T206 Honus Wagner SGC 10 sold for $227,050
Heritage Auctions (May 2, 2008)
Heritage Auctions sold a T206 Honus Wagner SGC 10 for $227,050 in May 2008 auction.
The following was the auction description:
"There is something Lincolnesque about him," Pulitzer Prize-winning sports journalist Arthur Daley once wrote,
"his rugged homeliness, his simplicity, his integrity, and his true nobility of character." Hall of Fame manager
John McGraw considered him the greatest ballplayer of all time, and Ty Cobb recalled him as the one man he couldn't
intimidate. Yet despite the universal high praise from friends and foes, and his membership in the 1936 inaugural
class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Honus Wagner is best remembered today as the face on the most valuable and
coveted of all baseball cards.
While there is some truth to the argument that Wagner's greatness plays a role in the importance of this ultimate
collecting rarity, one must acknowledge that it's a supporting role only. An equal print run to contemporaries like
Cobb, Young and Mathewson would almost certainly have found Wagner's value equivalent to those legends' as well.
But it was Wagner's refusal of the American Tobacco Company's request for permission to use his image that set him
apart and above.
The most popular story to explain this refusal is that Wagner wished to play no role in the promotion of the use
of tobacco, though it has been justly stated that he was himself a user, and had appeared in advertisements for
many tobacco products previously. Another theory notes Wagner's reputation as a fierce negotiator, arguing that
it was nothing more than a case of a failure to agree upon a dollar figure that led the ATC to end production of
Wagner's card almost as soon as it started.
This unsolved mystery has only served to further enhance the mystique of the treasure presented here, one of just
a few dozen examples of the famed Honus Wagner T206 known to exist. A colorized version of a studio portrait by
celebrated early baseball photographer Carl Horner, the unmistakable image on the card face finds the superstar
shortstop gazing into the middle distance, set against a backdrop of solid orange. The early spelling of his
hometown "Pittsburg" is applied across the chest of his high-collared jersey, and again beside his block lettered
surname at the bottom border. The verso provides an advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes, and the trading
cards within, noting "Base Ball Series, 150 Subjects."
Condition is admittedly imperfect, though this is the case for all but a few of the tiny supply of surviving
examples. Several creases thread their way through the ancient cardboard, and the passing decades have rounded
the corners smooth like water polishing stones in a riverbed. Black fountain pen ink blotches the verso, yet
remains mercifully clear of the front. Though the card comes by its Poor rating honestly, it retains a dignified
countenance, presenting wonderfully despite its faults.
The opportunity to play a role in the history of a piece such as this is one that should appeal to true
collectors of any discipline, not just those with a particular affinity for the sporting world. Stamp
collecting has the Inverted Jenny, and comics has Action #1. For baseball card collecting, the T206 Honus
Wagner will always hold that special distinction as the ultimate prize, and will establish its owner as one
the world's elite hobbyists.