Think ‘rare Honus Wagner card’ and your thoughts may immediately steer toward the famous T206 Carl Horner image and the well-known commentary that always accompanies it. Yet there’s another Wagner card from that first decade of the 20th century that might change your definition. And one of them is up for auction now.
The 1903 Breisch-Williams E107 Wagner offered by Robert Edward Auctions has already passed the pre-sale estimate of $25,000 and little wonder. It’s one of only five graded examples—total—in the hobby.
It pre-dates the T206 by six years and is really the first traditional trading card of the Flying Dutchman. Only the larger Sporting News Supplements and the W600 Sporting Life Cabinets, passed out as photographic premiums, have earlier images of Wagner. The cards in the E107 set measure about 1-3/8” by 2-5/8”.
Breisch-Williams was a confectionery in Oxford, PA that was known for caramels. While the exact method of distribution isn’t known, it’s likely the company was a sponsor of the card set that contains Wagner and that they were passed out with candy purchases. Wagner is pictured in formal attire rather than his baseball uniform.
While there are likely somewhere around 60 surviving T206 Wagner cards, the Breisch-Williams Wagner is rare enough that the auction house, which specializes in early baseball items, has never handled one at auction (they do have a T206 Wagner in the catalog, too).
The E107 Wagner card has been encapsulated by SGC as Authentic due to an irregular cut along the left and bottom borders. It has a small pinhole where a proud owner apparently once had it displayed on a wall, a small amount of paper loss and some light creasing.
The reverse shows the effects of placement in an early scrapbook.
The 29-year-old Wagner had a big year in 1903, hitting .355 while leading the Pirates to a third straight pennant. They would play in what’s recognized as the first modern World Series that fall.
In 2014, Heritage Auctions sold an SGC 10 (poor) example of the same card for over $56,000. Three years ago, a Christy Mathewson graded SGC 50 sold for $125,475 and later an SGC 20 Mathewson went for over $80,000. Where the newly offered Wagner winds up won’t be known until the auction ends in the wee hours of May 1.