October 2019 Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 10/11/2019
Describing its status within the sports card community, it’s been compared to a Leonardo da Vinci painting, a Stradivarius violin, and even a certain two-word biblical chalice. It’s been the subject of several movies and books, been on display in the nation’s most prestigious museums, been in the possession of business executives and CEO’s, Hollywood stars and famous athletes, and makes national headlines anytime one is sold, regardless of condition. It even has its own Wikipedia page. Is it the rarest card ever produced? Pretty close, but no. Is Honus Wagner the greatest player in baseball history? Pretty close, but no. Putting all of the hyperbole aside, the T206 Honus Wagner card is unquestionably the single most coveted sports card ever produced and serves as the crowning jewel of any collection. Like the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel coin or the 24-cent "Inverted Jenny" stamp, many people who know next to nothing about sports cards can often recall the one defining example in the hobby, summing up their entire body of knowledge by joking, “Yeah, baseball cards, I’ve got a Wagner” without even knowing exactly what it is or what one might look like. Over 150 years of baseball card manufacturing has produced well over a million different issues, but the T206 Wagner is known within the industry simply as “The Card.” As most seasoned veterans of the baseball card game already know, there are two prevailing theories as to why the T206 Wagner is so scarce; the first is that Wagner objected to allowing his likeness to be used on a baseball card that promotes tobacco products, the second being that Wagner had production of the card halted because he felt he should be financially compensated by the American Tobacco Company for the use of his image. While Wagner is absent from several other major tobacco issues of the era, his appearance in the T216 collection distributed by regional tobacco companies like Kotton, Mino and Virginia Extra would suggest the second theory is more likely to be the accurate one. Whatever the reason might be, the widely held belief is that less than 200 cards were produced in total, most of which have been printed with a Sweet Caporal 150 Series-Factory 25 back like the card featured here, though there are some known that have the Sweet Caporal 150 Series-Factory 30 or Piedmont back. The population of known T206 Wagner cards is anywhere from 57 to 65, the latest “discovery” coming in 2010 when The School Sisters of Notre Dame inherited a previously unknown example from a man who had had it in his possession since the 1930s. Like “The Lucky 7” find of rare T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb back cards and “The Black Swamp” find of pristine E98 “Set of 30” cards, who knows when (or if) the next great discovery of a T206 Wagner will happen. Perhaps there is one (or more) buried under a stack of old papers and photos in the attic of a pre-20th-century house somewhere in the heartland of America. Even as far back as 1939, several years after the Goudey Gum Company had led a resurgence in the baseball card market with their inaugural series that contained a quartet of Babe Ruth cards and Play Ball continuing the tradition with the first of their three collections, it was well documented how rare and valuable the T206 Wagner was relative to any other sports card printed to date. That’s when Jefferson Burdick, considered the pioneer of card collecting, printed the first comprehensive catalog devoted to the hobby, calling it “The United States Card Collectors Catalog” and providing an inventory of all known sets previously produced while creating a classification system that gave the 1909-11 White Border series the designation of T206. At that time, the T206 Wagner was considered the most valuable card ever produced, even outpacing all cards that carried the likeness of legends such as Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth. Renamed the “American Card Catalog” in 1946 and later the more familiar “Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards”, the T206 Wagner was originally listed at a value of $50, approximately $1,000 in today’s dollars. Needless to say, “The Card” has proven to be a superior investment over time. As incredibly iconic as the T206 Honus Wagner card is, it’s not as though its legendary status among the hobby is based solely on scarcity. Other cards, especially some of the more obscure issues of the 19th century, are known to exist in far fewer numbers and don’t come close to approaching the popularity nor value of the Wagner. Two key factors are that the card originates from the T206 series, considered by many to be the greatest baseball card collection ever produced and that the subject, Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner, was himself a true legend of his day. After three solid seasons with the Louisville Colonels, Wagner was part of a massive trade that sent him, fellow Hall of Famers Fred Clarke and Rube Waddell, and nine other players, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Chesbro, George Fox, Art Madison, John O’Brien and $25,000 cash. In his 18 seasons with the Pirates, “The Flying Dutchman” won eight National League batting titles and also led the league in doubles seven times, triples three times, RBI four times and stolen bases five times, taking the Pirates to the World Series in 1903 and 1909, winning the latter of the two. He finished his career with 3,430 hits, which still ranks #8 on the all-time list. One other distinction that the card carries that separates it from all other cards produced is that individual cards are tracked through past sales, to the best of their ability, by collectors and historians. Nicknames have been given to specific cards based on past owners, locations of origin or the card's physical characteristics, such as “The Long Island Wagner”, “Charlie Sheen Wagner” (A. K. A. The All-Star Cafe Wagner), “The Date-Stamped Wagner”, “The Connecticut Wagner”, “The Chesapeake Wagner”, “The Oceanside Wagner”, and of course, “The Gretzky Wagner” among others. A 2016 sale of a PSA 5 (MC) example, known as “The Jumbo Wagner” set an all-time sales record for a baseball card with a reported sale of $3,120,000. As for the PSA 2 example offered here (sorry, no nickname assigned to this card), according to T206Resource.com, the lineage can be tracked to a Mastro Auction sale in April of 2005 with a winning bid of just over $236,000. It next appeared on the auction block nine years later, when the card fetched $657,250 in a 2014 Leland’s event. From there, the card went to Heritage Auctions for their November 2016 auction and brought in a price of $776,750. Finally, SCP Auctions reported a private sale of 1.2M for the card. Now let’s get to the card. Graded PSA 2, the card exhibits heavy but consistent rounding of each corner, none of which are significantly out of step with the others as to rob the card of its visual aesthetics. The framing, specifically the side to side centering, is quite accurate and superior to several others that have been graded equally or even higher. Light creases run horizontally across the card, just below Wagner’s mouth, but they have little impact on the full majesty of the historic image, with the steely gaze of Wagner’s emotionless visage demanding your attention and preventing you from even noticing the imperfections for too long. The red-inked Sweet Caporal reverse is pleasantly bold with no major liabilities other than some light age discoloration that is common to any T206 card. In short, it’s a spectacular piece that wears its 110 years of battle scars as a badge of honor, and the stories this card could tell would be the makings of an epic film. With all of the controversy and mystique surrounding the T206 Wagner, from its precarious origin to the notable "finds" over the years, some of which were authentic, some were reprints and still others an attempt to deceive, it's not only refreshing but a true honor to hold the genuine article, let alone bestow upon our wonderful patrons for public sale. “The Card” is an inspiration to millions of collectors around the world, the pinnacle of the hobby and the ultimate goal of any collecting enthusiast. You don’t get many chances to acquire the very best, but you have that chance right now!
1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal 150/25 Honus Wagner PSA 2 GOOD
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $300,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $1,326,000.00
Number Bids:33
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