Raccoons? Weren't those the same pesky varmints that Jed Clampett was shooting at in The Beverly Hillbillies when he missed and oil came up from the ground making him and his family millionaires?
Well, Rafael Torres, a 34 year old Jersey City, New Jersey resident, was recently trying to figure a way to rid his home of a family of raccoons that had apparently set up home in a crawl space in his apartment. During the process of investigating, his cell phone fell out of his pocket and disappeared into a small opening and slid behind a wall in his daughter's bedroom. So, not only were the raccoons still in his home, but now his phone was stuck behind the drywall. Annoyed by the raccoons and the thought of losing his phone, Mr. Torres eventually decided that the only way to access his phone was to cut a hole in the wall of his daughter's bedroom and try to retrieve the phone.
Immediately upon cutting a small hole in the wall, Rafael noticed a bunch of paper. Was it insulation? Was it scrap? Opening the hole a little larger and pulling on the paper, colored pieces of paper began coming out of the hole and falling onto the floor. Wall plaster, paper, raccoons and a lost phone . . . what a day!
Torres recalled, "When I cut the hole open immediately all this paper starts pouring out and I am like 'what is all this stuff?' so I grab a garbage can and I start shoveling all this stuff into the garbage, but then something caught the corner of my eye. It was a piece of paper that said Babe." There aren't too many people within the confines of the four hemispheres that haven't heard of Babe Ruth. And given that these pieces of paper looked old, Rafael thought there might be some value to them.
All-in-all, there were more than 250 vintage strip cards. The cards featured actors and actresses, presidents, boxers and baseball players. The strip cards, many issued by Decalco Litho Co. that was located in nearby Hoboken, were manufactured mostly in the early 1920's and this collection was primarily from 1920-1923. The cards were not in great condition. Many were badly water damaged, others so brittle that they literally crumbled upon being touched. Others were already in pieces when they came out of the hole in the wall. But even in bad condition, there were several that had value.
Among the collection were many Hall of Fame baseball players including Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Casey Stengel, George Sisler and Frank "Home Run" Baker. Boxers included Jack Dempsey and several other Hall of Famers. But the key to the collection was the total of 5 Babe Ruth cards.
One of the first thoughts was that this would be a financial windfall and that college educations would be paid for and a better life was on the horizon. When first reported, many online respondents played amateur appraiser and said the collection was worth tens or hundreds of thousands. Many suggested that the amount of money that would be life changing.
Upon closer examination and evaluation, it became quite obvious that the collection, while exciting and fresh to the hobby, was not going to move Mr. Torres and his family into Beverly Hills and next door to the Clampetts. The Ruth cards, given their condition ranged in value from several hundred to a little over a thousand dollars. Many of the other cards were worth far less, ranging from virtually no value to a few dollars.
"The 1920 card has more value because it is one of the first cards in which Ruth is pictured in a Yankees' uniform," noted Leighton Sheldon, President of Somerset, New Jersey based sports card company Just Collect, Inc. and who lives in Hoboken. Ruth was sold from the Red Sox to the Yankees in December 1919 in one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history. Sheldon noted that the total collection could be worth "several thousand dollars... The cards are not super rare, but they also are not easy to find." Sheldon also noted that the cards of players not in the Hall of Fame tend to sell for as much $20 dollars apiece.
After learning more about his collection and speaking with people well respected in the hobby, Mr. Torres learned that he wasn't going to be able to get "life changing" money from this fantastic find, but that there was still value.
Eventually, Torres met with Just Collect's Leighton Sheldon in Hoboken, the birthplace of baseball, and the parties agreed on a purchase price for the entire collection.
Still, how they ended up behind the drywall is anyone's guess, but "I guess some kid just put them in the wall a long time ago and then forgot about them," said Torres. "With me finding these cards, it's like a blessing because it's like God put them there for me so I can get out of this place," said Torres, who used the money, much like Jed Calmpett, to help move his family to out of their apartment and into a new home in a better location and without those pesky raccoons.
Just Collect, Inc. is always looking to purchase vintage and modern card collections, both large and small, from all sports and non-sport products. Please visit our eBay store to browse our current offerings or to purchase cards from the Nation's largest buyer of vintage cards. If you have any cards that you're interested in selling, please contact us through our website.