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T206 Honus Wagner Uncut Proof Strip sold for $78,665

MastroNet Sports & Americana (August 22-23, 2002)

This uncut strip of five cards is, with good reason, universally regarded as one of card collecting's greatest treasures. Few items represent more history, and have greater significance, to the history of card collecting than this uncut proof strip which includes the legendary T206 Honus Wagner. The T206 card of Honus Wagner, of course, is by far the most famous and expensive card in the world. The legend and fame of this card transcend the world of card collecting, and the story of the card is now a part of classic American Folklore. It is not necessary here to detail all the different theories which have been suggested to account for the great rarity of the Wagner card. We are firmly in the camp that Honus Wagner refused to allow his picture to be used to market tobacco, specifically because he did not want to encourage youngsters to smoke. Wagner had no problem with candy cards, bakery cards, bubble gum, and all other wholesome products. But when it came to tobacco, he refused to cooperate with the American Tobacco Company to use his picture to promote their products.

The existence of this uncut strip is far more than an interesting curiosity; it directly relates to the legend of the Honus Wagner card. His refusal to be included in the set was no doubt a gigantic blow to the American Tobacco Company, as Wagner was the biggest star of the day. This strip of cards actually belonged to Honus Wagner, and was discovered many years ago in the attic of Wagner's old house, along with various personal effects, including years of his personal correspondence and uniforms. We have been told that the strip was actually folded in the back pocket of one of his uniform pants when it was discovered. It is almost a certainty that the tobacco company sent this strip to Honus in a last ditch special effort to try to convince him to cooperate with their plans to include him in the T206 set. No other uncut strip of T206's has ever surfaced, let alone in the hands of a ballplayer of the day. Perhaps if Honus saw how great the cards would look, and his card in particular, he would change his mind regarding his inclusion in the T206 set. Though Wagner remained firm in his refusal, somehow a very small number of cards with his image were issued, with an estimated 75 examples surviving today.

This is the only uncut proof strip of T206 cards known in our hobby. After it's discovery in Wagner's old house some 25 years ago by three Pittsburgh area collecting veterans, the strip was sold to Barry Halper, and was for the next 20+ years one of the signature pieces of the great Barry Halper Collection. When the Halper Collection was offered at auction by Sotheby's in 1999, it sold for $85,000. Soon after, the dealer who purchased it offered the strip on ebay, where it sold for a slightly higher figure to the Shop At Home television network, who purchased the strip for use as a special promotion contest prize. The lucky winner of this promotion was 15-year-old Jordan Marquez of California. As is often the case in such circumstances, the reality of taxes due which accompany the winning of such a valuable prizenecessitated the offering of the Wagner strip in this auction. While Jordan would otherwise keep the Wagner strip, he will always be a part of the rich history of this most significant card collecting treasure.

In addition to Wagner, the strip also includes fellow Hall of Famers Three-Finger Brown and Cy Young, along with stand-out catchers Frank Bowerman and Johnny Kling. The blank-backed strip has printer's proof marks on the borders of each of the five cards. The strip has significant creases that affect every card (except Bowerman) and grades Fair overall. Still, its importance cannot be overstated, and it will always be one of the most important and revered items in the world of card collecting.


Proof - T206 Honus Wagner Uncut Proof

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