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Maryland couple finds rare baseball cards in attic

From time to time, valuable examples of being watchful when cleaning out undisturbed spaces, come to light. This is one of those stories.

By Bert Lehman, Editor of Sports Collectors Digest

*This article originally appeared in Sports Collectors Digest

While searching through an attic, a Maryland couple came across 73 T206 baseball cards. The cards date to the early 1900s that were arranged in an ornamental display.

The cards include 19 players who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. This includes two Ty Cobb cards. One features him with a bat on his shoulder and another being a portrait with a green background.
The discovery originally took place around 1995.

Discoveries In An Attic

73-card display of T206 baseball cards

The 73-card display that was found in an attic in Maryland features T206 baseball cards, including two Ty Cobb cards. Photos courtesy the couple who found the cards

“We inherited my grandmother’s house which was originally built by my great grandfather,” said the husband of the couple that found the card display. The couple requested to not be identified.
He added, “He (great grandfather) sold it (house) to my grandfather, his youngest son, and my grandmother. He (grandfather) was probably about 12 years old when the house was built.”

After the couple inherited the house, the husband was cleaning the attic. Nobody had been up there in decades, he said.

“I was up there looking around a little bit and I saw small picture frames and started wiping them off,” he recalled. “I saw that one and my eyes just about jumped out of my head because I knew it was some sort of old baseball cards that I was never aware that were around. It was very difficult to get into the house’s attic. You had to have an 8-foot ladder to even get close to it. So nobody went up there unless there was some sort of crazy problem.”

Determining Age

After removing the card display from the attic, he called his dad, who lived next door.

“He came over and looked at it and he was all excited because he was born in 1922,” the husband said. “He immediately saw (the cards of) Tinker to Evers to Chance double play combination that he had remembered hearing on the radio when he was a kid. Baseball was one of his favorite sports.”

Despite being familiar with the names on the cards, the husband’s dad said he never saw the cards before.

“Which was amazing in itself because he lived next door to that house since 1954, roughly,” the husband said.

The husband-and-wife couple cleaned the card display somewhat, as the house was heated with coal and coal dust had gathered on the display.

“It was glass up, so that’s why we are figuring that kind of saved it a little bit because if it had been the wood side up, the paper would have gotten wet and damaged all of them,” the wife said.
The couple think the cards in the display were originally the husband’s grandfather’s cards.

Memorabilia of Meaning

“That’s what we’re figuring right now because he would have been about 12 years old when they first

Christy Mathewson baseball card

Close-up view of the display with handwritten notes about the teams in the National League, with the card of New York Giants Christy Mathewson at the center.

moved into that house,” the husband said. “He was born in 1900 and the house was built in 1912. We’re figuring my great grandfather smoked cigarettes, we’re pretty sure of that. He got them (baseball cards) off of his cigarette packs and then gave them to his youngest son and he made this thing up and put it in the frame.”

The frame is described as ornamental, and the display still has some coal dust on it.

“We didn’t want to do anything that would damage it for somebody who did want to preserve it in some way,” the wife said.

They think the cards are glued to the paper that is inside the display. However, since they have yet to open the display, they are not 100 percent sure of that. The paper inside the display also has handwriting on it.

Other than taking the card display to a “Whatsit” day at the local historical society, it has been stored in a basement for most of the time since being rescued from the attic.

The couple would like to change that.

“We would like to find somebody who is interested in it. Not as just a monetary gain, but somebody who is interested in the collection of them,” the wife said. “We don’t have children so we’re not going to have anybody to pass them down to. But we’re the type of people where we want somebody to enjoy it.”

Editor's Recommendation: Sports Collectors Digest 

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