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Jere Carroll looks at baseball cards in the state Treasurer's Office.
Jere Carroll, 48, sees his baseball cards for the first time in 24 years inside the Colorado Department of the Treasury Nov. 21. Bianca Gardelli, the director of unclaimed property, left, worked with him to confirm his connection to the cards and other items stored in a forgotten safe deposit box. (Elliott Wenzler, The Colorado Sun)

On the first floor of the Colorado Capitol, inside the Office of the Treasury, behind a vault door, lies a trove of 10,000 items abandoned or forgotten by Coloradans. 

There are diamond rings, silver bars, paintings, love letters and even a tapestry. 

For Jere Carroll, the vault held something that tied him to his past, to his son and to his father Thanksgiving week: a set of baseball cards.

“I thought they were the coolest thing when I was a little kid,” Carroll said. “So now it’s like having a piece of my childhood back.” 

Carroll, 48, was reunited with the cards after 24 years. The former Crested Butte resident left the cards — preserved in plastic casings — inside a safe deposit box when he lived there in his mid-20s. 

Thanksgiving week, he traveled back to Colorado to visit family for the holiday and to retrieve the cards.

“My dad will see them for the first time in like 40 years later today,” he said. “And my son.”

The vault containing unclaimed property inside the Colorado Capitol.
A vault inside the Colorado Department of the Treasury contains thousands of items of unclaimed property waiting to be reconnected with its owners. (Elliott Wenzler/The Colorado Sun)

From Crested Butte, he went on to live out of a suitcase for the next decade, carrying only the essentials as he guided tours for Americans in Europe. 

By the time he settled in Silicon Valley, he had nearly forgotten about the cards. Until one day, his 8-year-old son Austin asked him about baseball cards. He has also inherited the family tradition of a love of baseball and collecting cards.

When Austin asked his dad about the cards, Carroll decided to try to track down the safe deposit box. He called the bank, where he worked when he lived in Crested Butte. 

“I was gone in the system,” he said. “I was only in people’s memories.” 

They told him after many years of it not being paid for and trying to contact him, they finally turned the contents of the box over to the state in 2013.

So he searched on the state’s online registry and saw his name. But, he had to find a way to connect himself to the box, and with few records carried with him over the years, he wasn’t optimistic. 

“At first I was really hopeful and then quickly I was like, ‘Oh, no. There’s no way I’m going to get this back. It’s impossible,’” he said. “Basically, I just didn’t take no for an answer.”

After about six months, he was able to make a connection because there was a copy of his birth certificate in the box.

Sitting in the Treasurer’s Office after seeing the cards again, Carroll recalled a childhood filled with love for baseball and friends with the same passion.

“We would ride bikes to a field in the middle of summer, and all these kids would meet there and we would form teams and we would play for like six or seven hours a day,” he said. “We would sometimes be Roberto Clemente or Yogi Berra or modern stars of our own generation. You would call out who you were.”

Jere Carroll, 48, displays the five baseball cards he saw for the first time in 24 years inside the Colorado Department of the Treasury Nov. 21, 2022. Carroll stored them in a safe deposit box in Crested Butte that was turned over to the state in 2013. (Elliott Wenzler, The Colorado Sun)

When Carroll started collecting the cards in Massachusetts in the late 1980s, he quickly figured out that the newest cards were being created at such a volume they wouldn’t be as valuable. So he and his friends began scouring flea markets for old cards.

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He then carried the collection to Maryland and eventually Colorado. Caroll had moved to the state to be a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The five cards range in age, with the oldest being a card for both Barney Pelty and R.J. Wallace from 1912. The others include Roberto Clemente from 1956, Yogi Berra from 1956 and another from 1950 and Carl Yastrzemski from 1960, his rookie year.

As a kid, Carroll learned the stories of all those players. 

“It’s like a connection back to the history of my dad when he would have grown up,” he said.

The cards could be worth a decent amount of money, Carroll said. The market fluctuates and saw a significant increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s difficult to tell the value of these cards based on their condition, Carroll estimated at least one could be worth about $3,000 and the others worth $1,000 or less.

“I have no intention of selling these,” he said. “I’ll probably send them in to be officially graded so they’re registered and have a serial number but they’ll stay in my family for sure.”

Bianca Gardelli, the director of unclaimed property, at the Treasurer’s Office encourages Coloradans to check their site, Colorado.FindYourUnclaimedProperty.com, once a year to see if any property or even cash has been turned over to them. They also send out postcards and emails to notify those who have an item in their vault.

Elliott Wenzler

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her...