They found them in an ancient women’s apparel box beneath a dollhouse and a stack of children’s schoolwork, covered in decades of dust and forgetting.
Pretty memorable evening, then, for Karl Kissner and Karla Hench’s big find.
In three lots labeled the Black Swamp Find – named for one of the natural features around Defiance, Ohio, where Kissner and Hench stumbled in February on 700 stunningly preserved 1910 series E98 baseball cards – bidders gave $473,750 for the best of the collection at the Vintage Sports Collectibles Platinum Night Signature Auction on Thursday in Baltimore. Thirty-eight family members traveled there to watch it happen.
Individually, the 1910 E98 “Set of 30” Baseball Near-Set lot went for $240,000, $160,000 under the estimated minimum. The 1910 E98 “Set of 30” Honus Wagner – graded as “gem mint” – fetched exactly the estimated minimum of $200,000, and the 1910 E98 “Set of 30” Color Variations went for $33,750, almost $9,000 more than the estimated minimum of $25,000.
It was a glitzy end to an odyssey that began far more humbly on Leap Day in February, when Kissner and Hench were picking through years of family keepsakes in the attic of the Perry Street home bought in 1910 by their grandfather, Carl Hench. When Hench died in the 1940s, the property eventually passed to their aunt, Jean, who left the home the family when she died last October.
Back by the window, behind old steamer trunks and dressers still filled with neatly folded clothes, Hench uncovered a green box with metal clips, originally designed to hold women’s nightclothes. She flipped it open, and there were the cards.
Kissner and Hench figure they originally belonged to their grandfather, and were squirreled away and forgotten.
“It’s a real, real heavy cardboard box with metal ribbing that holds the corners together, so it never fell apart in the heat,” Kissner recalled last month. “So it preserved the cards perfectly.”
Eventually, Kissner was told the entire collection could bring as much as $2.8 million. And the cards auctioned off Thursday, Kissner was told, could bring as much as $500,000.
They brought just $26,250 less than that – far more than their discoverers initially could have dreamed.
“We’re looking at them, and they’re weird,” Kissner said last month of the moment of discovery. “They’re smaller and there’s no stats on them, no manufacturers … We said, ‘Ah, too bad they’re not Topps.’ Little did I know.”