For generations, a treasure was kept inside the attic of a Northern New Jersey home. It was compiled by James Michioni, known to family as "Uncle Jimmy."
Jeannie Michioni-Griffith and Peter Michioni are two of Uncle Jimmy's seven nieces and nephews. When the 97-year-old World War II veteran died in March, they discovered what until now had only been a family legend.
"We thought it was a special collection, and he always told us: 'The attic is where all the good stuff is,'" Michioni said of his late uncle. 'The good stuff' turned out to include six Babe Ruth baseball cards from the 1930s, in pristine condition and autographed by the Great Bambino himself.
The Babe Ruth cards headline Jimmy's vast collection of baseball cards and memorabilia dating back nearly 90 years. The collection also includes cards from greats like Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose and Jackie Robinson, all meticulously organized.
"Every box was a treasure," Michioni said.
It took the family days to sort through the array of signed cards, clippings, ticket stubs and programs. "It was just carload after carload, and weekend after weekend," Michioni-Griffith said.
Jimmy obtained the autographs through letters with the players themselves — which he also kept.
The collection has left the memorabilia industry stunned. "This is probably one of the most amazing and iconic collections to ever be discovered," said Chuck Whissman, who co-owns Wheatland Auction Services, which is now auctioning off some of more than 100,000 items in the collection.
What Jimmy preserved is now worth millions, according to Whissman.
The auctioneer, however, said it's more than just an incredible collection: "We started to piece together a story of the person too, and helped inform the family of a lot of things he went through in his life."
Jimmy's nephew said he believes his uncle intentionally left the family his collection as a gift.
"He knew exactly what he had," Michioni said. "He also knew that he had stuff that nobody retained, and he might be the only person in the world, and it's his way to maintain for the history of the game of baseball."