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T206 Honus Wagner - Authentic Restored Example sold for $188,000

Robert Edward Auctions (May 8, 2011)

Every T206 Wagner naturally has a great story, sharing the Wagner legend that is now part of classic American folklore, and every Wagner also has an additional story relating to its provenance. Collectors have always been fascinated with all aspects of the history of Wagners: how they were discovered, where they have been purchased, when, for how much, where they have been, how they have happened to survive. This is a particularly fascinating card in that it has a long history of being one of the few Wagners that can be traced back in the hobby over forty years, once being the prize card of Irv Lerner, author of Who's Who In Baseball Card Collecting (self-published, 1969) and himself one of the hobby's pioneer card collectors. It is also a fascinating example in that it was trimmed and has since been beautifully restored, and has a history of having been sold at auction in 2009 (for a reported $222,000), subsequently sold privately to an investor at a lower level, then offered unsuccessfully (elsewhere) at auction three separate times (with a very high reserve), and then offered in a full-page ad in the March 2011 edition of The Sports Market Report for private sale at a fixed price of $260,000. It is not surprising that the relentless shopping of any unique item, even a Wagner, would meet with a lukewarm response at a higher level immediately after selling at auction. That has everything to do with market psychology and is almost a given, and is to be expected. It reminds us of the brokerage commercial where the scene is a live Sotheby's-style art auction and the small roomful of bidders are bidding on a valuable painting. When the hammer falls, the excited winner, to the amazement of the small audience, asks for the painting to be put right back up for auction then and there, even though it is the very same audience and only seconds have elapsed, as if it were possible that he will make a profit. There are many times, of course, when investing in art and collectibles can be very rewarding, but this is not how to do it! It has nothing to do with how great the painting was, or in this case, how great the T206 Wagner is. It's all about human nature, price, and timing. Which is where REA comes in.

It is not unusual for great items to be offered elsewhere with very high reserves and not sell. And it is not unusual for the owners of these very same items, when they decide they really want to sell them and want bidders to take their items seriously, to then consign them to Robert Edward Auctions with a nominal reserve (as is our policy). At REA, at least everyone will know the item is really going to sell, fair and square, and bidders will know that their time and efforts will not be wasted by secret reserves. It's a real auction! We have set the reserve of this T206 Wagner at $25,000. This is obviously an extremely low level (especially in a world in which a shellacked and trimmed Wagner was just sold by nuns for $262,000!), but whether it receives one-hundred bids, or if it receives only one bid at $25,000, it will be sold. High or low, that is one of the exciting elements about an REA auction.

This is a great card, and in addition to providing the service of really selling the card for the consignor, and providing a real and exciting opportunity for buyers, we are also able to present the pre-restoration images of the card (both front and back) and complete restoration report information, all of which have never been provided when the card has previously been offered. This information allows for a complete understanding of the card, and in our opinion greatly enhances its desirability. Collectors (and markets in general) don't like uncertainty. People like to understand what they're buying. The reason there are two restoration reports is that when the card was purchased at auction in 2009, the buyer asked the auction house if it would be possible (since the borders were already restored anyway) for the Graphic Conservation Company to have the borders further restored to make them look even better. As can be seen from the paperwork (which is provided online and copies of which accompany the card), the cost of the two restoration procedures alone totals $14,000. (The work was executed by The Graphic Conservation Company, renowned as one of the most highly respected restoration and historical document preservation companies in the world.)

The photographs (both before and after) speak for themselves. Wagner's portrait is bold and the typeset on the bottom border reading "Wagner, Pittsburg," is completely original (only the top and side borders were trimmed). The card has a magnificent Excellent appearance and has been restored with an uncompromising attention to detail, including the use of other T206 cards to provide borders and grafting where needed. This is a gorgeous authentic T206 Wagner!

Over the years there has been much speculation by collectors as to exactly how many T206 Wagners exist. At this late date, we believe that virtually all authentic T206 Wagners known to exist have been encapsulated by one of the major card-authentication and grading companies. It is true that a few are known to exist that have not been graded. It is also true that some cards have been graded more than once, and are double-counted in grading-company population reports. To date, a total of only forty-four T206 Wagners are reflected in PSA, SGC, and Beckett grading-company population reports: PSA (33), SGC (10), and Beckett (1). This number, as noted, includes some cards that appear twice. The precise number of T206 Wagners in existence, of course, is the total of forty-four graded examples in the population reports, minus the few (the exact number is unknown) that are double-counted, plus the few that are known to exist but not graded (the exact number is unknown but we believe this number to be approximately five), plus any examples that have yet to be discovered, of course. We believe these numbers strongly suggest that the total population of authentic T206 Wagners currently known to exist, including those in institutions such as the Burdick Collection and the Hall of Fame, is approximately fifty.

This T206 Wagner has an appearance far superior to most others, of course, as it has been restored, but the most important elements of the card, Wagner's portrait image and name, are unaffected. The integrity of the card remains and it elicits a positive response from everyone who sees it. There is no need for this card to make any apologies for having been restored. It will naturally and appropriately sell for a far more modest sum than an unrestored Wagner in true Excellent condition. It's supposed to! But this is a magnificent card as is, and one that card collectors will always hold and look at in awe, and say, "Wow, it's a Wagner, and it's a great-looking card!"

Final Bid with Buyer's Premium: $188,000

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