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1905 Honus Wagner Original Studio Photograph by Carl Horner--The Most Famous Photo in the Hobby sold for $69,000

Hertiage Auction (May 8, 2021)


Circa 1905 Honus Wagner Original Studio Photograph by Carl Horner--The Most Famous Photo in the Hobby! As the era's most noteworthy and celebrated baseball photographer, Carl Horner bears the lion's share of responsibility for the manner in which we see the early game in our mind's eye. His simple yet expertly rendered studio portraits of the men populating the Dead Ball game served as the template for much of the tobacco and candy card issues of the day, most notably the image of Honus Wagner that appears upon the most coveted and valuable trading card in the collecting hobby.

Heritage is privileged and proud to present one of those exceeding rare original photographs to our collecting clientele, a relic even rarer than the T206 card that made it famous. Were this 4.25x3.5" photo still affixed to its original Horner studio mount, its value would soar past the seven-figure threshold and likely set a new world record for baseball photography. We'll remind those newer Heritage clients that our offering of a Cobb exemplar from Horner's famous archives commanded $400,000 in our August 2019 Platinum Night auction.

A sale of a similar Wagner, removed from its mount, commanded over $18,000 at auction sixteen years ago, and provides some intriguing insight into the presented specimen. The obverse of the photo in that 2005 auction confirms that this representation is identical in scale, but has been trimmed of a half-inch of its width and an inch and a quarter of its height. While alterations to original format are not ideal, of course, the confirmation that this photo is consistent with those affixed to Horner's mounts is undeniably positive. Furthermore, a handwritten code (either "1655" or "16JJ") appears in identical handwritten pencil on the 2005 example and the one presented here, as does an identical handwritten "Pitts." Clearly the man holding the pencil in both instances was Carl Horner himself.

This photograph presents virtually flawlessly, with a slight degree of soiling at the lower edge of obverse that is only apparent upon close inspection, and the tell-tale signs of removal from a cardboard mount visible on verso. A thrilling opportunity to own one of the most iconic images in the collectibles marketplace, bearing the handwritten notations of its creator.

Final Bid with Buyer's Premium (20%): $69,000




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