T206 HONUS WAGNER PROOF STRIP TO BE AUCTIONED
Written by David Rudd (Cycleback - September 20, 2000)
Steve Verkman Cards and Memorabilia,
of Carle Place N.Y., has announced
that the famed 1909 T206 Proof Strip, including the Honus Wagner baseball
card, will be a part of its auction of 'Baseball Antiquities' ending
October 11. The six-card proof strip, or pre-final run test print, also
includes cards of Hall of Fame members Mordecai 'Three Fingers' Brown and
Cy Young. The T206 Honus Wagner is widely regarded as the crown jewel of
baseball cards. Only about fifty are known to exist, with the highest
grade example recently selling for $1.27 million in July.
While other single card T206 Proofs exist,
this is the only known strip,
and certainly the only one with the Wagner. Each card on the strip has the
border cross hatches used to align printing and blank back typical of
proofs. The strip shows considerable wear, including a heavy crease along
the right side of Wagner's face and body. The cards have retained the
bright color that has made the set a hobby favorite.
Cards are, from left to right, Brown, Wagner, Frank Bowerman, Young and Johnny Kling.
Along with antique coins, currency and other collectibles, the card was included in
a State Fair display
of unclaimed property collected by the Treasurer's Office. The exhibit is designed
to get fair-goers to
use computer terminals at the Treasurer's booth to see if they are among thousands of West
Virginians entitled to file claims for unclaimed property, currency or stock
certificates collected by the
The proof was most probably Wagner's personal copy.
Pittsburgh home was sold in the 1970s, and the new owners discovered the
strip along with a 1938 coaches uniform and important documents. Steve
Verkman touts the strip as "Wagner's own Wagner".
There are disputes in the hobby why the Wagner card
was removed so early
in the print run. One theory is that he was anti-smoking and refused to
have his picture included in a set promoting smoking. The cards were
issued by the American Tobacco Company. Each regular card has a tobacco
advertisement on back, and was distrubuted inside a pack of cigarettes.
The other explanation of the rarity is that Wagner stopped production
because he wasn't paid enough. Those who believe he wasn't paid enough
point to pictures later in his life that show him chewing tobacco.
Verkman, for one, believes that the cause was Wagner's anti-smoking stance.
"Wagner is in most of the caramel (baseball card) issues of that period
and it would seem unlikely that they would have the ability and desire to
pay Wagner more for his image than the enormously rich tobacco companies of
that era." Either way, it is believed that the proof was sent to Wagner
in a futile attempt to get his permission to use his image.
When those manning the booth replied in the negative, the collector returned with a printout from a
card-collectors' Web site detailing the planned eBay auction of a similar-looking 1909-11 American
Tobacco Co. Honus Wagner trading card that fetched $1.1 million last month. That same card, once
owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky, sold for $640,500 in 1996, making it the most valuable
sports card of all time at that time, and earning it the nickname the "Mona Lisa of all trading cards."
The strip was originally part of the
collection of famed collector Barry
Halper auctioned by Sotheby's in 1999. Bidding will start at $60,000.
Gallery - T206 Honus Wagner Uncut Proof