Attic discovery: NJ man’s baseball card collection includes 6 Babe Ruth autographs

Attic discovery: NJ man’s baseball card collection includes 6 Babe Ruth autographs
The collection of James "Uncle Jimmy" Micioni included 1933 Goudey cards signed by Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig. (Professional Sports Authenticator)

“Uncle Jimmy” never married, but his first love was baseball. Now, his seven nieces and nephews will reap the benefits of that lifelong romance.

When James Micioni of Boonton, New Jersey, died March 8, the 97-year-old left a baseball card collection in his attic that was staggering. Accumulated over 80 years, Micioni’s collection included more than 1,000 vintage cards, including six different 1933 Goudey cards of Babe Ruth -- valuable in their own right -- but signed by the Sultan of Swat, which makes the cards worth even more.

Other autographs included 1933 Goudey cards signed by Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx (whose name is misspelled as “Jimmy” on the card).

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Micioni’s collection, some of which has been authenticated by the grading company Professional Sports Authenticators, will be auctioned off beginning Sunday by Wheatland Auction Services of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sports Collectors Daily reported.

One of the Ruth cards, card No. 53, which is one of the more valuable cards in the set, will be among the first to be put up for sale in the auction, which runs through July 12. Card No. 149 of Ruth, one of the nicer looking cards in Miconi’s collection, will be auctioned off later this year along with the Gehrig and Foxx cards.

The No. 53 card was graded a PSA 3, or very good, while the autograph had a grade of PSA 6, or excellent. According to PSA, there are slightly more than 800 submissions of the No. 53 card for grading. Of those cards, 142 have been graded at PSA 3. The highest graded version of this card is a PSA 9, and only one graded version exists, the authentication company said on its website.

A 1933 Goudey baseball card signed by Babe Ruth will be one of the marquee lots in an auction that begins Sunday.
A 1933 Goudey baseball card signed by Babe Ruth will be one of the marquee lots in an auction that begins Sunday. (Professional Sports Authenticator)

“Maybe once a decade something like this comes around,” Wheatland owner Chuck Whisman told NJ.com. “The cool thing is, nobody knew of his collection. He just collected his whole life. He didn’t show it off to anyone.”

The cards were found in a binder in the attic of Micioni’s home, along with hundreds of signed 1933 and 1934 Goudey cards of other baseball Hall of Famers, Sports Collectors Daily reported.

The cards were produced by the Goudey Gum Co., which was founded in 1919 and marketed bubble gum along with trading cards. Because of Ruth’s popularity, the 1933 Goudey set contained four different cards of the New York Yankees’ slugger.

Micioni kept meticulous records of every baseball card he owned and when it was autographed. To be sure, however, his family members sent the cards to PSA for authentication.

"Like other ‘great finds’, the ‘Uncle Jimmy Collection’ will have its place in hobby history. Until now, these cards have had a single owner, and I have never seen so many signed Goudeys from one original collection,” Kevin Keating, PSA’s principal autograph authenticator, said in a news release. “The depth is staggering with multiple examples of Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, (Rogers) Hornsby, and others. The condition of virtually every card and every signature is even more eye-popping. All appear to have been signed immediately after issue, likely through the mail, and then stored in a time capsule.”

Micioni lived a modest life. According to his obituary, Micioni was a factory worker for E.F. Drew and Co., and then was a longtime custodian at his alma mater, Boonton High School. According to enlistment records, Micioni served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Micioni also was an avid fan of the New York Yankees and had a vast knowledge of baseball cards and memorabilia.

“No one in the family was as knowledgeable about the baseball card industry as Uncle Jimmy,” Peter Micioni, 59, one of his nephews, told NJ.com. “So we really didn’t know a good card from a not-so-good card.”

James "Uncle Jimmy" Micioni amassed an enormous collection of baseball cards before his death in March at age 97.
James "Uncle Jimmy" Micioni amassed an enormous collection of baseball cards before his death in March at age 97. (Professional Sports Authenticator via Micioni)

Micioni said the family did not know the extent of their uncle’s collection until he died.

“We were his only family,” he told NJ.com. “Over the past 15 years, we would visit and he would always give us part of his collection.”

"(He’d say) ‘You’ll figure it out when I’m gone,’” Micioni said.

They did.