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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2012

COMMENTARY

Treasure hunt turns up raw deals

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

My wife and I have antiqued for years, since long before we became antiques ourselves, pretty much everywhere east of the Big Muddy. Whether trolling a classy collectibles mall or a grubby, dirt-floored barn full of junk, I always had a dream.

We would grab a pretty old picture frame and upon returning to Toledo, I'd take it apart and find hidden behind some awful landscape the missing copy of the Magna Charta or a love letter from George to Martha from Valley Forge or maybe Abe's hand-written first draft of the Gettysburg Address.

And the Smithsonian would cut us a check, and we'd be rich beyond all imagination.

It almost happened. Years ago, I tore apart an old frame, and trapped between layers of rotted matting was a yellowed, brittle page folded in half. My heart pounding, I carefully opened it to find a recipe for barley-lentil soup. At least it was old, if worthless. Sue made the soup, and it was fairly inedible, just to add insult to injury.

Anyway, it's one of the reasons I'm so jealous of Karl Kissner and his many cousins who will share in one of the great and unexpected hauls of all time. More than 100 years after his grandfather stashed a box of baseball cards in the attic of his house in nearby Defiance, Kissner and Company could cash in to the tune of $3 million.

Granted, this wasn't your typical box of bubble gum cards. There were no Rico Petrocelli rookie cards scattered about. It was a bunch of old dudes -- Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Ty Cobb and the like, some 700 cards. They were part of a rare set, mint condition, virtually untouched by human hands and undamaged.

Good for them. And bad for my dearly departed mother, as I am again reminded of a sad-but-true story. (I know just how much y'all enjoy these little yarns.)

Anyway, in late 1977 I reported for work at The Blade after a few years at the morning paper in Richmond. Sue stayed in Virginia to finish her teaching contract and sell our house, and because my mom was on her winter sojourn to Florida I temporarily moved back into my old bedroom in the old house.

What prompted me to open the attic door and go in search of my baseball card collection I have not a clue. But search I did … and search and search.

About mid-March, after the blizzard to end all Toledo blizzards, my mom resurfaced and I asked where she might have moved my baseball cards.

"The cards in all those old shoe boxes?" she asked. "Well, you're 25 years old. I figured you were through with them. I moved them into a garbage can."

Man, did I scream. I told her those cards were worth hundreds, thousands of dollars. Every baseball card made between about 1958 and 1970, most in full sets, were in those boxes, plus older ones that I'd traded for and bought. There weren't any Honuses in there, for sure, but that Roberto Clemente rookie card was mint, and Al Kaline had signed one of his, and even Charlie "Paw Paw" Maxwell had to be worth something. Willie Mays … Mickey Mantle … Stan The Man … it's too painful even to this day to go on.

My mother, who was something of a trip, plopped another olive into the bottom of her glass, smiled and said, "Get over it."

I almost was, but then I heard about Carl Hench's stash in Defiance and what it was going to mean to his many grandkids. And now I'm back in mourning over the thought of all my precious cards long-ago decomposed at the bottom of a landfill.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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