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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Honus Wagner card seemingly destined to keep gaining value

It is not the oldest. Nor is it the rarest. Definitely not the best looking – thought its simple design is appealing. It is smaller than most others.

What makes the 1909-11 T-206 Honus Wagner tobacco card, The Holy Grail of baseball cards, so special that someone would pay more than $2 million to own one? ...

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It is not the oldest. Nor is it the rarest. Definitely not the best looking – thought its simple design is appealing. It is smaller than most others.

What makes the 1909-11 T-206 Honus Wagner tobacco card, The Holy Grail of baseball cards, so special that someone would pay more than $2 million to own one?

That is the first question thousands of Americans ask as soon as an auction for the card closes with another record bid.

In April, one of the famous cards sold for a record $2.1 million in a www.goldinauctions.com sale. It was a record for the public sale of a card.

Naturally, the previous record was held by the same Wagner card. It sold for $1.6 million in 2008.

The card is well known among hobbyists. PSA gave it a “5” (excellent) on its grading scale that goes to 10. The card is sometimes referred to as a “jumbo” size, since it is a little bigger than other Wagner T-206 cards.

Of course, the all-time record sale price goes to what most refer to as the “Gretzky Wagner” card – so named because the great hockey star once owned it. Someone reportedly paid $2.8 million the last time that card sold in a private sale in 2008.

“It has a life of its own,” said Tom Bartsch, editor of Sports Collectors Digest. “Prices for the card keep going up, even the poor condition ones. Buyers know they will get their money back and then some a few years later if they wish to sell.”

Once a card gets this type of attention and selling prices, there is no turning back. The bar has been set and raised over and over again.

If people want truly to have a premier vintage card collection, they feel the T206 Wagner must be part of that collection.

Few can afford its lofty sales price, but there are enough players to keep the bidding active.”

Bartsch’s comment about the ones in “poor” condition is borne out by a recent sale of a PSA 1 by Robert Edwards Auctions earlier this year.

“The (Wagner) card sold for $402,900 (including buyer’s premium),” said Dean Faragi, auction director for www.reobertsedwards
auction.com.

“Babe Ruth may live on forever in the annals of folklore and history, but Honus Wagner’s legacy will also live on because of the notoriety of his baseball card,” said Mike Heffner, president of www.Lelands.com. 

“He was one of the greatest players of all time, but the card is the reason that he is still talked of within the mainstream media.”

“There are other cards that are more scarce but far less valuable. The legend of the Honus Wagner card has been built up over time like no other and for this reason, it is the most recognizable and valuable single baseball card on the planet,” Heffner said.

“Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain. For collectors – and even non-collectors – the T206 Wagner has cemented itself as THE iconic baseball card,” said Brian Fleischer, a senior market analyst for baseball and basketball for www.beckett.com.

The Wagner card’s history is far too complex to cover in just one column.

Next week we’ll drill down into the history of the card, looking at legends and stories.

Babe Waxpak is written by Bill Wagner. If you have a question for Babe Waxpak, include your full name and hometown, the card number, year and manufacturer or send a photocopy. Please do not send cards. The address is: Babe Waxpak, Box 492397, Redding CA 96049-2397 or email babewaxpak@charter.net.