Babe Ruth is in the attic. That’s what James Micioni, an avid collector of baseball cards and memorabilia, would tell his seven nephews and nieces, who always knew he was a collector but had no idea the extent of his collection until Uncle Jimmy passed away.
Uncle Jimmy, who never had kids and was never married, lived a modest life as a factory worker and high school janitor. He loved the Yankees, loved the Pope and loved Jackie Robinson. And he definitely loved baseball.
In March, Uncle Jimmy died at the age of 97. Two days later, five of the seven nephews and nieces, ranging in age from 49 to 69, nervously prepared to go into the attic.
“We always knew he had Babe Ruth and it was always in the attic, but we were never allowed in the attic,” nephew Peter Micioni, 59, told Sports Collectors Digest.
So first, the family started in the more familiar basement where boxes and boxes of baseball memorabilia were stored, and it was all baseball. “It was a like a mini museum down there,” Micioni said. The attic was even more impressive with 40 boxes of “buried treasure,” as described by some.
“That’s when we started to go through those boxes and then we realized we found Babe Ruth cards,” Micioni said. “In one binder, we found one or two. We opened up another binder and find one or two autographed. He always told us Babe Ruth was up in the attic autographed, but he never said he had six of them…We thought it was one.”
That’s right, six signed Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey cards. They were the highlight of more than 1,000 vintage cards found in remarkable condition. All told, Uncle Jimmy had an estimated 100,000 baseball cards.
“While the Ruth-signed Goudeys have received the most attention, the high quality non-signed cards are equally awesome, and his collection also included rare pennants, World Series programs, signed newspaper clippings, photos, regional sets, pins, and so much more,” said Chuck Whisman of Wheatland Auction Services, which will serve as the auction house for much of the collection (first auction runs June 14 to July 12).
“Personally, I like the insanely pack-fresh condition of the 1965 and 1967 Topps sets, but the 1948 Bowman and 1956 Topps sets are also nice.”
Professional Sports Authenticator, which did the authenticating and grading, called it “one of the finest private collections of baseball cards, autographs and photos ever to surface in the hobby.”
Micioni told SCD that Uncle Jimmy obtained the autographs through the mail. He’d send the cards and a nice letter asking for an autograph, along with a self-addressed envelope.
Amazingly, even more collectibles were discovered in two filing cabinets in the garage. Micioni opened them and found “binder after binder after binder.”
“That’s where we found a complete collection of the Goudey cards,” he said.
Only one of the signed Ruth cards will be in the first auction, along with Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx autographed Goudey cards. The family plans on “keeping a significant portion” of the collection, which NJ.com reported could be worth millions. Micioni quoted a price tag of a million dollars.
“What’s amazing is, he never did it for the money,” Micioni said of Uncle Jimmy. “He didn’t care. But later in life, it was very clear to us he knew he had stuff that nobody had and that he is part of the history of the game of baseball. He knew that. He knew he had a part of history in the game of baseball.”
Dave Strege is editor of SCD. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.