When Karl Kissner’s aunt died in Defiance, Ohio in 2011, she had given her one-hundred-year-old family home to Karl and his cousins as an inheritance. The house’s exterior was in shambles and inside clutter filled the rooms as if it had never been cleaned in a century. However, the dilapidated house couldn’t stop Karl and Karla, another family member, from searching through it because his aunt had left him a note that they “would find things that (they) never knew existed.” (Fox TV Business Network, “Strange Inheritance”).
After cleaning out most of the interior, the attic was the last area Karl and Karla had to rummage through. But this attic was different from the rest of the house because it held most of the old family heirlooms and keys to potential family secrets. It was not until they had cleared some of the items heaped on top of one another up to the rafters that they uncovered a small, dust-covered box that lay against the back wall. When they opened it they discovered over 700 small pictures of some 30 famous baseball players from the early twentieth century tied in string. These pictures included such great player like Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Connie Mack, just to name a few. Among the giant horde, each player had roughly 12 to 16 more identical cards. Although Karl believed none of them were actual baseball cards since none resembled modern cards which include player’s stats, dates, and the name of the company who manufactured them. Karl set the collection aside until they finished going through the rest of the attic.
Karl’s aunt, Jeanne Hench was the daughter of Carl Hench who had migrated from Germany and lived the American dream as a successful meat marketer and shop owner. He died in the 1940’s and left most of his belongings in family house’s attic, including the mysterious box of strange cards in mint condition. Mr. Hench’s grandson believed he received the cards as promotional items from a candy store.
Later, Karl opened the box and examined each one. He went online and researched each of the 30 players represented in the collection. The more he searched, the more he imagined huge dollar signs flying into his bank account. Karl knew the next logical step was to get all 700 professionally authenticated. He called Peter Calderon, a baseball card expert in Dallas, Texas, and sent him samples from the collection.
After examining each card, Calderon almost hit the ceiling when he realized that the cards were extremely rare vintage originals in pristine condition. Each one was identified as a “E98” series of cards from 1910. Karl told him he had many more and sent them to Calderon.
Calderon immediately notified Karl that his cards were authentic and extremely valuable. After much jubilation, Calderon set them up with Heritage Auction in order to sell a fraction of the cards instead of the entire lot, because selling the 700 altogether would flood the old baseball cards collectors’ market, which could potentially reduce the values of the baseball card multimillion dollar industry. Over a period of time, the Heritage Auction House sold the partial lot for a total of over $1,800,000. The rest was distributed equally among twenty of Karl’s cousins to do with as they pleased. Needless to say, Karl and each of his cousins could easily retire by auctioning the rest of the cards, and that is what exactly they will do, but gradually so as not to harm the baseball card industry.
The rest of the collection has been estimated to sell for $3 million. The collection Karl discovered earned the name the “Black Swamp Find” to link the geographical and historical northwestern Ohio area to add notoriety to the vast collection of some of the oldest and rarest baseball card collection.