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Big Discoveries in the Attic: 100-Year-Old Baseball Cards & Whiskey Bottles

by Gregory Watkins (07/18/12).

Ty Cobb, Hans (Honus) Wagner and Connie Mack baseball cards—found, along with some 700 others from the same 1910 series—in an attic. They may have sat up there, for more than 100 years, waiting to be discovered. Their value? Maybe $3 million or more.

We have all heard the stories about someone climbing up into the attic, moving a couple of boxes around and, eureka!, there’s a pristine, priceless antique that, when sold, will bring in enough money to not only save the farm and pay for Uncle Ed’s operation, but send little Timmy’s and sister Suzy to Stanford, as well.

But really, how often does that happen. Well, last week, we learned, it happened twice.

First, in Defiance, Ohio, a man named Karl Kissner was digging around in the attic of his late grandfather’s house. He moved an old dollhouse and found underneath a soot-covered cardboard box. According to an Associated Press report:

“Taking a look inside, he saw hundreds of baseball cards bundled with twine. They were smaller than the ones he was used to seeing.

But some of the names were familiar: Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Cy Young and Honus Wagner.
Then he put the box on a dresser and went back to digging through the attic.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that he learned that his family had come across what experts say is one of the biggest, most exciting finds in the history of sports card collecting, a discovery worth perhaps millions.”

The cards, printed around 1910, are from a very rare series and have changed the parameters for what is considers a great find in the world of sports card collecting. Of the some 700 cards, 37 of them—the cream of the crop—will be auctioned off in August at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore and is expected to net Kissner and his family up to $500,000. The whole collection could be worth as much as $3 million.

A full bottle of Hellman’s Celebrated Old Crow whiskey, bottled in 1917, was discovered, along with a dozen other whiskey bottles, in the floorboards of a Missouri house.

Then came the story from St. Joseph, Mo., where Bryan Fite began pulling up some floorboards in his attic. His plan was to save some money and install central air-conditioning himself in his house, which was made in the 1850s. What he found under some of those boards were what first looked like card-board-insulated pipes. Instead, they turned out to a whiskey stash.

All of the whiskey in the bottles were distilled in 1912 and 1913 and bottled in 1917. The stash included bottles of Hellman’s Celebrated Old Crow whiskey, as well as Guckenheimer rye whiskey from Pennsylvania and some W.H. McBrayer Cedar Brook whiskey.

Fite says he even has an idea why the bottles were hidden in the attic. When he bought the house, he was given papers describing the history of the building. It turns out it once belonged to a man that was consigned to a sanitarium “for alcohol reasons.” This, Fite surmises, was the man’s emergency stash.

These bottles, from the pre-Prohibition era (Prohibition began in 1920) are highly collectible, and a rare whiskey from the 1930s recently sold for $100,000, but for now, Fite is going to hang on to the whiskey and in 1917, he may crack one open to toast the tipple’s 100th birthday.

We at WorthPoint love to hear these kinds of stories. It proves that there is still buried treasure out there to believe in, even though we outgrew our dreams of finding Blackbeard’s treasure long ago.

What’s in your attic? Do you know? There may be something up there they you know is there, but have no idea of its worth. That’s why we love watching television shows like “Antiques Roadshow” and “Storage Wars” and the like; we like seeing someone realizing that funky piece of bric-a-brac from Aunt Mildred’s mantel is really a bronze and ivory piece is worth $30,000.

So, if you find yourself on a rainy afternoon with a couple of hours and nothing to do, get a flashlight and go treasure hunting in your own attic. And be sure to let us know what you find.

Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.


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4 Responses to “Big Discoveries in the Attic: 100-Year-Old Baseball Cards & Whiskey Bottles”

  1. Cynthia Wall says:

    Gregory, I enjoy Worthpoint articles and would appreciate your guidance. We live in Merritt Island, Florida, approximately 45 miles from Orlando. We have a good number of my husband’s grandfather’s baseball cards. We are interested in having them reviewed to determine what our next step would be a valuation for sale. In the article above you mention an August auction for baseball memorabilia. Any referral would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hello Cynthia Wall,

      My name is Bill Chiste. I am an appraiser in the St. Louis Missouri area frequently travelling to other states performing appraisal work. I travel to Orlando a couple of times a year. One my specialties is sports collectibles. I am the appraiser for the St. Louis Cardinals Museum. If you would like, please contact me when it is convenient and we can discuss the collection. My office number is 636-532-2223. Please visit my website, the address is Simply web discussing the collection should tell us if it something that needs to be professionally appraised. This is of course free of charge. Regards, Bill Chiste

      • Cynthia Wall says:

        Bill, thank you for the quick response. We actually have a number of pieces that we might have you look at. I will be leaving today for a little over one week. When I return, I will photograph the pieces and mail them to you to give us a starting place. I will be sure to review your website while on our trip. Thank you, Cynthia

    • Gregory Watkins Gregory Watkins says:


      Here is the National Sports Collectors Convention website:

      I hope things work out for you and your husband.


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