The first offerings from “The Black Swamp Find” of 1910 E98 baseball cards – the best near “Set of 30” ever found (realized: $286,800), the finest known Honus Wagner card of its kind (realized: $239,000) and the color variations set (realized: $40,332) – brought $566,132 combined on Aug. 2 as part of Heritage Auctions Platinum Night Sports auction at Camden Yards. All prices include Buyer’s Premium.
The “Black Swamp Find,” a complete treasure trove of more than 700 well-preserved, century-old baseball cards – discovered in the attic of a Defiance, Ohio house earlier this year by cousins Karla Kissner and Karla Hench – has captured the attention of the world this summer, and with good reason.
“These cards could have landed in the trash with other items being tossed out by the family after the final relative living there passed away,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “Now it’s valued at several million dollars and is widely considered the most significant find of vintage baseball cards ever. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than making a find like this.”
The cards are all from a rare series known by collectors as “E98s” that were issued around 1910. The “Black Swamp” cards were acquired at the time for promotional purposes by Carl Hench, a German immigrant who owned Hench’s Meat Market & Sausage Works in Defiance, which eventually became Chief Supermarket. His heirs were cleaning their late grandfather’s house when they found the cards in a box under an old doll house in the attic. “It might as well have been filled with gold,” said Ivy, “which it was: Cardboard gold.”
When they discovered them in the attic, Karla and Karl didn’t know if the cards were genuine because they are smaller in size than modern cards and did not have players’ statistics printed on the backs. Fortunately, they decided to keep them and started doing research about the cards. Now the 20 heirs will share the proceeds from sales of the cards, which will be ongoing by Heritage Auctions.