T206 Honus Wagner (Half Wagner) sold for $475,960
SCP Auctions (Feb 5, 2022)
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For card collectors, the ultimate prize is the T206 Honus Wagner. And like the other most desirable prizes in the hobby,
the T206 Wagner comes with its own lore. According to legend, Honus Wagner refused to allow his image to be used to promote
tobacco products. The actual story is a bit more complicated. When the American Tobacco Company set about creating their
baseball card set in January 1909, the company sent out representatives to secure permission from the game's top players.
Virtually everyone who was anyone in baseball ultimately appeared in the set, which would top out at over 500 players.
However, Pittsburgh's Honus Wagner, the best shortstop in the game, was not one of them. According to an October 12, 1912,
article in The Sporting News, Wagner was approached by John Gruber, a Pittsburgh sportswriter hired by ATC to secure the
player's permission to appear in their set. Wagner wrote a letter to Gruber stating he, "did not care to have his picture
in a package of cigarettes." The exact reasons have been lost to time. Some say he did not want children to buy cigarettes
to obtain his baseball card. Another explanation is that Wagner did not think he was being paid enough for the rights to use
his image. Whatever his reason, Wagner did give Gruber a check for $10 to compensate him for the commission he would have
received had he been successful in securing the Pirates star.
From here the legend picks up speed. ATC had actually begun production of the Honus Wagner card before the ballplayer's
consent was secured. The pose used for the card is a stately portrait of Wagner based on a Carl Horner photograph taken
around 1902. ATC's artist added the striking orange background which compliments the grey flannel jersey Wagner wears,
in the process creating the most striking image of the future Hall of Famer ever rendered. Looking at the rest of the
500-plus cards in the set, it becomes obvious that the Wagner has the most eye appeal. But despite its visual allure,
the card would never be released to the general public. Once it became known no permission was forthcoming, the card
was removed from circulation – however some had already slipped into circulation. How many, no one knows; some say 50,
others upwards of 75. Whatever the number, once collectors realized the scarcity of the Wagner card, it became the
hobby's "Holy Grail."
The exact number of T206 Wagners in the hobby today is not known, but the common estimate is around 60. Besides the
PSA NM-MT 8 (in)famous "Gretzky Wagner," most of the surviving examples are in poor to good condition, with substantial
creasing or other physical imperfections. This example, too, is clearly far from mint condition. Though slightly more
than 50% of the card remains, in our opinion it is still more valuable than 90% of sports cards in existence.
The card carries the PSA certification number 00000002. The example is slabbed in its original PSA flip, which states
it is "PSA Genuine." It recently resurfaced after dwelling in our consignor's collection since the 1990s. The
opportunity to procure a Wagner, even a piece of one, only comes around every so often. SCP is excited to offer a
unique chance to add one to your collection.
Final Bid with Buyer's Premium (20%): $475,960