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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2012


Batters in the attic

A family in Defiance has just one thing to say about relatives' junk-clogged attics: Thank goodness for hoarders.

Karl Kissner, 51, decided to research the value of baseball cards taken from the attic of the home that once belonged to his grandfather, Carl Hench. The cousin who found them had no idea of the value of the 700 perfectly preserved cards in the green cardboard box.

Mr. Kissner placed the find in a vault at a local bank until he could get a professional appraisal from a Dallas auction firm. Among the rare and pristine cards were several featuring Pittsburgh Pirates great Honus Wagner and the Detroit Tigers' Ty Cobb. The cards were part of a set that was considered rare even in 1908.

Mr. Hench, who ran a meat market in Defiance, stuck the cards in his attic after he lost interest in them. They sat undisturbed for a century, building value by the day.

The Honus Wagner card is considered the most valuable in the collection; one rare Wagner card in less-than-superb condition sold for $2.8 million in 2007. These cards are expected to fetch millions of dollars at auction. The 20 heirs to the family estate will split the profits.

It's impossible to read this tale without considering the pack rats in one's own life. Many people fantasize about finding rare cards, coins, stamps, or comic books in the attic, but it rarely happens.

Still, those who can't bear to toss out far less valuable stuff will feel a certain vindication. They shouldn't. The odds of finding riches in the attic are as long as those of winning the lottery.

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