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T206 Honus Wagner Sweet Caporal 150/30 PSA-Auth sold for $540,000

Heritage Auctions (Sept 19, 2019)

1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal 150/30 Honus Wagner PSA Authentic/Altered

No other card in the hobby fascinates and mesmerizes the senses as does the mythical Honus Wagner card from the T206 series. The coveted rarity is placed upon the hobby's auction block at a snails' pace as examples are won and stored away for long periods of time. While a very limited original print run owns the blame for Wagner's intense scarcity today, the debate over the cause for this quick cessation remains a century later. Historians agree it was Wagner himself who pulled the plug, denying the use of his image in what would become the hobby's most popular tobacco issue. But why?

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 American Tobacco Company 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 a total population of less than 100 known to exist over a century later. 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 "Base Ball Series - 150 Subjects."

Encapsulated PSA Authentic/Altered. Condition is admittedly imperfect, though this is the case for all but a few of the tiny supply of surviving examples. The borders are obviously trimmed. Creases snake across the body of the card. Yet, as our catalog imagery should indicate, the undeniable beauty of the card shines through regardless, still able to quicken the pulse of the collector, both avid and advanced. For one enterprising collector, the card presents the most attainable option for completing the fabled T206 "Monster" set, and planting his flag atop one of the most challenging and satisfying accomplishments in the hobby.

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