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His fortune may be in the cards

May 16, 1999

Bill SpiglerBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - When Bill Spigler was growing up one of eight children in Hagerstown's South End, his family didn't have a lot of use for baseball cards.

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A far cry from a serious collector, Spigler put his baseball cards in his bicycle spokes.

Now Spigler is all but consumed with baseball cards, specifically a complete set of cards made in 1930 by an unknown manufacturer.

The set features several former Blue Ridge League players, including Lefty Grove and Hack Wilson.

Spigler's quest to solve the mystery of who made the cards has driven him to attend a baseball lecture, buy old baseball books, visit Lefty Grove's hometown of Lonaconing, Md., and write to relatives of baseball players featured in the cards.

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Spigler, 51, of Myrtle Avenue in Waynesboro, has the entire 54-card set and many extras, all but one of which he bought at a 1997 Labor Day weekend auction. He picked up the missing Joe Judge card from Larry Fritsch, one of the nation's biggest card dealers.

It's amazing that Spigler, the base transition coordinator at Fort Ritchie, even has the cards, considering they were found in the attic of a house under demolition.

Two years ago, Clark Alleman bulldozed the front porch of an Orrstown, Pa., house before being stopped by his neighbors who insisted the house was historic, Spigler said.

When Alleman explored the attic, he found Life magazines stacked a foot deep and a boot box full of the baseball cards, many in mint condition.

Spigler went to the auction and bid $525 on a Babe Ruth card and $330 on a Lou Gehrig card.

After each card had individually been bid on, the auctioneer announced he would sell the entire lot if the bid amount made Alleman more money, Spigler said.

Spigler bought the entire set for $12,000. Individually sold, the cards would have netted $11,700. Spigler keeps the cards in a bank vault.

"I didn't go there to spend $12,000. I went to buy two cards," Spigler said.

But B.J. McGinn, Spigler's 17-year-old partner, was egging him on. McGinn, of Chambersburg, chipped in $400 for the cards.

McGinn would say "Get'm, Mr. Spigler," while Spigler was trying to imagine what he would tell his wife.

Now Spigler thinks the cards could be his early retirement. According to a price guide, the Ruth card is worth $1,800 alone and the one Spigler has is part of a three-card strip.

If he can determine the manufacturer, Spigler can get the cards certified and they'll be worth even more.

Spigler suspects that the cards were printed in Baltimore, since other cards have been found in the Baltimore region and there were many printers in Baltimore then.

He is offering $100 to anyone who knows who manufactured the cards.

The cards have their own intricacies, both individually and as a set.

According to the 1993 Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide, the cards come in six hues, of which Spigler has cards in two - green and sepia, an antique look. The other colors are yellow, rose, black and gray.

The order of players in the three-card strips is reversed on some strips.

Some cards feature a player in a uniform for one team, but have another team's name imprinted on the card because the player switched teams between the time his picture was taken and the card printed.

For example, Lefty O'Doul is wearing a cap from the New York Giants, the team for which he played in 1928, but the card notes he played for the Philadelphia Phillies, which he did from 1929-30. The cards were issued in 1931.

Spigler is not interested in selling the complete set at this time, but might sell the extras.

He is selling replicas of the set for $20 a set to recoup his investment.

Anyone with information that could lead Spigler to the manufacturer is asked to call him at 1-717-762-2701 or e-mail him at wspigler@mail.cvn.net.

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