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T206 Wagner: The Holy Grail of the Hobby

Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner. What image does the name of the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer immediately bring to mind? We're guessing that when you think of Honus Wagner, you think of the T206 Wagner --- the "Holy Grail" of sports cards.

Anti-Tobacco or Greed?

The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card features the Pittsburgh Pirates' Honus Wagner, a dead-ball era baseball player widely considered to be the greatest shortstop of all time. The card was designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) as part of its T206 series issued from 1909 to 1911. Although the exact reasons remain open to conjecture, Wagner refused to allow production of his baseball card to continue. Folklore suggests that Wagner did not want children to buy cigarette packs to get his card. But the more likely reason was because Wagner and ATC could not agree on acceptable compensation for Wagner's inclusion. ATC ceased production of the Wagner card and only a small portion of the cards were ever distributed to the public. The exact quantity is unknown, but the hobby estimates that there are less than 100 known and documented copies.

In 1933, hobby pioneer Jefferson Burdick first listed the T206 Wagner card at a price value of $50.00 in his The American Card Catalog, making it the most expensive baseball card in the world at the time -- more than any Cap Anson, Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth card!

The Hobby's Most Valuable Card

Two of the most prominent and highly publicized Wagner cards are also two of the highest graded cards and have sold for some eye-popping prices. These examples are uniquely high-end compared to most of the Wagner cards that exist in the hobby.

The most famous T206 Honus Wagner is the PSA 8 "Gretzky/McNall T206 Honus Wagner" card. The history of the Gretzky/McNall T206 Wagner is well documented and the last recorded sale was to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, who paid $2.8 million in April 2011.

Another T206 Wagner (PSA 5 MC), nicknamed "The Jumbo Wagner," recently sold at auction in 2016 for a record $3.12 million.

Past recorded sales of 1909-11 T205 Honus Wagner:

• 2000: PSA 2 card sold for $75,000
• 2005: PSA 1 card sold for $110,000
• 2005: PSA 1 card sold for $132,000
• 2005: PSA 2 card sold for $237,000
• 2006: PSA 2 card sold for $294,338
• 2008: PSA 1 card sold for $317,250
• 2008: SGC 3 card sold for $791,000
• 2009: PSA 1 card sold for $400,000
• 2010: PSA Authentic/Altered card sold for $219,225

A lesser condition version came to market in 2010. This new to the market card was found in a box left by the brother of nun. The nun left her possession to the School of Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore. Referred to as "The Nuns' Wagner," the card was auctioned in 2010 for $262,000. However, the winner failed to pay. Worry not, the card found another owner that immediately agreed to purchase the card at the same auction price.

Honus Wagner's Baseball Career:

Wagner played 21 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1897 to 1917 – the final 18 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner won eight batting titles and also led the league stolen bases five times. He finished his career with 3430 total hits and a batting average of .329.

In 1936, Wagner was honored as one of the five inaugural members elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He received the second-highest vote total (tied with Babe Ruth), finishing behind only the immortal Ty Cobb.

We're pretty sure that there are still some "unknown" T206 Honus Wagner cards out there and even in horrific condition, an authentic example in today's market would easily bring more than $100,000.00. And if a really nice one entered the hobby, who knows what it would go for.

Just Collect President Leighton Sheldon showing off a T206 Wagner.

If You Have a T206 Honus Wagner...

... an Eddie Plank, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, or any other cards from the T206 set, give us a call at (732) 828 2261, or use our free appraisal form. We are the Nation's top buyer of sports cards, and we're paying top dollar for vintage cards in any condition. Contact us today to speak with one of our specialists to find out what your card is worth, and to see what we're paying for it.

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