Baseball cards found unopened in attic may sell for $1 million at auction

A Tennessee man made the ultimate baseball-card find recently in his aunt’s attic — hundreds of packs of unopened and forgotten about cards from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Very soon, they could sell for more than $1 million.

This is the dream, right? It’s what most people wished for when the baseball-card boom hit in the late ’80s. People from that era are instead left with overproduced cards that are mostly worthless. But this find, this is the ultimate discovery.

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The man who found the cards hasn’t been identified publicly, but we know his story thanks to a Forbes article: He found the cards in his aunt’s attic after his uncle passed away. His uncle owned a sweets company that had produced cards in the 1960s for TV shows. At some point, the family believes, he bought the sports cards for research and development.

There were boxes of 1959 Fleer Ted Williams, Topps and Fleer football cards from the early 1960s and 1961 Fleer basketball cards, but nothing compared to the crown jewel of the find — a box of 1948 Bowman baseball cards with 19 of the 24 packs unopened. No one in the hobby has seen anything like it. The cards, which were stashed away in an old Stroh’s beer box, are now being called “The Beer Box Find.”

The unopened 1948 Bowman baseball cards found recently by a Tennessee man. (Mile High Card Co.)

The 1948 Bowmans were the first mainstream set to launch after World War II shut down the production of sports cards. It was the first Bowman set and it featured the rookie cards of Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Warren Spahn and Red Schoendienst. The cards so valuable today that a beat-up wrapper of one pack is on sale for $3,999.99 on eBay.

An unopened box? Why that could fetch $500,000 on its own, according to Brian Drent of Mile High Card Company, an auction house that specializes in rare sports cards and is hosting the auction. With 10 days left in the 15-day sale, the Bowman box alone is already at $171,000.

“if you’re a collector with a flair for something unique, something the sports card community only hoped existed in theory, this is quite literally your once in a lifetime opportunity,” the auction description says.

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The Bowman find came with one opened pack that shows what could be hiding in those 19 other unopened packs. Here’s more from David Seideman of Forbes:

The opened pack provides the first taste of excitement. Drent learned why the packs were extra thick: Each came with three large slabs of bubble gum rather than the standard one. Presumably, Bowman was trying to hook its young customers on sugar rushes. Underneath the wrapper were one rookie Spahn, a and two Rizzutos. (The other two cards were duplicates of Giants catcher Walker Cooper.)

The cardboard gods must be smiling on the Beer Box Find. Rizzuto is one of the rare and, thus, more valuable short prints created when 12 of the cards “were removed from the normal 36-card printing sheet to accommodate high-numbered cards (#s 37-48),” according to PSA. In 2015 a mint Rizzuto fetched $4100 in an auction.

Vintage, unopened material beckons well-heeled collectors like a locked treasure chest on the ocean floor. “It’s in the state of absolute perfection and the unknown,” Drent told me. “And the complete rarity of the packs. Why didn’t they ever get opened? How is that possible after 70, make that 69, years?”

It all makes for a good question: What would you do? Would you open the cards and see what jewels might be waiting? Or keep them unopened as the lone relic of a different generation of baseball cards?

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!