calderon, there are nine uncatalogued cards that were found and will be sold. They are: Ty Cobb (Type 2); Eddie Collins – he was known as a Type 1 – this is a Type 2; Zach Wheat (Type 1); Mordecai Brown (Type 1); Thomas Needham (Type 2); Frank Schulte (Type 2); Ginger Beaumont (Type 1); Chick Lathers (Type 1) – his only other card is his M116 Sporting Life; and Eddie Cicotte (Type 2).
J=K Candy is a unique set. The cards are cut out from opposing panels of the box, noted Calderon. The boxes included “candy and jewelry.”
They come in two types: Type 1 cards are black and white with a black frame and Type 2 are black and orange and have heads extended.
“For the vintage card collector, this is an incredible collection,” Calderon said. “As a collector myself, I just love these finds and this one is the perfect combination of rarity and familiarity. The set is incredibly rare overall, but you have guys like Cobb, Mathewson, Lajoie, Collins, Mordecai Brown – all names every vintage collector will recognize. This set wasn’t even identified until a partial box was found revealing who produced them. The box advertised 100 subjects, but only 43 names were known before this collection. This collection consisted of 21 cards, which is amazing in and of itself.”
Discovering a Cobb card that previously wasn’t known to be in the J=K Candy set is huge to the hobby. These days where one-of-one cards of modern players are pulling in big money, finding the first Cobb in a set is almost unheard of.
“Cobb collectors have a new Cobb to add to their collection,” Calderon said. “Finding this card is like finding out after 50 years Babe Ruth was the 30th R306 Butter Cream card. Plus, the (Cobb) image is his iconic Carl Horner portrait.”
Out of the 21 cards, the highest grade is an SGC 3 for Harry Steinfeldt. The Cobb is graded a 1 and is estimated at $20,000. Christy Mathewson is a 1 with an estimate at $8,000 and Nap Lajoie is a 1.5, estimated at $6,000.
An auction for everyone
Heritage Auctions’ Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction features 3,784 lots. It’s chock-full of eye-popping items.
“It’s one of the best auction’s we’ve ever had, just because of the depth and breadth of it,” Grady said. “Game-used bats, game-used jerseys. We have a Bobby Orr photo-matched jersey and a Jimmie Foxx game-used bat from the Jimmie Foxx Collection, graded a 9.5.”
There are some massive pieces up for sale in this auction, starting with a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky PSA 10. With a population of two, it’s estimated at $1 million. There is also a 1979 Topps Gretzky PSA 10 at $400,000. A 2013-14 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo 1/1 BGS 9.5 and autograph 10 is looking to fetch $750,000. With Michael Jordan cards being on fire during the pandemic, the 1997 Metal Universe Precious Gems Green, numbered 9/10, is one of the best MJ cards around. Graded PSA Authentic, which is because it measured factory small and is supposedly not trimmed, it is estimated at $500,000.
The vintage wax selection in this auction is unbelievable, noted Grady. There is a box of 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee hockey estimated at $100,000. There are also boxes of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball, 1970 Topps Basketball and 1968 and ’71 Topps Football – all wrapped by the Baseball Card Exchange.
“The market’s hot and people came through in droves with consignments,” Grady said. “I took in a little 19th Century find also with a four-base hits card, some G&B’s (1888 E223 G&B Chewing Gum).”
There was also a new Lou Gehrig rookie discovered. It is a 1925 Exhibits graded SGC VG-3, which is estimated at $50,000.
There are Mike Schmidt and George Brett rookie cards in PSA 10s. Both are estimated to garner $40,000.
“This auction is estimated to be the biggest ever for Heritage Sports,” Calderon said. “I hope there is something for everyone.”
To check out the auction, go to sports.ha.com.