The city of Defiance, Ohio—population 16,600—defied major league probability by providing two starting pitchers, the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley and the Mets' Jon Niese. But it was a discovery in a Defiance attic earlier this year that really set MLB hobbyists abuzz: some 700 ultrarare 1910 baseball cards in near pristine condition, valued at roughly $3 million.
Karl Kissner, a 51-year-old local restaurateur, found the twine-wrapped treasures while cleaning out the home of an aunt who had died last fall. The cards had belonged to Kissner's grandfather, Carl Hench, a butcher who sold the bulk candies that the cards accompanied. Kissner enlisted Heritage Auctions, which verified that the cards belonged to the scarce E98 series, of which only 625 such cards had previously been graded, most lower than Mint 7. Kissner found 16 Mint 9 Ty Cobbs (above) alone, leading Heritage sports director Chris Ivy to call the haul "the most significant in the history of the hobby."
Thirty-seven of the cards will be auctioned at Camden Yards on Aug. 2; more will be sold in the coming years. And though Kissner hopes to put his earnings toward his six children's college educations, the financial windfall is secondary to him and his kin. "No one is seeing dollar signs as much as the excitement of this find," he says. "It's the experience of a lifetime. What more can you ask for?"