Unopened sports cards could sell for around $1 million

By Bert Lehman

Untouched for 60-70 years, a recently discovered stash of 12 unopened sports card products from the 1940s, ’50 and ’60s could sell for around $1 million at auction. The unopened packs of 1948 Bowman Baseball cards highlight the discovery.

1948 Bowman Baseball card unopened packs.

According to Brian Drent, president of Mile High Card Co., the company auctioning the cards for its owner, the unopened packs of 1948 Bowman Baseball appear to be the only ones in existence.

“There are no known examples (of unopened 1948 Bowman Baseball packs),” Drent said.

Drent placed a pre-estimate value on just the 1948 Bowman Baseball nearly full unopened box at $350,000-$500,000.

But because there is no history of sales for unopened 1948 Bowman Baseball, it could be more than that.

It’s like finding a 1957 Cadillac that went from the production line straight to a storage facility and forgotten about for 60-70 years before being discovered again.

Also making this discovery so extraordinary is the quantity of unopened product from that time period. Cards weren’t collected for value at that time, kids actually played with them, put them on their bike spokes. Selling cards for thousands of dollars in the future was never a thought.

Drent said he first heard about the find while he was on a phone call with another client. He was interrupted by one of his employees who told him he had to take the call on the other line. Since the call he was on was important, Drent hesitated.

Then the employee handed Drent a sheet of paper that contained a listing of unopened wax boxes for different trading card products from the 1950s and 1960s. At the top of the list was 1948 Bowman Baseball.

Knowing the significance of what was on the list, Drent immediately told the person he was on the phone with that he would call him back. He then took the call on the other line. On the other line was a person who does some consigning with Mile High Card Co., as well as the person who owned the plethora of unopened vintage trading card products that was on the list.

The cards were originally purchased by a family-owned company that printed non-sports cards. The cards were forgotten about until they were found at the caller’s aunt’s house.

Drent told the caller he was interested, and asked the caller what he wanted to do.

“He said, ‘Well, if I was you, I’d get on a plane and come here,’” Drent said.

Drent was on a plane to Tennessee the next day to personally look at the unopened product.

“I walked in the house and he had it all arranged on white towels on his dining room table,” Drent said. “I walked in and I was awestruck.”

Drent said that 20 of the 24 packs were in the 1948 Bowman box, but the seal had broken on one of the packs, which turned out to be a good thing. The packs and box contained the words “Play Ball,” but had nothing on them that identified the product as 1948 Bowman. Being able to see the cards in the pack that the seal was broken helped identify the product.

Back to the pack with the broken seal, Drent said that pack contained five cards including a Warren Spahn rookie card and two Phil Rizzuto rookie cards.

It’s the rookie cards that collectors chase after the most and are the most valuable.

With only 48 cards in the set, Drent said he thinks every pack could potentially be loaded with rookie cards.

“No matter how you look at it, there are only 48 cards in the set, your odds are amazing,” Drent said. “You have six Hall of Fame rookie cards in one set.”

Bidding concludes June 15.

Bert Lehman is the editor of Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at bert.lehman@fwmedia.com.

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