A stunning example of the most valuable and highly-prized baseball card in the world, a 1909 Honus Wagner card originally available in packs of cigarettes, was recently uncovered in a private collection which hasn’t seen the light of day in over a quarter century. “This really is the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards,” smiled Bill Goodwin, President of Goodwin & Company, the St. Louis, Missouri-based sports memorabilia company that will offer the card in an on-line auction that begins March 27th and closes April 19th.
“There is no more important baseball card in the world.” “We anticipate significant interest in this amazing relic, with prices expected to easily top $1 million,” added Goodwin. “This is the finest Wagner to come to market in some time.”
The Legend Of The Wagner Card
While exact numbers are not known, it is believed approximately 200 of the Wagner cards were originally distributed. Today, baseball card experts estimate that as few as 60 to 100 of the Wagner cards still exist. The Wagner card was released by the American Tobacco Company and distributed in packs of cigarettes as a part of what is known as the T206 tobacco card set. Legend has it that Wagner refused to have his name associated with tobacco because he didn?t want young baseball fans to smoke. Alternate theories claim that Wagner simply wanted more money for the use of his image and American Tobacco chose not to pay. Considered the greatest player of his day, rivaled only by Ty Cobb, Wagner was a member of the inaugural class in the Baseball Hall of Fame, adding to the mystique of his 1909 card.
Always considered “the ultimate card to own,” by collectors, interest in the Wagner card exploded in 1991 when hockey great Wayne Gretzky and former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall jointly purchased the finest known example of the card for a then record $451,000. The same card sold in April 2011 to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick for $2.8 million.
Other Rarities Discovered With Wagner Card
Among the other treasures discovered in the T206 set along with the Wagner card is a cardboard classic of Hall of Fame pitcher Eddie Plank, expected to fetch between $350,000 and $500,000 in the Goodwin auction. Numerous theories about the Plank card’s rarity have circulated for decades, with a popular rumor stating a printing plate was broken and never replaced, resulting in the card?s extreme scarcity. In reality, experts believe Plank simply refused to return a consent form allowing his likeness to be used to promote American Tobacco’s products.
What makes this particular Plank card so valuable is the card?s back. The card reads “Piedmont (Cigarettes) 150 Subjects,” meaning the card was accidentally released without Plank’s permission during the earliest days of the T206 set’s launch. Only three other Plank cards with this designation are known by baseball experts and none have been graded as highly as this particular card.
The other great rarity offered by Goodwin is a seldom seen error card of star Philadelphia outfielder Sherry Magee, whose name was misspelled Magie on a limited number of cards. The error was corrected by American Tobacco, making the early “mistake cards” incredibly valuable.
A fleet-footed outfielder and productive hitter, Magee was one of the stars of his era, but lacked the Hall of Fame numbers of Wagner and Plank. Even without a Cooperstown pedigree, Magee’s card with the misspelling is expected to garner bids near $75,000.
523 Cards Featuring Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson
The Goodwin auction will feature 523 professionally graded and authenticated cards, all soldindividually. Included within the set are cards of baseball legends Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, the famed double play combination of Tinker to Evers To Chance and many more.
“The great thing about this auction is that there really is something for everyone,” stated Bill Goodwin. “There are cards of the greatest players of all time . . . cards that will command incredible prices. But at the same time, there are cards of stars and ordinary players that people can buy for between $100 and $200. These cards have so much history behind them. They make great conversation pieces and often become family heirlooms that are be passed down through the generations.”
While T206 cards are common on auction sites ranging from hobby portals such as Goodwin & Company to common destinations such as eBay, rarely is the entire T206 set offered at one time, making this auction highly unique.
“We’re hoping to exhibit the collection to the public at least once during the auction, so people can have a chance to see all of these tiny works of art at one time. For many people, this will probably be the only chance they ever have to see the Wagner card.
The goal is to partner with a charity to host the show and make the event a fundraiser for a good cause,” Goodwin added. “The Wagner card is great for the hobby and great for baseball,” Goodwin said in closing. “Every time an example comes to market, people get excited and start rummaging through shoeboxes of cards and climbing into Grandma?s attic in hopes of finding hidden treasure. The excitement is contagious.”
To see the Wagner, Plank, and McGee cards, along with the other 520 cards from the T206 set, and to register to bid in the Goodwin & Company auction, visit www.goodwinandco.com.
T206 HONUS WAGNER BASEBALL CARD FACTS
• Only 43 examples of the Honus Wagner T206 card have been authenticated and graded by the two major sports card grading services, SportsCard Guarantee (SGC) and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA).
• Of the 43 examples graded, only five Wagner portraits have graded higher than the card offered by Goodwin & Company, with only the legendary “Gretzky/McNall” Wagner card grading above an EX 5.
• The Wagner card offered here is expected to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million, plus a 19% buyer?s premium. The finest example of the Wagner card sold for a record $2.8 million in 2007.
• Early baseball card enthusiast Jefferson Burdick listed the Wagner card in The American Card Catalog in 1933, with a value of $50.
• The image used for the Wagner card is an illustrated artist?s version of a classic portrait taken in 1905 by photographer Carl Horner.
• The T206 Honus Wagner is known as both “The Holy Grail of Baseball Cards” and “The Mona Lisa of Baseball Cards.”
• Wagner was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame?s inaugural class, with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
• Wagner was the second player in baseball history to record 3,000 hits and the first player to accomplish the feat in the 20th century. Wagner?s 3,415 hits still rank as 7th best on baseball?s all-time hits list.
T206 EDDIE PLANKS BASEBALL CARD FACTS
• Only 4 examples of Hall of Famer Eddie Plank?s T206 card with the Piedmont Cigarettes 150 Subjects reverse have been authenticated and graded by the two major sports card grading services, SportsCard Guarantee (SGC) and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA).
• Of the 4 examples graded, no other Plank portrait with this rare reverse side has ever graded higher. Furthermore, the three remaining Plank examples are believed to have been from a printer?s proof and are in such poor condition they carry no numeric grade.
• This example of the Plank Piedmont 150 Subjects card is expected to sell for between $300,000 and $500,000 or possibly more, since it is the finest known card of its type known.
• The color saturation on this example of Plank’s portrait is considered to be the finest of all known examples, regardless of issuing tobacco brand.
• While legend equates the rarity of the Plank card to a broken printing plate, it’s more likely that the Philadelphia pitcher never returned his consent form allowing American Tobacco to use his image.
• Plank was the first left-handed pitcher to reach 300 victories, retiring with 326 wins, ranking him number eleven all-time in baseball history. He also holds the record for shutouts by a lefty with 66.
• Between 1901-1914, Plank?s 285 wins accounted for 23% of the Philadelphia A?s total victories. The A’s appeared in six World Series in that period.
• Plank was the MVP of the 1913 World Series, beating Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson 3-1 in the Series final game.