- Associated Press - Saturday, June 3, 2017

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. (AP) - A Georgia man believes his thin piece of cardboard that’s smaller than a cellphone could earn him more than $1 million.

Ross Greene, 76, has held onto his Honus Wagner baseball card for 21 years, keeping it a secret to all but family and a few friends and stashing it in his sock drawer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (https://bit.ly/2rEVsVX ).

Now, the Peachtree City man is auctioning off his Wagner “T206” card, a 108-year-old card believed to be one of perhaps 60 in existence.

“I don’t think they collect baseball cards in heaven,” said Greene, a financial services consultant. “So you’ve got to part with things at some point in time. I thought this was a good time.”

Greene’s Honus Wagner is among the most coveted of all baseball cards, and was sold in tobacco packs, as many cards were a century ago.

The Wagner card is part of Green’s collection of more than 100,000 cards and memorabilia that he’s finally parting with after a lifetime of collecting them.

His collection also includes Mickey Mantle’s 1952 rookie card, considered the second most prized card after the Wagner card, and several complete and near-complete sets of baseball and football cards from the 1950s and ‘60s, a Babe Ruth autograph and rookie cards of Hall of Famers such as Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente.

Greene plans to use the proceeds for retirement, and to help fund the education of his grandchildren and to support a variety of Christian ministries, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

Greene’s collecting habit has a familiar beginning. Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the 1940s and ‘50s, Greene bought cards with money saved from mowing lawns and running errands for a neighbor. In an age when television was just beginning to spread, the cards provided a connection to major-league players he could only hear about on the radio or read about in the newspaper.

Greene believes he amassed a collection of perhaps 2,500 cards, stored in a shoebox. But about 30 years later, he went back home to retrieve them, only to learn his parents had tossed them out. He suspects they might be worth between $500,000 and $1 million today.

Dismayed, Greene bought a friend’s old collection of about 3,000 cards for $500. In the early ‘90s, when the card market began to pick up and he realized that the value of his friend’s collection had increased several times from his purchase price, he began to buy other collections to put together sets from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

In 1996, Greene saw an ad in a collecting magazine publicizing the auction of the rare Wagner card, which is prized because of its scarcity. He successfully bid $48,500, and the card was his.

Greene said he has taken pride in owning such a prized piece of the hobby. He kept it in a blue-felt wrapper in a pair of brown socks, occasionally bringing it out to show relatives or friends.

He realized, though, that the time had come to return it to the market and give someone else a chance to own it.

“It’s been fun owning it, and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “No matter what happens, you can’t take away from the fact that I owned something that was very rare and hopefully will put the proceeds to decent use.”

Bidding on the card through SCP Auctions’ website opened May 24 at $100,000 and had reached $313,842 as of early last week.

SCP Vice President Dan Imler expected that the card will bring in more than $500,000 and perhaps even reach $1 million. The remainder of the collection could net $500,000. Initial bidding ends June 10.

“I think it’s probably excellent timing on his part,” said Joe Davis of GotBaseballCards.com in Snellville. “The card market is very strong right now. There’s a lot of money being poured into the card industry.”

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com

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