Family Discovers Ty Cobb Baseball Cards Worth an Estimated $1 Million


Trash turned to treasure recently for a family who discovered seven Ty Cobb baseball cards inside a torn paper bag.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the cards—estimated to be worth more than $1 million—were among the belongings of a deceased great-grandfather. The family, who wish to remain anonymous, were cleaning out the dilapidated home somewhere in the South when they discovered the memorabilia.

"The family did not know much about baseball cards, but they did recognize the name 'Ty Cobb' which gave them some hope that the cards might actually have some value,” wrote president of Professional Sports Authenticator, Joe Orlando. The California-based expert determined the cards were the real deal, after an initial appraisal was inconclusive.

The collector’s items were a surprise to the family who, as Orlando writes, don’t know if their great-grandfather ever collected baseball cards. He did, however, purchase tobacco for hand-rolled cigarettes and pipe smoking, which may be how he acquired the cards. The T206 series of cards was produced by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911.

Prior to this discovery, only 15 “T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back” cards were known to still exist. The reverse side of the cards contain the message: “Ty Cobb: King of the Smoking Tobacco World.”

The Hall of Famer spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers, and his legendary status combined with the cards' limited edition release means that they are very rare—and very valuable. Orlando writes that in the past they’ve sold for over $150,000.

The cards are far from pristine (they were given a 3.5 to 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being mint condition), but that’s not bad for being over a century old.

Aside from their historical significance and thrilling payday, the so-called “Lucky Seven” cards have garnered attention for being a much-needed boost to card collecting, a pastime that’s seen a decline in recent years.

“I am not sure if any other baseball card find is more remarkable than this new discovery,” Orlando said in a statement. “This is one of the greatest discoveries in the history of our hobby."

Orlando expanded on that sentiment on the Professional Sports Authenticator website, writing: “Even though we live in the information age, the Internet age, undiscovered treasure is still buried out there. There is no question that these types of finds are few and far between. They are becoming more and more uncommon as time goes on, but until every attic is searched and every old box or bag examined, these finds represent the hope that all collectors dream about.”

Images from the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain.

[h/t The Los Angeles Times]