The hobby hit mainstream press over the summer with the now-famous Ohio "Black Swamp Find" – a mother lode of pristine E98 cards of guys with names like Cobb, Wagner, and Cy Young that's now being doled out via auctions.
As for our own attics, real and metaphorical, we'd settle for less. Maybe a cardboard bookmark in some ancient text, or a stray discovery in a flea market bin – any forgotten beauty, really, that we could rescue from obscurity.
Few, if any of us, will match a find anywhere in this universe. But the reality is, we all have undiscovered treasures in our own collections, at varying price points, just waiting for their own little discoveries.
So here's an inspirational tale of two finds, from opposite poles of the collectibles market, based on journeys through my own collection.
I should note that I’ve been consistently collecting since I was 7. Most of my collection is cards, but I also have scattered autographs and memorabilia. I am 35 now, and while I've strayed from collecting at times, I never let my collection fall into too much disrepair.
About two years ago, my family stumbled upon a pile of random Yankees items we acquired at some point. I don't remember where. Maybe they came from a flea market, maybe from a local show, or maybe someone gave us a bunch of old ticket stubs and programs.
In any event, they sat in a pile, ignored, for maybe 20 years. But one stub stood out. It was on a brighter paper stock and it said something intriguing in bold red lettering, "OPENING DAY."
Opening Day, 1951, to be exact. Now, Yankee fans' ears perk up around that year. It was the height of the dynasty, the third year of a never-matched five straight World Series titles. It was also the one only year that the careers of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle overlapped.
I Googled the game – April 17, 1951 – and the fun began. They played Ted Williams and the Red Sox. The Yankees won.
They unfurled a championship banner that day. Whitey Ford, newly enlisted to serve in Korea, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Phil Rizzuto got his MVP award before the game. Bob Sheppard introduced the Yankee lineup for the first time in what would be a six-decade career.
About that lineup – Mickey Mantle made his Major League debut. He and DiMaggio took the field together for the only Opening Day they'd ever be on the roster at the same time. Mantle cracked his first hit and RBI, and scored his first run.
I started bringing the ticket around to shows, as a conversation piece and to show off. I sent it to PSA for authentication and encapsulation.
I had cash offers of as much as $2,500, but I decided to put it up for auction. Huggins & Scott put it on the auction cover. Watching those bids jump was more fun that I usually have online. It went for $6,000.
That's not a bad payday for something that was gathering dust in my collection. I'd say it isn't about the money, though of course the money is nice. Just as nice (really!) is the thought that another collector is featuring it is his collection now, a special item.
Not every find is like that, of course. So to the much lower end. I wound up with an enormous volume of Kirby Puckett items, mostly from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
I buy anything and everything Dale Murphy, and a dealer was unloading boxes filled with his mass-produced stars. For $20 I had a few hundred random Murphs – along with, since the boxes were collated in alphabetical order, more Paul Molitors, Pucketts, Hideo Nomos, and John Oleruds than most sane people could need.
I thumbed through them time to time, never thinking about the value. Just for kicks, one day my brother pulled out a Puckett Tetley Tea disc that hadn't been separated from the Don Mattingly it was connected to.
It turns out they have some small value. I put it on eBay, and a week later, it sold for $5 – a quarter of my purchase price for the whole box.
More importantly, I filled a hole in a Puckett (or Mattingly) collector's binder.
So go through your attic time to time. It's good for your bottom line, and good for the hobby.