In the Orioles Banquet Room overlooking Camden Yards on Thursday night, $566,132 was exchanged for 37 baseball cards that a family almost threw out with the garbage in March.
The cards were part of the so-called “Black Swamp Find,” named after the area in Defiance, Ohio where the cards were found by the Hench family. The family was cleaning out the house of an aunt who had recently passed away when they got to the attic, full of relics from the turn of century. The hidden treasure of 1910 E-98 cards was found in a non-descript box underneath a dollhouse, but weren’t recognized as valuable because of how small they were in comparison to modern day cards.
Karla Hench, who found the box with another cousin, saved the cards from the dump twice, once in the initial discovery and once after another cousin thought they were worthless and tried to take them away. Luckily for the Hench family — who will split the earnings off the collection evenly amongst 20 cousins — they had the foresight to do a little research before discarding the set. They contacted Heritage Auctions in June, who hosted the event on Thursday, and found out that they had stumbled upon perhaps the most significant find of vintage baseball cards ever reported.
“Typically when someone calls and says they have some of these cards, they were packaged with candy and are stained and in terrible condition,” Heritage Director of Sports auctions Chris Ivy said. “So when they sent us an example with 8 of them…those 8 cards would have been a find on their own. They were absolutely mint.”
Over 700 cards were found in the collection, but the 37 cards auctioned off Thursday were just the cream of the crop, split up into three lots. The rest of the cards will be auctioned off slowly over the next couple years, according to Ivy.
The crown jewel on Thursday was the second lot, which consisted of only one card. That one card, though, is the only recorded PSA Gem Mint 10 — the highest grade a baseball card can receive — Honus Wagner card in existence, which fetched $239,000 alone.
The first lot was 27 cards from a 1910 E98 set of 30, the No. 1 ranked set on the PSA registry, which started at $100,000 and ended up being sold for $286,800. The third lot was 9 color variations from the 1910 E-98 set and went for $40,332.
All sales figures include a buyer's premium, which is factored into the auction price.
The entire collection could end up being worth $2-3 million as Heritage continues to release them over time.